Michael Nathanson Talks Twin Peaks, Theories, The Punisher, and our “Peaks” Moment Over Coffee.

I had the great pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Michael Nathanson recently.  For those that do not know who Michael is, he played Sam Stein in Marvel’s The Punisher for Netflix.  He also was seen as ‘Dr. Levi Zinberg’ series The Knick, on the HBO/Cinemax. He was brought on as a director for these cinematic experiences working with NYC based BBQ Films.  Production included ‘Blade Rave’, ‘Ghostbusters HQ’, and ‘Return to Twin Peaks’ in conjunction with Showtime.  He is working on a top secret project with Marvel that he created and a few other projects that we will definitely be looking out for.


I felt right at ease immediately as we discussed his love of Twin Peaks.  We both agreed that we liked Season 3 just as much as the original.

Michael: It was amazing.  This was going back to Eraserhead style David Lynch.  It looks like so many different mediums.  By the way, I love that your recorder app looks like Diane.

(The phone app that I chose looks like Cooper’s red, black, and white hand held tape recorder.)

J.C.: Thanks, I chose this one just because it did.  What was your favorite part of S3? Part 8?

Michael:  I was at my in-laws when Part 8 aired.  I’m in this house, in the woods, it was blustery, and all these tall trees, and I’m watching it on this gigantic TV that looks like it’s going to swallow you whole.  I was kind of freaked out.  Afterwards, my wife asked me if it was good tonight, and I answered, I don’t know what I just saw!  What I loved about S3 is that it transcends the labels of good and bad.  I don’t even mean that as a compliment.  It was an experience.  Like when you go to a museum to look at paintings, an experience.  A friend of mine and I just wrapped up a short inspired by Twin Peaks.  I loved Dean Hurley’s sound design, so friend is doing the sound and it’ll be out soon.

J.C.: You’ll have to tell me when it comes out!

Michael: Definitely.  Twin Peaks is a show eliciting so many feelings.  One moment terror, exhilaration, then frustration, depression, and then slapstick comedy.  It’s like the box.

J.C.: I just recently watched Mullholland Drive and to me S3 mirrors Mulholland with the box. It puts you in the box.  Especially when it comes to the theories.  But Lynch loves the theories.  He wants people to react the way they’re going to react.

Michael:  Everyone tries to figure it out, and what does it mean.  And I love that, I love theories because it’s interesting to hear put in different contexts.  None are right, because he (David) didn’t create them.  He purposely leaves it open for us to come up with our own, So I think he would say that every theory is right on some level.  Which I loved your theory, it was great.  So you think Cooper never left?

J.C.: I do.  I think he’s still in the Red Room.

Michael: So the entire S3 Twin Peaks occurs in the alternate timeline?

J.C.: No. Well, I don’t know. He’s stuck in a loop.  Every time he goes back.  He’s in the infinite loop.  Richard is the ascended version of all three (Cooper’s).

Michael: You said that Dale died when Josie shot him, right?

J.C.: Yes, We can go down the rabbit hole and keep going. I don’t know.

Michael:  Yeah, yeah.  I like what you’ve written. I like the idea that he’s still stuck in the Lodge, and he can’t get out because there’s this whole thing about his hubris, and saving people and he keeps putting more and more people in danger.  He goes to Twin Peaks to solve Laura’s murder and then Maddy gets killed and Annie gets taken.  All these horrible things happen.  He doesn’t bring peace or whatever to that town, he brings…

J.C.:  He was meant to go to that town.

Michael: Sure. When BOB is screaming, well Leland is, with BOB and says, “I know what happened back in Philadelphia.”  He is the evil men do.  I don’t feel BOB came out of the afterbirth of some nuclear blast, because BOB comes out of all those things. I also think that Leland in not totally a babe in the woods.

J.C.: I don’t either.

Michael: I think what it’s a commentary on is we all have these tendencies to do horrible, horrible, (beep).  Like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe that person killed those people!” We have these dark desires and dare impulses, everyone does.  Some of us are aware of them.  Some are completely unaware.  Some are dormant.  I mean, Dale coveted another man’s wife, whatever Windom Earle was or wasn’t.

J.C.: Right, that’s why Mr. C is how he is.  Dale knew what he was capable of.  That’s also another reason I think he’s stuck, he went in (The Red Room) with improper courage.  He just went in to save Annie.  The White Knight to save the day.

J.C. When you watched the finale, what was your initial thought? After Pt. 18?

Michael: Well, I mean, I felt like someone punched me in the stomach.  But, what was my thought of what just happened or is going to happen?

J.C.: Yes.

Michael: I kind of silently applauded how he (Lynch) finished 18, in awe of him willing to do something like that and just completely mind f*cking the audience right to the very last moment.

J.C.: Were you mad at him?

Michael: No, no, no.  I wasn’t mad, at that point I had been taken on such a windy road of who know where this is going and where it is leading.  About halfway through, I stopped thinking about the plot and how this is supposed to fit together and just road the way, took the drug, and laid back and injected it.  I would say every week, “I have to inject my Twin Peaks now.” Lay back and just let it envelop me.  It was like a film that covered me, like I was wrapped in plastic.  It just like seeped into my pores.  Visually.  Psychologically.  Even physically.  I just loved 18 more than I loved 17.  To me it dragged this new story line out.  I mean in my mind Diane was dead.  She died a long time ago.

J.C.: Yeah, I don’t think that Diane is the ‘real’ Diane either.

Michael:  I think Mr. C came out, raped and killed her and then took her hair and created the little silver ball…and you also wonder who else wasn’t saved.

J.C.: Like Harry.  In David’s defense he always wanted to use Robert Forster.  This could have been the way he wanted it to go.

Michael: I think he (David) was doing a revisionist Twin Peaks in a lot of ways.  Doing what he wanted to do.  So maybe there are elements he wanted to throw in there, that change the perspective and dynamics a little bit, to take out the parts we loved and were comforted by…

J.C.: Like Audrey.

Michael: Yeah, that was…there was things I didn’t like.  I’m not going to lie.  I don’t think it was a perfect series, the way they handled that and the episodes of her, going with these conversations, “Am I going to stay or go?” and adding ten to twenty superfluous characters trying to distract us with these expressions of nothingness

J.C.: Those character in the Roadhouse were our Invitation to Love.  It strung some parts together.  I think it explained some of the setup.

Michael: Maybe, in a meta way, all sort of the soap opera-y like when Twin Peaks just came out.  Like Dallas, and Dynasty.  But I felt she (Audrey) was such an integral part of the series, just her aura and her presence and what a dynamic actress Sherilyn Fenn was.  I just thought she was underutilized.  I loved that she was still in a coma and she woke up from that coma, but like Annie’s in a coma.  How many characters can we have in a come?

J.C.: Well some people speculate she’s somewhere else, that she’s not in a coma but Mr. C. put her somewhere else.

Michael: She, I think she wakes up from her coma, in that moment.  She sees herself as old and she freaks out.  And then we just stop following her story.  To me, that’s what that was, but again I think in his mind, dramatically speaking, then what?  We see her with her father.  What have I been doing?  I have a child, he’s dead anyways; he spontaneously combusted.  So there is no, where is her story going to go?  Logically speaking, when we last saw her she should’ve been dead, but she’s in a coma.  So yeah, she becomes an older, grittier citizen of Twin Peaks and lives out her life?  That’s probably not that interesting.  I haven’t read the Final Dossier cover to cover, but that’s Mark.  Mark and David are two artists, collaborating that have no business collaborating, and form a very interesting collaboration.  With the original there was some busting heads.  I believe Mark wanted to have more of the touchstones of the human side.  What we could related to.

(Side Note:  When chatting at a local diner, we had a bit of a Peakie moment, when the waitress comes over with our check and we wanted more coffee.  We found out it you had to buy each cup if you didn’t have something to eat.  Well, we’re talking Peaks.  So of course, we got the extra cups. It wasn’t quite damn fine, but it was better than Pete Martell’s coffee. Next time, we’ll have to get some pie!)

J.C.: But isn’t Mark more of the sci-fi guy?  I mean he wrote The Paladin Prophecy.  The Part 8 storyline was mostly Mark.

Michael:  Mark does the mythological.  The historical is very much Mark Frost’s thing, but the dreamscapes and visuals were most certainly very much David’s.  Mark’s telling of it is literally.  Here is the mythology, why Sarah is who she is.  Why Twin Peaks is how it is.  Why has evil inhabited this particular town?

J.C.: Do you like that they made Sarah the originator?

Michael: That she was the original carrier of this evil?

J.C.: Right.

Michael: What’s weird about it is, is it like by sexual congress.  Leland was inhabited by BOB.  Because it doesn’t make any sense, because they talk about…(waitress interruption).  Again he is a manifestation of the evil men do.  I don’t know, it definitely takes the story down a different path.  Because originally you think Leland spent his summers on this lake and there was this evil.  It didn’t need a label, but can you say that she brought him there based on that?  Maybe other people had it.  Maybe other people were infected in other places, you don’t know.

J.C.: Right, you don’t know.  Same thing the Giant (Fireman) and the Golden orb of Laura.

Michael: Right, but before you go into that, the 1st scene (Cooper & the Giant) of S3.  Where are they?  I have my own idea.

J.C.: They’re in the mansion.  The Fireman’s mansion.

Michael: When?  In the scene before when he goes through the electrical outlet?

J.C.: No, I think that, this is hard.  In the 1st season, the Giant is in the Red Room, he talks about the coffee, brings it to Cooper, and then sits down next to the Man from Another Place.

Michael:  But that’s the bad one.

J.C.: No, I don’t think so.  I think he’s neutral.  Just like I think that the Red Room is neutral.  That’s why there’s good and bad.

Michael:  That’s why Philip Gerard is living there?

J.C.: Right, that’s why there is good Laura and “Watch out for cousin”  Doppel Laura.

Michael: So the Red Room is the purgatory, not the Black Lodge?

J.C: Absolutely.  The Fireman’s Lodge is heaven…

Michael: So we haven’t seen the Black Lodge?

J.C.: No, I think the Convenience Store is the Black Lodge.  That’s why Phillip Jefferies is stuck there.  That’s why he’s in his percolator/teapot trapped.

Michael: It’s the place we go to decide where you’re going to go from here.

J.C.: Right.

Michael: Are you going back to our world or the White Lodge or the Black Lodge?

J.C.: Right.  I think the White Lodge is where Senorita Dido and ‘Club Silencio’ is, that’s why we see Major Briggs head there.

Michael: Wait, what?  Who’s head?

J.C.: Briggs.

Michael: So when did Dale end up in the White Lodge? Is it way in the future?

J.C.: No, when he’s in the coma and then he comes to and says, “One Hundred Percent.” That’s when he’s Dougie Coop, he sticks the fork into the socket, and at that point (I think) he sees the Giant (Fireman) and that electricity, he gets transported to the mansion.  He mentions Richard/Linda, listen to the sounds.  Then the Giant/Fireman says, “You are far away.” And that’s where Dale comes to in the hospital and Gerard is part of this, that’s why he says, “Finally!”  He got the warning before he woke up.  That’s why he is on a mission.  He knew exactly what he needed to do.

Michael: So how did he get into that place?

J.C.: The electricity.  He electrocuted himself.

Michael: So who is in our house now?  And I understand?

J.C.: They’re in our house now.  He knows because Mr. C. is standing in ‘Club Silencio’ (the Mansion).  When he goes through the vortex, and the Fireman cages Mr. C. in, as I call keep calling it ‘Club Silencio’.  And the floating of Major Briggs head and the Fireman puts Mr. C. in front of the Sheriff’s station.  He tells Dale they’re in our house now, because well he is.  He captured Mr. C.

Michael: Why do you think he brings him to the Sheriff’s station?

J.C. Because he knows Dale will go there and confront him, but also Freddy was going to be there.  If he (Dale) is supposed to be still stuck in the Lodge, then he couldn’t defeat himself.  He would have to defeat his shadow self to get out.  I also don’t think he reaches completion.  I have to go back but I’m pretty sure the clock stops on 2:52.  This is why Jeffries shows him the infinity symbol, and why he’s sitting back in the Red Room.

Michael: And it seems to be that moment where he flashes forward, twenty five years in the original, not necessarily…

J.C.: So what year is it?  It may be still…

Michael: 1990.  1991.

J.C.: He’s aged but it may still be 1991, and he’s the dreamer.  He is the dreamer.  People argue that Laura is, but he has been since the original series.

Michael: Yes, the whole thing was all about him dreaming.  He would go into these waking dream states, where the Giant would appear,  It always came to him.

J.C.  It was even him in the Monica Bellucci dream, half of Dale.

Michael: Yeah, exactly.  You don’t think that he’s just not who he thinks he is, that everyone is not who they think they are? Truly, that everyone is capable of something.

J.C. I think that’s true.  Especially if you look at Fire Walk With Me and Jeffries says, “Who do you think that is there?” to Dale.

Michael: I’m fascinated by our conversation, but what else do you want to know about me?

J.C.: You’re part of Marvel’s The Punisher.  Forgive me, I don’t have Netflix, so I haven’t seen it.

Michael: So you don’t know what happens to me?  My character dies brutally.  A really gruesome, brutal death by the main villain, Jigsaw.  Three quarters into the first season, which I always knew.  I sort of became a martyr figure.  People have said it was one of the best episodes.

J.C.: How was it to be part of the cast?

Michael: It was great.  I’m just a geek about a lot of things.  I’m a huge Star Wars geek.  The fandom is very loyal.  I was never a huge comic book fan, just an overall pop culture person. Ghostbusters or Back To The Future, those cinematic or television properties that became those moments, it’s what I loved.  I would put those in the same category as the comic lovers.  That being said, I loved Marvel and I did read comic books as a kid.  I like all the Marvel character, so being involved in one of these kinds of shows was surreal and phenomenal and just cool to be part of the universe.  I love that I’m part of these cults and can be part of these things.

J.C.: I love that you said cult, because I always use cult in a positive.

Michael: Certain cults are great.

J.C.: Like Twin Peaks, when people call it a cult classic, I don’t necessarily hate that.  Like Rocky Horror is a cult.

Michael: Yeah, when people say cult classic it doesn’t have a bad connotation.  It’s great when something rises to the level of that because it’s not just something that a lot of people like.  A certain segment like in a very personal and intense way that means something more to them than just a movie or a TV show, or book.  It has altered their perceptions of reality, actually in a good way because it keeps them thinking feeling, and brings people together.  It is a really nice thing.

J.C.: Any final thoughts?

Michael: The series just haunted me.  It stayed with me more than anything else I’ve seen.  The last thing that affected me was Breaking Bad and The Sopranos.  It’s a travesty that it didn’t win every award.  It is a feast for the senses.  Like immersive installation art; hat art that elicits feeling, and sound, and visuals from an unknown place.  Common things in an uncommon structure and making you feel something from that.


I want to thank Michael for sitting down and chatting with me.  It was so much fun to talk Twin Peaks and find out all the other things he is working on.  We will definitely be keeping in touch with him to be able to keep you connected to what we can see him in next!


Help us keep the conversation alive! We publish new content daily that can easily be found by following us on Twitter @25YLSite, on Instagram, joining our Facebook group or becoming an email subscriber here on the site.  Thank you as always for your support of 25YL

Leave a Reply