David Duchovny's new podcast is about failure. Here's how he's learned to 'embrace' it.

Photo illustration of David Duchovny.
David Duchovny talks about failure and his new podcast. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images for WireImage)

David Duchovny has starred in two major TV hits (The X-Files and Californication, for which he’s won a total of two Golden Globes), received an M.A. from Yale, published a handful of novels, released three albums as a singer-songwriter and is fresh from directing his second feature film. Given all this success, it might be surprising to learn what his latest project, a new podcast with Lemonada Media, is devoted to: failure.

Launching May 7, Fail Better sees Duchovny talking to guests including Ben Stiller and Bette Midler about missed opportunities, getting things wrong and the lessons learned from failure. While the podcast’s trailer teases the 63-year-old actor’s “high-profile divorce and a magical mystery tour through rehab,” he tells Yahoo Life that the show is “not about me confessing anything or rehashing anything.” Rather, it’s about having open and honest conversations that anyone who has failed can relate to.

“I don't consider myself an expert,” Duchovny says. “I'm just curious about people.”

He’s also not fixated on whether or not the podcast does well. “With every project, I think there's different kinds of metrics of success,” he says. “For me, it depends on the reasons I took the thing on, and therefore those are going to make the stakes of success or failure. They're going to be different every time.”

Meeting his personal standards is important. “Anybody who's created anything knows that it's not perfect, whatever it was, whatever box [office numbers] it did, how many readers it had, whatever — those are just numbers,” he says. “But you know where you f***ed up, where you didn't complete, where the tender points are.”

Being a dad who shares two grown children — Madelaine West, 25, and Kyd Miller, 21 — with ex-wife Téa Leoni has also given Duchovny a lot to think about in terms of failure.

“As parents we kind of obsess on what we did wrong. … It's not like, ‘Oh, I f***ed them up so badly,’” he says. “No, it's just like, ‘What could I have done differently? What might I have done better?’”

Duchovny says he’s open with his kids about what his shortcomings have been. Ultimately, he says he’s focused on owning his mistakes, learning from them and moving on.

“Sometimes those disappointments, failures and losses hurt more than they should and last longer than they should — and especially when you talk about parenting,” says Duchovny. “In my mind, it’s about an embrace of failure, [learning] not to fear it, not to feel ashamed of it. But you know, take what you need from it, take what you can learn from it and hopefully have a decent short-term memory and let go of the rest.”

Duchovny has racked up the Emmy nominations, magazine covers and other industry accolades. These days, he defines success as pursuing projects that feel true to him. “Authenticity is the through line,” he says. “It doesn't matter what happens with the thing. It was already a success if you were involved authentically with it.”

He points to his 2023 film with Meg Ryan, What Happens Later, and his work writing, directing and starring in Bucky F*cking Dent, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year. These are projects he says he is proud of, which makes them a win according to his standards.

“We go through different stages in our life, so what's authentic to us at 20, 30, 40, 50 is going to be different,” Duchovny says. He adds, “Maybe I'm finally just heeding my own advice and doing things that are authentic to me and not doing the things that are not. It takes a lifetime to figure it out, though, for some people, for people like me.”

“Unfortunately, it's not science. So it's more a gut feeling,” he continues. “And I guess, part of what the podcast is about, and part of what getting older is about, is learning to listen to your gut, because your gut is never gonna be wrong. That's the authentic part of it. Your brain can fool you, but your gut won’t.”