For fans of Twin Peaks, the past 25 years have been full of countless cups of coffee, slices of cherry pie, and late night chat sessions. Theories have been compared, swapped, and eviscerated as fans have dissected every line from filmmaker David Lynch’s groundbreaking series. So when SHOWTIME® announced the return of the series, reverberations were felt across the Internet! We are beyond excited to share an exclusive interview with Twin Peaks star Kyle MacLachlan. You still have time to catch up on Seasons 1 and 2 On Demand—so get cracking! And make sure to tune in to SHOWTIME® (Ch. 545) on May 21st at 9/8c for the premiere of Twin Peaks.
For viewers who have never watched Twin Peaks before, what can you tell us about your character?
I play Special Agent Dale Cooper of the FBI. I’ve come to the town of Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of the young homecoming queen, Laura Palmer. So that’s where the story starts.
Coop is an unusual mix of characteristics. He has tremendous enthusiasm for the world, and for specific elements of the world—almost a boyish enthusiasm. He’s also highly trained in observational technique. He’s got an unusual sense of humor, and he’s interested in a lot of different things, Tibetan mysticism being one of them. He just an unusual way of looking at the world. You’re never quite sure if he really is from the FBI… who knows what he could be. He’s a fascinating character, and certainly fascinating for me to play.
What would you say are his greatest strengths? His greatest weaknesses?
As far as strengths go, his ability to read people is definitely at the top of the list. He also has a tremendous love of coffee, donuts, and the smell of the wonderful Douglas Firs that are so prevalent up in the Northwest.
Weaknesses? That’s a good question. You know, I think he can become so infatuated with something or so excited about something that he actually loses track of the direction of the investigation. In fact, there’s a wonderful episode of Saturday Night Live where they spoofed the character and the bulk of the bit was about how Coop gets so off track enjoying himself in Twin Peaks that the murderer is standing right in front of him, proclaiming the fact that he’d done it, and Coop just wasn’t really that interested in hearing that! He was more interested in exploring the investigation, the trees, the coffee and all that.
So many of the characters on the show seem to constantly be navigating between their public and private personas. Cooper seems to be the most transparent in that he only really has one persona—he doesn’t seem to be hiding as much as others in Twin Peaks.
Absolutely! What you see is what you get with Dale Cooper. He’s just a straight shooter. Kind of an Eagle Scout type, and he really believes in the processes and the goodness of what he’s doing with the FBI. He’s out to do well and to do the right thing.
How would you describe Twin Peaks to someone who’s never heard of it before? Perhaps in the succinct style of a travel agency?
On the surface Twin Peaks is a beautiful, lovely little town… that hides a lot of secrets. And that of course is part of the exploration of the show—discovering what those secrets are and what these characters are really up to—examining the underside of things. Not unlike David [Lynch]’s earlier work with Blue Velvet in the town of Lumberton, we’re exploring some of the darker impulses and urges of people in these communities.
What do you think was so groundbreaking about the show when it originally aired in 1990?
You know, I think it was a combination of a lot of things! The music for one thing. Angelo Badalamenti’s score was unlike anything that you’d heard before for a series like that on network television. That was the beginning. You had a pace of filming and of storytelling that was totally different. It was a little slower, it was a little more methodical. There was comedy there if you wanted to find it, but it wasn’t obvious. It wasn’t overt. It depended upon your sensibilities, and whether or not you got it. And if you didn’t that was fine too! But there was definitely some hidden humor there. There were some very, very interesting over the top comedic performances as well. I’m thinking of Ben Horn and some of his shenanigans. Plus the strange fixations with coffee, donuts, logs and things like that, which you just didn’t have on network television.
How do you think the show influenced subsequent generations of filmmakers, musicians and television writers?
I think for television writers that’s very, very clear. Some shows have definitely been influenced by Twin Peaks, and I’m saying this having worked with different writers on a variety of shows since Twin Peaks. I’m thinking of stuff I did with Desperate Housewives or Sex and the City. The writers would say to me, “I didn’t really think it was possible to do this,” in reference to their particular vision. But they said that because of Twin Peaks, suddenly they felt empowered. I think through seeing David Lynch’s work, they had the strength to pursue their own particular point of view. I hear that repeatedly! Twin Peaks gave them the freedom to explore.
When was the first time that you realized that the show was truly a phenomenon?
The first time I realized that we were part of something big was even before we aired. ABC had decided in their infinite wisdom to buy six or seven shows, in addition to the pilot that we filmed. And all of us that signed on anticipated that what we were making was a two-hour pilot. A two-hour movie of the week, which is what they had back in those days—something that had no chance of going beyond two hours. So suddenly, ABC decided that they wanted to buy six more episodes. We were surprised, stunned, excited, and didn’t really know what to expect! But that was the first clue that maybe we had something a little more special than just regular a regular television series.
Fans of the show have been integral to keeping its world alive. What do you think that says about the show?
The fan across the world have really rallied around this show and it’s become a community! They support each other on social media which is obviously something that wasn’t in existence when we did the first two seasons. So suddenly there’s this universe that’s being fed by fans—with their art, and their theories they hype each other up. They pass things back and forth, on my Instagram feed even! It’s really exciting.
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