I recently had the pleasure of speaking with actor Jake Wardle, who played Freddie Sykes in Twin Peaks Season 3. We had the chance to discuss numerous topics and Jake was extremely generous with his time. Hope you enjoy the interview!
AG: For those who haven’t heard the story before, how did you land the role on Twin Peaks?
JW: In September 2010 I made a YouTube video called ‘The English Language in 24 Accents’. It was a really casual video filmed in a garden shed. I made it mainly for my friends who liked hearing my accent imitations. I set it as publicly viewable because I already had a YouTube channel and I thought it would make an interesting addition to my other videos. I also noticed there were a few other accent videos on YouTube so I thought I’d give it a go myself. I didn’t think much else of it. To my great surprise, it went viral overnight and gained two million views in the first week. In October 2012 I received a message in my YouTube inbox from Sabrina Sutherland (I later learned she had been trying really hard to get hold of me with no luck. I had no idea until I saw her YouTube message). She introduced herself as a producer who works for a film director (she didn’t reveal his name at first) who loved my 24 accents video and was interested in casting me in one of his upcoming projects. We then exchanged email addresses and began to communicate by email. This was where she revealed that she worked for “the director David Lynch, not someone with the same name!” and that he would like to speak with me. She arranged for us to speak via a Skype call and before I knew it I found myself having a casual friendly video chat with David Lynch himself. I couldn’t believe it. Only three years earlier I was watching his film The Elephant Man in class as part of the preparation for my final GCSE Drama performance at secondary school. I had also seen it once before as a child. Then in late 2012 (having just turned 20) I am having a casual chat with him on Skype. Incredible. These Skype chats continued over the next three years, roughly every 2-6 months or so for up to 20 minutes at a time. This is where we got to know each other and where he would update me on what was going on and what he had in mind for me. In one such call in 2014 he asked me “have you ever seen Twin Peaks before?” to which I said that I had heard of it but not seen it yet. He then replied “doesn’t matter, we’re making a new one and you’re gonna be in it”. After that call I then immediately went on Amazon and ordered the gold edition box set so I could get up to speed. This is when I truly learned what a special and unique show Twin Peaks is, how exciting the news of a return was and how incredibly lucky I was to be offered a part in it. In September 2015 production began. It was officially on! Sabrina began the long and tedious process of my Visa application and SAG-AFTRA agreement. Then on February 29th 2016 I flew out to LA to film my scenes. I was there for three and a half weeks and had the best experience of my life so far.
AG: How far in advance did you get your script and how was your role explained to you?
JW: I received most of my script (the monologue scene, Roadhouse scenes and some of the jail cell dialogue) about 5 months in advance. The rest (the BOB fight scene and punching Chad) I received on the day of filming. In fact I didn’t even receive an actual script for the BOB fight scene, I was just told what to do on the day and the few lines I had were written on post-it note. This was clearly done to preserve the secrecy of that vital scene and avoid any potential leaks. For me I’m glad it was done this way because it was the best surprise ever. I knew Freddie would do something but had no idea it would be that important.
David himself initially explained the role of Freddie to me on Skype. He said something along the lines of “You’ll be playing a character called Freddie, he’s British like you and also from East London. He’s a cockney and he wears this green gardening glove on his right hand that has super strength” something like that. I remember enthusiastically replying “cool!” and him laughing.
AG: Your character was very closely connected with the character of James (played by James Marshall). What was it like working with him?
JW: I loved working with James. We became friends instantly when we met on set and we worked extremely well together. He was the same age as I was when he stared in the original Twin Peaks and could relate to how I was feeling as a new actor and was able to give me advice and show me the ropes. He also gave lots of advice and encouragement about perusing acting as a career in general. The rest of the cast I worked with also did this. James and I both agreed that David has an amazing intuition when it comes to reading people. We believe he paired us up because of how similar we both are as people in real life and as characters in Twin Peaks. We hung out off set too and have remained good friends since. I don’t care what any of the haters say, James has always been cool!
AG: You played a very large part in one of the most memorable scenes in the series, your confrontation with BOB in Part 17. Before we get into the actual battle scene, so much of the cast was present for that scene. I’m sure off camera that had to be pretty interesting with that many people there. What can you tell us about shooting those scenes that perhaps didn’t make it into either the show or the Blu-ray documentaries?
JW: Well other than Kyle, none of the cast knew about the Sheriff’s Office scenes or whom we were going to be working with until we arrived on set so it was a wonderful surprise for all of us. There was a funny moment where the smoke machine (that was used to film the part where Mr. C’s body fades away) malfunctioned and was pumping out too much smoke to which David shouted “HOLY…smokes” and everyone burst out laughing. Another part that didn’t make it onto the Blu-ray documentary was where I smashed the camera lens protector. On the documentary there is only a clip of me gently punching a soft rubber ring that is taped around the outside of the camera lens. I was initially told to aim for that and punch it gently. One funny memory I have of doing this is when James had not been informed that I had been given permission to punch the camera. I remember during one take overhearing him muttering in a hushed and concerned voice “Oh no don’t punch the camera!” This wasn’t enough for David though, he wanted BOB’s point of view and to see me punching directly into the camera lens head on and not around the edge like I’d first been instructed to. For this they installed an additional lens protector and I was told to aim directly for the lens. I gently punched it a few times and with each punch David yelled over his megaphone “Harder!” I applied slightly more force as per his instructions whilst still consciously trying to not cause any serious damage. Then all of a sudden the lens protector shattered. It took everyone by surprise (especially me) and we all gasped. I thought I had broken the camera. Everyone laughed after the shock had worn off and also at my shocked facial reaction on the playback. The camera was ok other than a shattered lens protector. It’s not every day that you’re allowed to punch an expensive camera while imagining it as an evil demonic orb (laughs).
AG: Moving onto the actual battle with BOB. Throughout the original series and Fire Walk With Me, BOB was presented as the show’s top villain and many, myself included, felt that he was the scariest character in television history. What kind of direction did David Lynch give you for the fight scene?
JW: He started by explaining the whole choreography of the scene to me before hand. How many punches I would give BOB, where in the room I would be standing, how many times I would be knocked down and where I would deliver the final blow. We did a few rehearsals so I could familiarize myself with the sequence. Then when it actually came to filming the scene he would shout direction at me over his megaphone. He told me where to look and where to punch “He’s above you!” “He’s to your right!” “He’s knocked you down!” “Get back up!” “SMACK HIM! SMACK HIM!” “Harder!” “He’s coming out of the hole, he’s rising up and BAM!” It was tremendous fun.
AG: How did you as an actor prepare for filming the fight scene with the “BOB Sphere”?
JW: Well, because I didn’t receive a script for that scene or any indication of what I would be doing more than a day in advance, I didn’t have much time to prepare. Luckily, as I had seen the original Twin Peaks I knew exactly who BOB was, what he looked like and how important it was to defeat him. He has a face that you cannot forget. Frank Silva did a marvelous job portraying him. David told me literally the day before shooting to “Get ready because tomorrow we are going to get you bloodied up and you’ll be up there in the middle of the room fighting BOB in an orb” I was like “Woah really? BOB himself?” and he smiled and said “Yeah, in an orb”.
David’s instructions were simple “Imagine BOB’s face in a black orb”. Seeing BOB’s face when I watched the original was all the preparation I needed. The final image of him in Part 17 looked exactly how I imagined him. The only difference is that the orb was darker and lumpy (more like a blob) where as I imagined it being smoother and having lightning coming out of it. Their version looked better.
AG: David Lynch has a reputation that proceeds itself. What was it like working with him?
JW: It was an incredible experience. He really puts you at ease as an actor and explains to you exactly what is going on and how your character is meant to be feeling in the scene. He explains everything in great detail and is very attuned to the subtleties of performance. He likes to address actors by their character name (as is shown in the Blu-ray documentary) and will either call you over to him so he can explain something e.g. “Freddie, come talk to me” or come over to you and tell you everything you need to know. I also love how he makes everyone on the set feel like a valued member of the team. He appreciates everybody’s contribution to the production and treats all of the cast and crew with equal respect and kindness. He’s a really friendly guy and has a great sense of humor. Another thing I like is how he allows actors some creative flexibility towards their character. An example of this would be Freddie’s catchphrase “Oi!” which was not in the original script. During the Roadhouse bar fight, Freddie needed a way of getting the attention of the guy who was beating up James. In the script he just shouts “You better stop this!” which looked fine on paper but in the actual scene it didn’t work without getting the guy’s attention first. I dealt with this in the most British way: “Oi!” and David liked it so he kept it in. He even added it to the BOB fight scene. It became a memorable quote for Freddie in a lot of the fan art during an after the show so I’m really happy he let me add it.
AG: You’ve been very active in the Twin Peaks fan community since the series ended. You appeared at the UK Festival, lots of social media interaction and lately have been supporting “Queen of Hearts: A Twin Peaks Fan Film”. What’s this part of the experience been like for you?
JW: It’s been extremely positive and uplifting. I have never seen a fan base so dedicated and passionate. I love all of the continuing support from the fans, especially the fan art. People are so creative and put so much hard work into expressing their love of Twin Peaks! It’s very touching. I don’t think I’ll find another fan base quite like them; they’re very special, close nit and unique. I’m still amazed how a show that originally ended over 25 years ago with no guarantee of returning managed to maintain such a following for so long. It’s thanks to this passion that the show was able to return in 2017.
AG: What’s life like for you right now? Any new projects on the horizon?
JW: Right now I’m just auditioning for as many roles as possible, networking, training and doing various voiceover jobs and sponsored YouTube videos that come my way. I am also in talks with a director about a potential role in a feature film. What I know so far sounds really exciting but it’s too early to talk about or confirm anything just yet.
AG: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. Any final thoughts or anything you would like to say to those reading this interview?
JW: Thank you to all of the Twin Peaks fan community for your endless passion and dedication towards this special show. No matter where my career ends up taking me in the future, my experience on Twin Peaks will always have a special place in my heart. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for a Season 4!
Many thanks to Jake for taking the time to speak with me! If you enjoyed this interview please be sure to check out some of our others!