Directed entirely by David Lynch, the 18-part Showtime limited events series Twin Peaks: The Return picked things up 25 years after the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town were stunned by the shocking murder of their homecoming queen, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). While viewers are catching up with many familiar characters and learning about where their lives are now, they’re also getting a glimpse into some new characters, living their lives in other locations around the country.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Dana Ashbrook (who plays Bobby Briggs, the rebellious teenager who was dating Laura Palmer while they were also cheating on each other, and who is now a deputy in the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department) talked about when and how he realized that Twin Peaks was going to return, how he learned that he’d be a part of it, what he thinks of his character’s new career path, only getting the pages of the script for the scenes that he was in, the experience of being directed by David Lynch, how Bobby might feel about the supernatural element of life in Twin Peaks, and what he most enjoys about these new episodes.
Collider: When did you first hear that the revival of Twin Peaks was a real possibility?
DANA ASHBROOK: It was probably three years ago when I started hearing about it. It really was when they tweeted out, “That gum you like is coming back in style.” Everyone I know from the show was immediately on the phone with each other. I got on the phone with Madchen [Amick], Sherilyn [Fenn], Sheryl Lee, James [Marshall] and Kimmy [Robertson], and we were just saying, “What have you heard?!” We always thought it was never going to come back because we were basically going off of what David [Lynch] said. It was really surprising to me. I was so happy! I was so excited! I couldn’t believe it! And then, I just wanted to make sure that I was going to be a part of it.
Did you know pretty quickly that you’d actually be a part of the show again?
ASHBROOK: Yeah. I was hanging out with Sheryl Lee and we were going to London for a Twin Peaks festival about three years ago, when this whole thing was going down. It was before the contract problems happened, so it was on, and he told Sheryl Lee. And then, Sheryl Lee said, “I’m gonna go see Dana. Can I tell him?” And he said, “Yep, tell Dana.” That was it.
If someone had told you, when the original series wrapped, that you’d be returning to the world of Twin Peaks and this character, so many years later, would you have thought that person was insane?
ASHBROOK: Yeah. Speculation is what it is. I’ve sat there and thought about what would change and what would be different for my character, and stuff like that, but that was just like fun drinking games. I didn’t think he was gonna be a cop.
How did it work, as far as you finding out what you’d be doing, this time around? Did you just get the scenes you were in?
ASHBROOK: We all just got our pages. Even if we wanted to read the whole script, I don’t think you were allowed to. I know that Kyle [MacLachlan] did because Kyle is Kyle, but we would just get our scenes. Even if we were referencing something from another scene that we weren’t in, we never got to see that scene. It was really just a need to know basis kind of spy operation.
Why is David Lynch someone that you’re willing to put yourself in the hands of, even if you don’t know where he’s going to take you?
ASHBROOK: I think it’s because of his body of work. He’s one of a few guys out there that’s actually making art in a very commercial business. So, to work with someone like that, in my career, is just dumb luck, really, honestly. I’m so lucky to have walked into that meeting, 28 years ago, and get to meet him and be a part of this new thing that just fell from the sky. That’s crazy! It was a crazy experience.
What did you take away from working with David Lynch, when you did the original series, and does it feel any different, working with him now?
ASHBROOK: No. It was basically just picking up where we left off, honestly. You can trust a director and do what he wants, all the time, but if he’s wrong or he’s not thinking on the right path, you can be really led astray. With David, you know that he’s directing from his brain and you just have to serve the story. That’s the way I looked at it. I just wanted to show up and not fuck up.
You’ve had some very memorable moments, throughout the series, including Episode 4 of these new episodes. What is the best bit of direction that David Lynch has ever given you?
ASHBROOK: He’s fun to work with. You feel comfortable with him. When he’s got a bunch of ideas and he comes at you, it’s exciting because you’re like, “Oh, my god, I hadn’t even thought of that!” So, he comes to you with all of these ideas, and he’s open to other ideas, even though they’re not as good. He’s a nice person and will let you down easy. And as far as the weirdest direction he ever gave me, he told me to get up on a car and surf, and I did it and loved every second of it. He can be really abstract in his direction, for sure.
The moment you had in Episode 4, with Bobby seeing the old picture of Laura Palmer while her theme music is playing, is going to be one of the iconic moments of the series. Did David Lynch say anything specific to you, about what he wanted from that scene, or were you able to figure that out on your own?
ASHBROOK: I’d have to say that no, he didn’t tell me anything. He wrote it. It was written, “Bobby walks in, sees the picture of Laura Palmer, and it impacts him.” I knew what I had to do. I knew what was going on. I knew what would make it work, in my head, so I just went with that. I was trying to just base my stuff out of imagination rather than a real place. I don’t like to substitute things in, or anything like that. I was just thinking about Laura Palmer, and I put myself in the position where it was someone I hadn’t seen in all of these years and we had had such a great connection. All of that was bottled up.
Bobby Briggs and Laura Palmer didn’t exactly have the best relationship when they were together, so why do you think seeing that old photo affect him as deeply as it did?
ASHBROOK: That’s open for interpretation, for sure. Bobby loved Laura, and she loved him. They were a couple, and even though he was cheating on her, she was cheating on him. They had so much going on, but at the base of it, there was still love there, in whatever way Bobby is capable of doing that, or whatever way Laura is capable of doing that, with all of the stuff she was going through.