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.
In a year dotted with moments that can only be compared to a bowl full of garmonbozia, 2017 has at least blessed us with a big helping of Laura Dern. Sandwiched between her scene-stealing moments in HBO’s Big Little Lies and her upcoming role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Dern’s powerful portrayal of the strong-willed Diane Evans in David Lynch’s 18-part revival of Twin Peaks was one of this summer’s highlights.
In a special bonus episode of EW’s A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks, the actress joined Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jensen and Darren Franich for a candid chat about her performance as Agent Cooper’s foul-mouthed secretary in the Showtime series. Below, Dern discusses her decades-long collaborative relationship with Lynch, how she interprets one of the finale’s most poignant scenes, and if she’ll ever play Diane again. To hear an extended version of the interview, including how Lynch taught Dern “more about comedy than anyone,” what her experience filming Inland Empire was like, and what her interpretation is of “Richard and Linda,” listen to the episode embedded below, or subscribe to EW’s podcast here.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: At Comic-Con during the Twin Peaks panel, we heard this great story about how you and Naomi Watts went to go visit David some time ago on a mission to get him back to work. Is that an accurate story?
LAURA DERN: Certainly, most of it. We went to see him and within the conversation, we told him how much not only do we want to spend our lives working with him, but wouldn’t it be fun for all of us to be together. So that was definitely our mission. [But] what we didn’t know is that he was already hard at work [on Twin Peaks]. And he was basically like, “Don’t you worry your pretty little heads, I’m figuring this out already.” There are always several trains running for David so I don’t know if that morphed into his world for Twin Peaks or if there was a separate idea that’s still percolating. He started to give us a little bit of a world he was working on but we had no idea it was Twin Peaks until we each separately got the call.
I don’t know what the process was [for the other actors] but I have a feeling with those of us who knew him well already, you got the call that was kinda like “Come on over, I want you to read something.” I think in other people’s cases it’s a process of “Hey, David would love for you to do this.” But for me, and I assumed for Kyle [MacLachlan], it’s “Here’s what we’re doing,” because I’m not asked anymore, I just show up when he tells me.
When you got that call, what did he tell you about the character that you’d be playing? There’s so much mystery around Diane even now after having seen her overall journey on the show, how did you conceive of her when you went into playing the part?
It’s the only time I’ve ever had this outrageous gift of playing someone who means a lot in terms of storytelling in people’s minds but there are no visuals. That’s such a cool thing to walk into. It started with what was written, which I think given the way she responds to most people you already get a sense of her demeanor and her character very directly. I just worship the dialogue for her. And so, we sat at his house and he started to close his eyes and move his hands in this beautiful way that only David does and start to describe an idea of what [Diane] felt like to him – but not necessarily what she looked like. And that’s just such a beautiful way to work with a filmmaker, it’s just so gorgeous. And then he sent me off on a journey starting with thinking about hair color and what these looks could be, and figuring out makeup and exactly what he wanted there.
The ritual of finding the character in all these different ways is so fun and he is so specific that when he sees it, he knows. When I say specific, I mean David even mixed colors for the perfect lip color he wanted for Diane because the lipstick didn’t exist. All of the colors frustrated him so he had to make a “Diane” color with our amazing makeup artist Debbie [Zoller]. Every aspect of [Diane] was so specific so it was an unbelievable blast to find every detail of her.
Did you get the sense that David may have wanted to capture an almost meta level, maybe just for you and him, by creating these moments recorded on film of your relationship together on screen through the characters? Was there some nostalgia involved in this?
I hope so! There was for me! Hopefully, there was for you guys! I don’t know if that’s what David intended. A,s you both must know well and I have learned and have been reprimanded for, I can never speak for him because I have so many people asking what things mean and either now I say nothing or I try and then David tells me I’ve gotten it wrong. [Laughs] So I just know what things mean for me, but I think that’s what’s so beautiful about David’s work is he really does give us dreams of the unconscious.
Our minds are blown, we have our own journey with it and it holds to no other model. I love that his work is so boundary-less that it inspires other art and crosses every line and can be any art form you want. I just feel so lucky to literally have grown up on- and off-film with him.
It’s been interesting seeing the fan reaction to a lot of the moments in the final hours of Twin Peaks. There are these great silent moments between Diane and Agent Cooper as they’re driving in that final episode and that moment of her being alone in the car seeming to see herself outside of the car. What was your personal interpretation of her seeing herself?
Again, I’m not speaking for David, or Diane necessarily, but for me to try to understand it, the part that I found beautiful and heartbreaking and relatable [is that] getting to be an actor for David, no matter how abstract or even absurd the world is that you are in, you wanna make [the emotions in it] honest and hopefully relatable. I loved the idea, or it felt to me, that what had evolved in [Diane] was the awareness that there were other sides of [Cooper] and not knowing what would be on the other side of following him. In letting herself love him, in following him on this journey, and that she didn’t know which side of him she’d get, I think is very true of any love story. I thought there was something meta and very beautiful that he would leave me alone in the car not knowing who I was going to get in this man, but yet then seeing a whole other side of myself looking back. To me, as a love story, there’s something really profound about “Well, we are many sides.” I felt really moved by all of that.
And I also felt really inspired by the time that David takes, and I love how uncomfortable it makes so many people. So many artists are found brave because of how much they fill a screen and how much they fill a movie and our senses with violence or sex or extraordinary imagery. In American filmmaking, it’s like, “How can I entertain them as much as possible in these 80 minutes?” And I think there’s something radically brave and inventive that David plays around with [time], and it takes our own willingness to go with it. So that’s what it was like for me with the length of the drive and wondering all the things [Diane] must be thinking, or wondering if they’re aware of where they’re going, if it’s understood to them now. I mean, I have no idea but I love wondering.
If there was an opportunity to continue exploring Diane and continue on in the world of Twin Peaks, would you like that? Or do you think the finale represents a great final statement for the show?
Both things. I think that anytime David wants to put his energy toward storytelling, it’s going to take us somewhere we could never expect. I’ll never say no to David, and I’ll never say no to Diane because now I’ve fallen in love with her. So it would be impossible for me not to want to be part of any journey he wants to take, but I think that’s what’s so beautiful about his work is that every time it ends, even if there is an ending, you’re just devastated at the thought of saying goodbye. I mean, I think Nicolas Cage and I spent a year probably still being Sailor and Lula [from 1990’s Wild at Heart] because we didn’t want to say goodbye and were always kind of writing the sequel for David every time we’d have dinner. [We’d be] like, “Okay, and then they’re gonna…” and he would just look at us like, “Let the sequel go.” How gorgeous to work with someone where he gives you characters that you’re so in love with that you never want to say goodbye to them. But also, his mind would reinvent a new version of telling every story he’s told. So whether he wants to dive back into this world [of Twin Peaks] or go somewhere completely different, it’ll be something like we’ve never seen. And if I’m lucky enough to be an actor on it he’ll take me somewhere I’ve never gone before and push me further than I have. He’s such an amazing maestro and gift to us so I couldn’t be more thrilled to talk about him, it brings me so much joy.
Feel free to send your thoughts and theories on the new season to firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.