It was 26 years ago when Kyle MacLachlan took home a Golden Globe for best actor in a drama series for his role as Agent Dale Cooper in David Lynch’s original Twin Peaks. On Monday, Maclachlan found himself nominated again — albeit in as best actor in a limited series — for his show-stopping performance in Twin Peaks: The Return.
“I’m thrilled to be nominated,” says MacLachlan. “It’s the role — well, three roles — of a lifetime.” Humbly, he adds, “All credit goes to David Lynch and Mark Frost for writing these extraordinary characters.”
Shortly after hearing the news of his nomination, Maclachlan spoke to Entertainment Weekly and discussed his experience reprising his iconic role.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations on your Golden Globes nomination! As a major Twin Peaks fan, I couldn’t be more excited for you. What were you doing when you found out the good news?
KYLE MACLACHLAN: That’s very sweet of you. Thank you very much. I was actually dropping my son off at school. We were in the car, and he was so excited. He wanted to send a gif back [to my publicist]. So he found a couple of funny gifs to respond to the “Congratulations” text with. I didn’t know what he found, so of course, I looked at my phone after I dropped him off and was like, [laughing] “Oh, so that’s what we sent out. Okay.” I think there was a duck dancing that was very excited, and somebody else doing something else silly. It was pretty great.
You won a Golden Globe in 1991 for the role of Agent Cooper on Twin Peaks and here you are again at the ceremony. What does that feel like?
It’s very surreal, to be honest. I think it’s a testament to the power of that character. Dale Cooper has a resonance with people that I think is very special. And also I think the expectations of the Twin Peaks, let’s say, un-nostalgic return, which is what I think a lot of people thought what happened was not the case. This was an entirely new direction. Same characters, obviously, but a dramatically new story, new focus. The fact that that could also resonate in the same way that it did over 20 years ago I think speaks to the power of David Lynch and the creative genius that he is. You’ve got to have the words and the character and the story to be able to be even considered in any of these categories, and we certainly had that.
How would you say that TV has changed in the 20+ years since you first started working on Twin Peaks?
The obvious response, of course, is that there’s a tremendous amount more of opportunities. There are so many extraordinarily talented people working in television. So many auteurs are working in television, which back in the day was not the case. David was one of the first filmmakers to do something on episodic television, so he broke ground on that, for sure. I think at the end of the day, people really love the character, and they love story, and they love engaging with interesting people. There’s an abundance of that right now on television — almost so much that we don’t have time to catch up on everything, you know. I think that once again, we are seeing people who want stories. They want to go on a journey with these characters, and that’s never changed. There’s just more of it.
It’s become a heated debate as to whether Twin Peaks: The Return should be considered a TV show or a film. Where do you stand on the matter?
I think it’s kind of both. David was very specific about calling them hours and not episodes. So they’re 18 hours, and the way it was written and directed was if it were a long film. In other words, we didn’t break it into pieces when we were filming. So I think structurally, it is a film. Obviously, it was broadcasted on television and intended for television, but I think you could make the argument that it also works as a film. The very first one that we did was episodic, but when they screened Twin Peaks, the original pilot, at the Television Academy, it held up as a film, which makes complete sense to me because it’s directed by David Lynch. It just felt like it was a feature. And when they screened the first two episodes [of The Return] in Cannes this year, it had exactly the same results. It was seamless. The first two hours felt as if they were a film. So I think you could definitely make that argument.
As you mentioned earlier, you play three completely different characters in The Return. Did you find one to be especially challenging, or one that you enjoyed playing the most?
Dougie was a lot of fun. All were challenging in different ways. There was an awful lot of patience and trust that I had to have with Dougie because most of it is nonverbal. I just did what I thought was right, and if David laughed, then I knew that I was in the ballpark. And then for Mr. C — I call him Mr. C — that is something I’ve never done before. There were shades of it earlier in my career, but never as complete as that. It was difficult because, as an actor, you want to engage with the other actors back and forth. And this guy existed in his own space and area and was not about any kind of relationship with anybody. He is a very dark being and it was challenging for me to do that, particularly when I was working with people I knew well, like Laura Dern and David Lynch. Having to maintain that character was really challenging.
The way that you were able to take on those three distinct roles at once and transition from each of them so seamlessly just blew me away as I watched every Sunday night.
It was challenging and exciting to be able to have the opportunity, I’ve got to say, because David didn’t have a choice with Cooper. It was me or nothing. So he really put his faith in me that I could go to the places that he needed me to go to. I’m very honored to have him think of me like that. It’s very special.
Were you expecting there to be this much outpouring love and support from fans?
The social activity has been really strong and the fan base that engages with all of the cast members on the show is incredibly supportive and participative. One of the beautiful things I find is how the show is inspiring all of these creative people that are out there to create something with the Twin Peaks seed, whether it’s a drawing, or a Christmas tree, or a tableau, or a costume, or anything. It’s providing this inspiration to people to find their inner Peaks. It’s been really fun to watch that, and that is something that is purely in the world of social media. That was something that we obviously weren’t capable of enjoying in the original go-round 25 years ago. I find within the world of Peaks fans, there’s a wonderful back and forth between them. I may provide the outlet, but they are interacting amongst themselves and celebrating and sharing a show that they love so much.