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, actress Mädchen Amick (who plays Shelly Johnson, a Twin Peaks local who is a waitress at the Double R Diner) talked about finding out about how the show would return, being given only her scenes to read, the best bit of direction she’s ever received from David Lynch, picking Mark Frost’s brain vs. picking David Lynch’s brain, how surprised she was to learn that Shelly is still at the Double R Diner, finding out that her character has a daughter, and when she thinks Twin Peaks is really at its best. She also talked about the great ride she’s taken with The CW series Riverdale, playing Betty Cooper’s mother, Alice, and the fun that’s to come with Season 2.
Collider: 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 completely insane?
MADCHEN AMICK: Yes, and people brought it up, all the time, and I always denied it and said, “No, absolutely not! We can’t revisit it again. It was lightning in a bottle.” But when David [Lynch] and Mark [Frost] announced that it was going to be on Showtime and we wouldn’t have the restrictions that we had, back with the original, I thought, “Oh, that’s how you can do it well!”
Since Kyle MacLachlan was the only one who got to read the full script and everyone else was only given the specific scenes that they were in, were you given all of those scenes at once, so that you knew what your specific arc would be?
AMICK: We were all invited to come down to the studio, once we were cast and it was confirmed that we were coming back. You’d come down and read all of your scenes, and then you’d go in and sit with David in his office to discuss the scenes and ask him any questions. His first question to me was very simply, “Do you like it?” He was like such a young teenage boy, excited about what he was doing and wanting to make sure that you were excited and liked what they wrote. It was really fun.
David Lynch seems like he’s just the most genuine person.
AMICK: He is! The biggest misconception is that people always think that he’s just bizarre and mysterious and that he’s not going to be approachable. A lot of the big, very famous box office stars that he got to guest star had a hard time approaching him because they were like, “It’s David Lynch. Can I ask him questions?” And I was like, “Of course, you can ask him questions! He’s your director. Go talk with him!”
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?
AMICK: You just have to trust him, and I learned that on the original. He was one of the first directors I had ever worked with, so he trained me. He was my mentor. I learned that you’re just not going to always understand it, but with a really good filmmaker, you just trust because you know that they’re going to do something really great with it, and that certainly is the case with David.
What is the best bit of direction that David Lynch has ever given you?
AMICK: The most useful bit that I was able to use in the future actually reminded me a lot of the scene with Amanda [Seyfried] in the car while she’s looking up as they’re driving. That’s so classic David Lynch. I texted Amanda and was like, “Welcome to Twin Peaks.” There was one scene, in particular, where I was on the phone, but I don’t remember who it was with, and David was directing me, as I was saying my lines, to slowly look up at the ceiling. So, I did it and he was like, “No, no, no, slower. Really slow.” He had me just stare up at the ceiling, and I didn’t understand it. I finally worked up the courage to go up to him and say, “David, why am I doing this?” I was trying to understand what my motivation was. He simply just said, “It looks good, Mädchen.” I was a young, driven actress that wanted to do a really good job and understand everything and make sure that my character was grounded. He just taught me, in that moment, sometimes you do something because it looks good or feels good.
Not that many actors have had the pleasure of being directed by David Lynch, but even fewer actors have had the experience of acting opposite him. What’s he like to work with, as an actor and scene partner?
AMICK: He’s fun! He’s such a good actor, and I’m really seeing that, now that we are seeing more of Gordon Cole, in this new season. He’s just really good. He’s dialed in. He knows his character and he stays consistent. He’s just fun, in general. He’s mischievous. He’s like a mischievous 12-year-old boy. He wrote a scene where he could kiss Shelly Johnson, and that was the whole reason. It was hilarious!
How is picking Mark Frost’s brain different from picking David Lynch’s brain?
AMICK: Mark definitely gets into more details and how one thing leads to another. It’s definitely from a structured writer’s mind. With David, a lot of times, it’s just what feels good. Sometimes he doesn’t completely explain it because he just wants you to trust and let go and not think too hard about it.
Shelly Johnson in the Double R Diner in her waitress uniform is such an iconic image to Twin Peaks. What was it like for you to find yourself back on that set and in that costume, knowing that even though so many years have passed for the character, some things are still the same?
AMICK: I had the hardest time not crying, the entire time that I was filming. I was so touched by it and I was very nostalgic. It was very surreal. I don’t think I’ve quite grasped it.
Is that costume one that you have fond feelings of, or were you glad to get rid of it, the first time around?
AMICK: Back then, I was like, “I have to go back into the waitress uniform. Do I look good in it? Can’t I be more fashionable?” I always looked at the Audrey Horne character like she was so sassy while I was in the waitress uniform or wearing flats. But now, coming back to it, man, was I happy to put that waitress uniform back on. It was a completely different perspective.
It turns out that Bobby and Mike both ended up on very different life and career paths that we might have expected from them, considering who they were when we last saw them. Are you surprised that Shelly is still working at the diner?
AMICK: I was. I definitely was. I was rooting for Shelly, that she might get out of town and follow her dreams. So, I was definitely surprised that she was still there. I thought that maybe she would be running the diner this time. Sometimes people stay in the same cycle their entire life, but you can still mature within it. I don’t think you could go back and not have Shelly and Norma side by side in the diner, like we got to see them.
If this were any other show, we’d probably get the backstory for how and why these characters ended up where they have. Were you given any of that information, as far as where Shelly has been and what she’s been doing, all this time?
AMICK: Somewhat, and there will be some stuff revealed in future episodes that definitely gives some backstory from where we left her to now. One of those things is that she has a daughter, and her daughter seems to be following the same bad decision-making process that she did. She fears for her, but she also knows that she can’t push too hard because she might push her away. In this amount of time, she’s raised a kid, so that’s one big main fact that she’s gone through. And there will be something else that will be revealed, in the future.
Do you think Becky is on a similar path that Shelly was on, when Shelly was her age, or do you see her as being on a path closer to the one that Laura Palmer was on?
AMICK: I don’t think that Shelly knows that she is beyond her own path and her own struggles. I think she would be reacting much stronger, if she knew that instead of drinking out of a flash like Shelly did with Bobby, she’s snorting a line. She probably would have been running out there and dive-bombing into the car and beating everybody up.
When you found out that Shelly would have a daughter and that you’d be exploring that relationship, did you also know, at that time, that Amanda Seyfried would be playing that role?
AMICK: I knew that I would have a daughter and I knew that they were thinking about a few different beautiful young ladies. I finally heard who they decided on, and I was really excited that they chose Amanda as my daughter. It’s so great, and it reminds you of Shelly, back in the day. Mark Frost said that it’s a really important role because we get those same feelings with her that we had with Shelly, back then, and I know that they spent a lot of time picking just the right person.
Was it more emotional to get back together with the cast and crew, this time around, or to leave them all again, when this season wrapped?
AMICK: I think it was more emotional getting back together because it felt like it wasn’t a goodbye when we all wrapped. It was emotional when we said our goodbyes and gave each other hugs, but it allowed us to rekindle friendships that we once had, and it allowed us to create new ones. There were some actors that we didn’t really have scenes with or got to know, but just the fact that we were coming back really inspired us to get together and have dinners quite often and get to know each other again. It didn’t feel like a goodbye, at all. It just felt like another great reunion, and we’ll see each other next year.
It’s so interesting to see the world of Twin Peaks opened up with all of these new locations and characters, but when do you think that Twin Peaks is really at its best?
AMICK: There are so many layers to what makes Twin Peaks great. It’s the layer of things that are really uncomfortable and you stay with something too long. That’s a very iconic David Lynch thing, to stay with a scene or a take for a really long time, until you feel uncomfortable. There’s also a lightness to it, when we see Lucy and Andy in the sheriff’s station, or seeing how Dougie is very innocent in his love for coffee. When you have those light moments and they’re mixed into the layers of the really scary dramatic stuff, I think that is Twin Peaks tied up in a really nice little bow.
What have you most enjoyed about the ride that you got to take with Riverdale, over the course of this first season, and what most surprised you about who Alice Cooper turned out to be, by the end of the season?
AMICK: I really enjoyed the cast and the crew. You get along with certain people, but sometimes it feels like a job and you don’t feel that instant connection with people. Riverdale was one of those special combinations of personalities and very talented actors. Everybody is very excited to be a part of it and they’re passionate about it, and it reminded me of Twin Peaks, back in the day. That doesn’t happen very often. And I also really enjoyed Alice Cooper, herself. I knew she was gonna go on a pretty twisted journey. (Showrunner) Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and I had talked specifically about making sure that we really pushed her to the limit of being the villain and really loving to hate her, knowing that she was going to have a full meltdown and you’d get to see behind why she is the ice queen that she is, and that there actually is a whole lot of insecurity and damage behind it all. So, I was excited to play that arc and I’m glad that Roberto really went for it, the way that he promised he would.
Now that you’re gearing up to do Season 2, do you have any idea about where things are going to go next?
AMICK: Yeah, I know a lot of really good paths that we’re all gonna take, and it’s exciting. I’m impressed that the writers come up with these trajectories for the characters and families, and how they intertwine. From what I’ve heard about Season 2, it just sounds like it’s gonna be an even better season than the first one. There’s a new looming threat that’s gonna be showing up in Riverdale for Season 2 that I think you’re gonna really enjoy.
Twin Peaks airs on Sunday nights on Showtime. Riverdale returns for Season 2 on The CW on October 11th.