I recently had the opportunity to speak with actor John Pirruccello who played Deputy Chad in Twin Peaks: The Return. John also will also be one of the stars in the upcoming HBO show, Barry, expected to debut next year. John was incredibly gracious with his time and I really enjoyed our conversation. I hope you do as well.
Current projects: The big thing we just finished is an HBO show called Barry. That’s supposed to be coming out in January and its starring Bill Hader, who also writes and directs along with Alec Berg. Bill Hader plays Barry and I’m one of the people you’ll see every week. It’s a dark comedy. Bill Hader (Barry) plays an ex-Marine, sort of a low level down and out assassin. He does some kind of low pay assassin work. He’s lonely and he follows a mark out to L.A. and his mark is in an acting class, which is taught by Henry Winkler. Barry finds a sense of community in this acting class and decides that he wants to be an actor.
Meanwhile, his assassin life won’t let go of him. It’s beautiful—I’m telling you it’s going to be a fantastic show. Hilarious, exciting, it’s going to have action. It’s a really, really great show.
The first day of work on Twin Peaks: It was wonderful. They could not have made me feel more welcome. The welcoming committee was Harry (Goaz), Kimmy (Robertson) and Bob Forster. I walked into the Sheriff’s office and continued to walk back through what I guess was a wall when you see it on the show, but there’s not actually a wall there. Basically around and behind Lucy’s desk. There were chairs set up, and I walked around the corner, and there’s Harry and Kimmy. Kimmy stood up and said “Hi, I’m Kimmy. Who will you be playing?” I told her I would be playing Chad and she said “That’s so wonderful. We were all just wondering who would be playing Chad. I’m so glad you’re here”. She couldn’t have been more lovely and more welcoming and it just continued from there. All of those original cast members—Dana, Michael Horse, all of these people from the original show were incredibly generous and welcoming and then Dana took me out to lunch. People use the word family a lot but the Twin Peaks people mean it. They definitely treated me like I was a part of the family.
The vibe on set / Working with Lynch: It’s incredibly positive. When you say the domino effect, the first thing I think of is David Lynch. From the top down, I’ve never met a more positive person. When you stand in front of him and speak with him, it’s 100% positivity. It’s present, it’s conscious, and it’s positive.
First and foremost, it makes me want to do what Mark and David have created and then what David envisions as the director and as a person even. You want David to get what he wants. That’s my goal number #1, that’s all I’m thinking about. How can I give David what he wants? I will go in this direction and if he redirects me, I will go in that direction. If I don’t understand what he’s saying, then I’ll ask him to clarify it. As he does, incredibly efficiently, in a matter of a few words he’ll clarify it and we’ll go in that direction. It’s kind of liberating. There’s a sort of freedom where I don’t feel responsible for anything except for just doing my job the best that I can. I feel supported; it’s a creative and collaborative atmosphere where you get the feeling that he’s open to whatever is going to happen. He has a clear vision of what he wants but he also remains open to everything that’s going on. It’s a really perfect atmosphere for an artist to exist with him. You feel free. I’m not saying that everyone is dancing around with unicorns, like its Little House on the Prairie and we’re all running down the hill or something. You know, everyone has good days and bad days. We’re human beings. I do believe they seemed to have the same attitude that I did, which was let’s make something really great. Let’s try to be a part of David’s vision.
The Twin Peaks community and family: It’s been amazing. I don’t really have words to describe it. I sort of used Twitter before, reluctantly. I didn’t see much value in it. The fans on Twitter at first would say “We hate you, you’re awful. Chad is so awful”, and I would just say thank you and I meant it. If you hated Chad then I’ve done my job, right? Little by little people really started to respond to me as me and Chad as Chad, sort of like I would. There’s a little bit of a vin diagram crossover there, but he’s not me. The fans really got that very quickly and we all started to have a lot of fun dishing on Chad. People have been really, really generous with me. People have said the nicest things in the world to me on Twitter. I guess the point I was making was that twitter didn’t have much use for me at first but once it started happening and people started responding to it, I did exactly what Kyle does on Twitter.
I use Kyle as my Twitter role model. Whenever someone says “Hey will you wish me a Happy Birthday?” he says “Happy Birthday!” What I realized is that the genius of that and I’ll speak for myself here is that I’m happy, the person I said hello to is happy and in a matter of seconds the two of us have created this little explosion of love and positivity that took no time at all and everyone walks away happy. I made a decision at that moment to not involve myself in anything negative, at all — only positive interactions. I don’t re-tweet anything political or negative. I haven’t gotten any trolling, maybe that’s down the road. Maybe I’ll really be successful if someone starts trolling me. For the time being it’s been this almost entirely positive interaction and it’s warmed my heart. Something’s started to happen over time where the people of the Twin Peaks community of which I am a member, I’m a fan. I was a fan way before I was a participant. So this community started to do something which I could not envision, which was that they started to believe in Chad. “He can come around. He’s really bad, but he’s not evil.” It warmed my heart, the empathy of the Twin Peaks community. It blew my mind, just how wonderful, loving, empathetic and positive the community is.
There’s so much. How do you encapsulate someone bringing you into the fold and treating you as a member of their family? It’s hard to put these things into words but that’s exactly what’s happened to me. The idea that when the show ended, that wasn’t the end of it. When they said you’re part of the family, they meant it. It continues to be an ongoing relationship with many of the people I worked with. Kimmy will call me and ask if I want to hang out. Sabrina has been nothing short of spectacular. She checks in with me, helps me figure stuff out. She’s been a really great friend to me. The Twin Peaks Festival was amazing. There was a bunch of us there, at the places where shot and the show is set. The Lindley’s, who run the Festival also check in with me. When they come to LA, we go to dinner. The whole thing is unprecedented in my experience. I didn’t come to LA to make friends; I came here to work. It’s a business. I wasn’t looking for LA to give me a big hug and be my friend, but that’s what Twin Peaks did. That was beyond my wildest dreams. From the moment I auditioned at Johanna and Krista’s office up until this moment right now, Twin Peaks has continued to give me a great big hug.
Last day of filming: When you’re on the set and you’re filming, the size and magnitude of it, I can’t really think about it. I’m barely able to act as it is. If on that last day, after my last shot, which we were standing next to the jail cell, so I imagine it was on the sound stage. Actually I think the last thing I did on the show was after everything was done and we had cut and we were done filming, I had to record that phone call where Richard Horne calls Chad and says to get that letter and Chad says “I don’t know man, I’ll do what I can”. Chad cracks me up. He’s such an asshole. Don’t let anyone tell you differently; it’s really fun to play an asshole. You get to do all the things you shouldn’t do. They put up a boom microphone and I did the scene, and it was over just like that. David Lynch came up to me and said “You’re a part of the family now. You come around here anytime you want”. I think I cried. It was sort of a relief after all of that work we had done and that whole journey. There it was and at the end of the journey, at least for now, David Lynch looked me in the eyes and said you’re part of the family. That was huge. I had a tear running down my cheek and he meant it.
The show: I don’t naturally delve into the minutia of Twin Peaks. I’ve watched it all—the original series at least twice and then the new series I would watch on Sunday night and then again on Monday just to kind of sleep on it and see what was there. I don’t naturally make all of the connections, but I’m fascinated by the people who do. The characters on the show are all so well defined and wonderful. You look at that cast list and there’s over 200 of us. If you went down that list, everyone single one of those characters would be distinct in your mind. That’s a testament to Mark Frost and David Lynch for sure and also a testament to Johanna and Krista, the casting directors. They went out and found a lot of these people.
The Future of Chad: I hesitate to speculate because that’s not my place—that’s Mark and David, but I certainly hope, as I would hope for all people who are struggling the way Chad is and are trying to find themselves and find a place in this world, I would hope that Chad finds that peace that he’s looking for. That he would let go of his negative, pessimistic, narcissistic, attitudes and let go of the idea that the world owes him something.
The show’s legacy: I think that its legacy will be that it completely changed everything about television twice so far. That show has shown up and absolutely decimated any preconceived notions about television and expanded the possibilities about what television can be. They’ve done it twice and the night is young.
The Cult of Chad: I can’t get my brain around it. The Cult of Chad is the coolest thing ever. These guys make memes and put my face in it and they’re so funny. There’s such a deep, deep sense of humor and mischievousness that absolutely speak to me. At a minimum they make me smile and some of them I’m just laughing out loud. I get on Facebook and get ambushed by The Cult of Chad. What a privilege, what an honor. I’m so grateful that people have responded to the show and responded to my character and that they form these groups, all of the Facebook groups. It feels like a huge honor to be a part of it. I thought maybe it would end when the show ended, but they keep going. They’re artists in the purest sense of the word.
Why Twin Peaks has such staying power: I think it’s a testament to the depth. You could write about the show for the rest of your life. There’s this infinite depth; it’s never-ending. I think a part of that is that it’s not in a hurry to answer questions. It’s not in a hurry to explain things to us. A lot of shows are and I think that’s a lot of what was so different back in 1990. We were so used to having everything explained to us. Twin Peaks came along and presented very deep, truthful images and characters and I think people respond to that. Twin Peaks does not condescend to us or coddle us. Twin Peaks respects us as people and as souls and presents itself to us and then we make of it what we will. That’s dignified and I think people feel that. If they don’t feel that on a conscious level, then they certainly feel that on a subconscious level. When someone is not talking down to you or over-explaining something to you, you feel that. That’s what makes it special. It’s like you look at a painting and you wouldn’t want some guy standing next to you saying “Well if you look over here…” Ultimately you want to stand there and stare at the painting and let what comes to you come and Twin Peaks does that. That’s what makes it special and that’s why it’s infinite and why it’s deep and you’ll be able to keep writing about it.
Final Words: Thank you to anyone who is reading this. Thank you to anyone who pays attention to Twin Peaks. Please tell everyone you know to look at it and to watch it. I’m so grateful to be a part of this community and part of this family and I’m so grateful for every other fan of this show, like myself. It reminds me that if I’m feeling down or I’m seeing things that aren’t so positive, the fact that the show exists and that people respond to it helps me. Art can reflect the world back to us. We are not alone.
Many, many thanks to John Pirruccello for taking the time to talk to me. Please be sure to keep an eye out for his next new show, Barry, on HBO which sounds like it’s going to be really funny. How can you go wrong with Bill Hader and Henry Winkler in the same cast? Thanks for reading this interview everyone! Until next time…