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Twin Peaks: Kyle MacLachlan on what he thinks the final scene means

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Subscribe to A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks – on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts – to unwrap the mysteries of the Showtime revival in EW’s after-show.

When a bewildered Agent Cooper stepped back and asked “What year is this?” during the final few moments of the Twin Peaks finale, fans weren’t the only ones left in a state of confusion. Kyle MacLachlan, the versatile actor who flawlessly executed the portrayals of three very different characters during the Showtime revival, was equally baffled.

In a special bonus episode of EW’s A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks, the actor joined Entertainment Weekly’s Twin Peaks scholar and podcast co-host Jeff Jensen to discuss his characters’ development and journeys throughout the 18-episode run of the David Lynch masterpiece. Below, MacLachlan shares what it was like to film some of The Return’s most memorable scenes, how he interprets that last haunting scene in front of the Palmer house, and if there are more seasons to come. To hear an extended version of the interview, listen to the episode embedded below, or subscribe to EW’s podcast here.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’m still picking up the pieces of my obliterated brain that spilled all over my floor after watching the two-hour finale. I was stunned, I was emotionally staggered, I was confused – but in good ways. I’d love to know how you’re feeling now that the world has seen all of Twin Peaks and The Return is essentially over. How are you feeling about the end of this journey?
KYLE MACLACHLAN: It’s been bittersweet. It was a sequence because the first [stage] was, of course, wrapping up the filming, and then knowing that was finished. And then there was, of course, the excitement of what was to come. And then as you said, the finish-up of the series. It’s a mix of having felt like I was involved in something monumental. That’s the primary feeling, and having such gratitude for that experience to return to working with David. I feel like David’s vision of Twin Peaks was realized with the help of all of us, and the folks at Showtime, and everybody. He made this amazing creation.

I can’t recall seeing you play someone as evil and as menacing as Mr. C before. It was such a shock at first but you convinced me completely. The moment I think of when I think of Mr. C is the arm wrestling match and how you sold that confrontation and exertion of will and dominance over another evil man. What did you like about playing Mr. C?
A couple things come to mind. There’s the understanding that I’m going to have to alter myself to do this character as an actor. And then there’s the belief that you have to have that you can do it. And that’s supported by the look, the wardrobe, the dialogue, and then there was the support from David that expected me to do that. He asked me and then it was, “You’re going to do this.” Once I embraced it, there was a terrific sense of freedom and calm that came over me once I committed to the character what needed to be done. That surprised me, actually. It helped that that was [Mr. C’s] state of being. For the most part, he was very demanding and quiet and powerful. It’s the belief that I could do that and it was a process that was helped a lot by David.

You were equally marvelous in the comic performance of playing the “Dougie” expression of Cooper and the protracted stay with this character in what was one of the most glorious moments of all the 18 hours: the awakening of Agent Cooper in the hospital. It felt like it was one of the purest nostalgia rushes of this experience. Can you talk about shooting that day, and was it easy for you to click right into that moment?
As I remember, it was close to the end, actually. So in the sequence of things, it was right where it should be. I didn’t really know what to do, what to think. I had been out of Cooper mode for a number of weeks so I didn’t know what was going to happen. But I tell you, the writing is so critical to Cooper, and the delivery and the lines and the straightforwardness of what he does, that I just jumped in. When I watched it, I said, “Yeah, that’s Cooper.” It’s been 25 years, he looks different and he’s maybe got a gravitas to him that might be a little bit more expected because of the passage of time. There’s still enthusiasm there, it’s not quite as boyish but it’s still there. It seemed to be the right balance. To be honest, I think we just hit it somehow. I don’t really know how to explain it but it did seem to be the right tone at the right time.

I’d love to talk about the finale and the climax to Cooper’s arc. It was quite a journey watching the final defeat of Mr. C and the destruction of BOB, but everything else after that was very unexpected. We had this very surreal meditation on maybe what happily ever after is for this character, [and] for Laura, if that’s possible. And maybe even some critique or reflection on certain heroic choices that he makes. What was your interpretation of Cooper’s final moments? Especially the stuff with Diane, how did you feel about that?
I’m still sort of… I’m not sure, to be honest. Having seen it, I don’t know… First of all, I’m unable to say, “Oh, David meant this or David meant that” because I don’t know. Not because he asked me not to [say anything], but I don’t know. So, for myself, I consider them more kind of meditations, other possibilities somehow. It was something that was like a journey with these characters, and I hesitate to say too much or try to define it because I think so much of what we’ve seen over the past 18 hours has been open to people’s interpretation which has certainly created a lot of different thoughts and feelings from people. So I’m still processing what I saw and what that journey is and means.

I think the moment that staggered me the most was after Cooper and Laura leave the Palmer house and are standing in the street, and Cooper’s like, “Wait, what year is this?” I got this sense from that moment of this guy [being hit with the realization] that 25 years of his life had been robbed and he’s gotta deal with it. Could you offer any insight into what you were feeling in playing that moment?
That particular sequence we filmed very early on in the whole series. We filmed it up in Seattle at the Palmer house where I’d never actually been before, which was interesting. I remember not quite understanding where it was going to fit [in the story] even though I had read everything. So I didn’t know what to make of it. To me, it felt like something had gone wrong. What it was, I didn’t know. I remember [while] filming it, you couldn’t help but feel the hair on the back of your neck raise up because of the scream that Sheryl Lee gave which was in the middle of the night and blood-curdling. But there was some kind of a flash of understanding. What that understanding is, I’m not certain.

I know what I was thinking about and playing, but ultimately I’m not sure what David’s thoughts were. I’d have to go back and [watch] a second viewing to really get what he is communicating there. I had a similar physical sensation when I saw the pilot and the last image of that was a hand that reaches in and takes the locket, and there’s a scream over it and you realize that there are darker forces at play here. You realize that, oh my gosh, something just ripped open and what it is there are horrors somewhere. That’s what it left me feeling.

The show is really not about answering things, it’s about asking questions. Which is frustrating to some, and to others kind of exhilarating.

Kyle, will there be more Twin Peaks?
To my knowledge, there have been no discussions as of yet so I don’t know. I don’t know.

We’ll watch it!
I’ll mention that to David for sure! [laughs] I hope there would be a lot of people who would do that.

Feel free to send your thoughts and theories on the new season to twinpeaks@ew.com, or send a tweet to @DarrenFranich and @EWDocJensen. Most importantly, don’t forget to subscribe to EW’s A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks – on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts – to be the first to get the final episodes in your feed.