Last week I had the opportunity to speak with actor James Grixoni, who played Deputy Jesse in Twin Peaks: The Return and also stars in Worst Laid Plans, which is being released by Troma Films. James and I spoke about a wide variety of topics including his passion for meditation, working on a series with such a passionate fan base and what it was like working with legendary director David Lynch. Many thanks to James for taking the time to talk to me! I hope you enjoy our conversation.
The audition: I didn’t know anything about the role. I basically got called into an audition that was very top secret. I thought it was going to be a car commercial or something because there’s so many filmed here in Seattle, all the new cars coming out. So I’m thinking it’s like a Ford F150 commercial or something [laughs]. I had just told my girlfriend that I wasn’t getting a lot of auditions and I’m almost 30 now. Maybe I should look into going to school and start something new. Literally that day, I got called into that audition not knowing what it was and honestly, not caring what it was. I think I had this energy that wasn’t so needy. They asked me a few questions like “What do you do for a living?” I told them I’m a bartender. They asked how I liked it and I told them I loved it because you realize every human being on this planet are one person. Get them drunk and they all start talking about the same stuff. I think David Lynch liked that idea about oneness.
Getting the role: I found out pretty quickly, maybe two weeks, which is quick for something of that caliber. I’ve worked on movies where you’ll find out a month later or some movies you’ll find out that day. So this was about two weeks. I was at work and I got a phone call, and they said: “You’re on the new Twin Peaks”. Holy shit man. I had to call my mom. She freaked out because she’s from Seattle and she grew up watching it. She grew up in the mountains where they filmed it, so it was huge for her.
The first day on set: It was so funny. When I was a kid, I would audition for roles and I would get so nervous that I would puke. I would work myself up so much. With this project, I did my homework. I studied David Lynch as a person and as a director. On my first day on set, I didn’t even see the guy right away. I was getting shuffled around, into my trailer, then into wardrobe. I had to put on this belt—I’ve never worn a belt like this before and there’s like 12 holes I need to put things in. I was like “What do I do?” (Laughs) The PA’s and really everyone behind the scenes were all so kind. You meet a lot of people in their roles on other projects that can be stressed out. Here, everyone was so lovely and charismatic. They’re telling me “Ok, David’s ready for you”. My first day was at the Double R, and they walked me up to the door and David is sitting there with Dana Ashbrook. The first thing out of David’s mouth was “Hey Jesse!” I instantly felt at ease. He directed me into the material and he sort of laid out how we were going to do the scene where there’s the gunshot outside of the Double R. That was the first thing I did on the show. Working with David Lynch on set was…[pauses] he knew exactly what he wanted, and he knew how to communicate it to you. It was amazing.
Memorable moments: Every day I worked with David Lynch, which was every day I was on set. It was great to be associated with the Sheriff’s Department because there is this sense of nostalgia about that aspect of the show. In the process of watching the third season, I noticed there are so many new elements to the series. Some of the best compliments I’ve gotten were about how cool it was to see me in the Sheriff’s department, which brought viewers back to the original series. That was always really nice to hear. Every day working with David was extremely memorable. One day I was walking on set and I just hear out of the corner of my ear “Good morning Jesse”. One of the guys I was near stopped me and said David was talking to me; he uses the character’s names. I’m a hugger, so with all the confidence in the world, I ran up to him and gave him a hug. One of my coolest experiences was working with Chad (John Pirruccello) in the scene where everyone starts to hate Chad when he makes the remark about the deceased veteran. I remember David coming up, and I’m talking to John, who is just the nicest guy. We were having this really cool conversation and then had 5 minutes where we were trying to get into character when David came up. I noticed that David gives a lot of thumbs up, so I just threw a thumb’s up to him. He had this look on his face that I’ll never forget and he gives me a thumbs up. That connection right there was powerful. He asked me to come back to set the next day and the day after that. The way he directs a set is by far a thing of its own that I’ve never experienced from any other director. That, as an artist is a real honor.
At the end of that episode when it cuts to the music and I’m just staring, he told me not to blink and to be in a dream-like state. When you tell me not to blink and then say action, there’s part of that wants to blink so bad. It was funny because I picked a point and stared. We were filming for about 15 seconds, and I start feeling the burning in my eyes and my toes starting to crinkle. I’m not breaking. I see the clock and I’ve been staring for close to a minute and finally yells “Cut! I was just messing with you. We got it after 10 seconds!” He’s a jokester which is cool.
The atmosphere on set: I’m really into the business of film, as well as the creative aspect. I never thought I would experience a flawless hybrid of humor, joy, happy to be doing your job, as well as efficacy, this feeling of come on, we’ve got to get moving. It was like being on a set with your best friends who have been doing this for their entire lives. I hope as a filmmaker and actor that I can keep pushing that energy into other sets.
Completing filming: I tackled it with the perspective of being blessed just to be called upon. I kept getting called back to set, and every day he told me to come back, I was stoked to be there. So on my last day, I just thought it was awesome to be here again. We did this scene where I asked Sheriff Truman if he wanted to see my new car, which is funny because I thought it was kind of dramatic. The way it was edited though, it wound up being a hilarious little number. I’m trying to find where my character is coming from and before you know it, the day was gone. Once you’ve wrapped, he would have you come up and everybody stands around, and he has them come up and shake your hand and congratulate you. The whole time his arm’s wrapped me, then Hawk is coming up and the whole crew, everybody. Lynch painted an atmosphere with this intimacy that allowed for my dream as an actor to come true. I’ll never forget it. I had to fly myself to Philadelphia once for a movie. They were done with my scenes early, so I had to buy my own plane ticket home and nobody was there to give any assistance. Then you have Twin Peaks on the flip side where everyone is helpful and would cater to all of your needs. Mind you; I didn’t have any needs. I had a PA tell me I was the perfect actor (laughs). Even just the fact that they took the time out of their day to say thank you very much, that’s just amazing. That goes so far, being cordial and having integrity.
The experience and reactions to the show: I’ve met so many people this summer. I’m kind of glad it’s over so that I have a minute to breathe [laughs]. Every single person I’ve met was phenomenal — people who have taken to this show and been engulfed by that world. Some people will watch one scene and spend hours breaking it down. The legacy of the show has already taken its toll. That fan base was already there. Now you add in the third season, and it’s so far removed from the original series in some ways, but then it’s also still connected in other ways. I’ve seen a lot of different reactions. Most people seem to think it’s amazing, but everyone’s relationship to it is different. The fact that in a time of exposition and very cookie cutter, linear narratives that are being constantly regurgitated, it’s so nice to have a guy who can make people walk away from his work saying “Did that guy just mess with me for 18 hours?” He’s an artist in the truest sense. If I go to an art museum, I love to be baffled as to what the art means rather than have someone tell me exactly what it is. That’s most movies these days; it’s all exposition. It’s all of these narratives that don’t try the mind of the viewer and David Lynch demands the viewer to sit there and watch his material.
The fan community: These guys are the greatest. I’m not just saying that to you so it will trickle out to people. These guys are seriously great. My character’s part is small but then at the same time, there are people that I’ve talked to that have created a whole universe in their minds for my character. It’s an honor to be connected to David Lynch because people are drawn to his energy. So in meeting fans, it’s kind of a sense of family, like nothing that I’ve ever experienced before—more than my own family! [laughs] I went to the Twin Peaks Festival, which is an old school experience. You should definitely go next year, Andrew. It was my introduction to the fans. Everyone was so warm, so kind, so engaged. I, in return, had that same energy. My girlfriend is my publicist and I hired her to take a picture of me with every fan that came up to me. They loved it; I loved it. In one word: family.
Meditation: I encourage all fans of David Lynch to try meditation. His work has that dream-like quality to it and I feel like that comes from meditation and this exploration of what consciousness is.
The future: We live in an age where there’s such an influx of content and I tip my hat to anyone who can get that fan base. I’m blessed because with Twin Peaks there’s a solid, concrete fan base and as an actor that’s like hitting the lotto. All of a sudden, 100,000 people know you’re name or character. There’s a lot that comes up with that, like maintaining humility. Again, I got thrown into a family and that means people want to talk to me now. Humility is a must.
I’m gearing up to move to LA. For TV shows, they do all of the auditions in the fall. I’m debating if I want to go this fall or wait a year. My girlfriend and I are gearing up for that. We’re also yoga and meditation teachers. She and I are headed to Asia to study Ayurvedic healing for a couple of months. I’m writing a script about a drug addict whose best friend is his personal demon. It’s like a buddy comedy meets horror kind of thing. Between writing, auditioning and yoga, I’m busy. Another movie I was in just got bought by Troma. It’s a gangster comedy called Worst Laid Plans. It’s about four tattoo artists who are trying to save their tattoo parlour from going under and things go south super quick. It’s a really funny movie. Working with Troma, who has been around forever and Twin Peaks, helps give me that base as an actor. Now I just keep pushing forward and manifest whatever comes.
Thanks again to James Grixoni for taking the time to talk to me! James is on both Twitter and Facebook and be sure to check out his film, Worst Laid Plans, which will be released by Troma!
If you enjoyed this interview, please be sure to check out some of our others here on the site:
My Interview With John Pirruccello
My Interview with Stewart Strauss
My Interview With Ian Buchanan
My Interview With Harley Peyton