I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dana Ashbrook, who played Bobby Briggs in the original series of Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me & Season 3 as well. Dana was most gracious with his time and his love of all things Twin Peaks was quite apparent throughout our conversation. Hope you enjoy what was a really fun interview.
AG: When you wrapped filming on Fire Walk With Me all those years ago, did you ever see yourself playing Bobby Briggs again?
DA: No. Never thought it would come back or anything like that. No. Never in a million years. I was going off pretty much what David always said, which was no way. It was deader than a door nail kind of situation, you know?
AG: In recent years, Fire Walk With Me has seen a complete turnaround in terms of the public’s reaction to it. At first it was just those that were really invested in Twin Peaks that embraced it. Now it’s celebrated to the point where it even has a Criterion release. What’s that like for you to be part of a film that has had such a change in public reaction?
DA: That’s amazing. I think that’s great. I love the movie. I think it’s exciting that people are rediscovering it or re-watching it and digging it in a new way. This stuff, it holds up and it’s not so easy to always understand and you can watch it a million times and get a million different things out of it probably.
AG: Definitely. Any memories or stories from shooting the film that maybe you want to discuss or talk about?
DA: For me, the things that stick out, I rarely ever had two jobs that were back to back where I finished one acting job and then went to another acting job. In this particular case, I was doing a short film in Texas and I had to leave early in the morning and fly to Washington to start the movie. I literally was going to fly in and go straight to set and work that afternoon.
I was all discombobulated. It was storming in Texas when I left so it was terrifying getting out of there. I finally got there and everything was good. I hadn’t seen everybody for a while and I was nervous. I remember we read I think it was the scene where Sheryl Lee and I are on the couch laying next to each other. It’s been edited; the scene was actually different and longer.
Anyway, we were doing that scene and I was just not really getting it. I wasn’t doing that great. David came to me and sat down with me and got me back into the Twin Peaks world. It really helped. It was great. That’s one thing I really remember is that when I got there I was just bumping into walls. He took me aside and got me all back focused into what I needed to do and put me back into that dream world. Does that make sense at all?
AG: Absolutely. It leads to a great follow-up question: What’s that experience like compared to coming back for the new season? Was it an easier adjustment despite the huge amount of years in between? Or did David have to bring you back into that world?
DA: Definitely had to bring me back in. For sure. My character had a change over the years. I wasn’t quite the same as I was 25 years ago. I had to find the new transformed Bobby. It wasn’t hard to do, though, because it was kind of all right there. It was all of course written there for sure. It had all been set up in the series so many years ago that somehow Bobby would turn out okay.
AG: When you first learned that the show was coming back and that you were going to be a part of it, where did your mind take you about your character? What did you see Bobby doing in your mind?
DA: I don’t know, man. My friends and people that are close to me that know the show, when they heard it was coming back we speculated all sorts of silly stuff. Like did Bobby put on 400 pounds and he’s just some sort of big elderly shut-in or what? I didn’t know what happened.
I was up for anything honestly. I was just glad to be included honestly. The fact that he wrote such a great sort of thing for me, he and Mark…they gave me a pretty good arc. It was fun for me. I had a great time. It was great to be back in that world and then great to see where everything was. Again, I only knew my little small portion so the whole thing, the whole picture, I watched just like everybody else.
AG: Nice. I wanted to ask about your first day on set. What was the first scene that you filmed? What was going through your mind seeing everybody ? I’m assuming most of those people you hadn’t seen in years. What was that experience like for you just walking back into that world?
DA: It was really sweet, very cool. It was really…I don’t want to say reverent but it was like the crew and everything…It seemed like there was anticipation when a couple people that hadn’t seen each other for a while would come in and see each other and get that reaction. It was like a family thing. It was fun. It was really sweet. The atmosphere was so much fun. It was so great and relaxed.
It all starts with the way David runs the set and the way he is in general. Clearly since Twin Peaks I’ve done other stuff. I’m used to that sort of world where it’s just push it out, get it out, boom, boom, boom, television world. It was nice to go back to this place where it wasn’t so result-oriented and it was more of a flow thing.
Working with David is such a relaxing relief for me to be able to trust him and go into his world and try to play in that world. Going back in to it was really fun. The first scene that I filmed I think was the scene where I go in and I see Norma and Ed in the diner. Grant Goodeve was in there. It was the scene where he played Norma’s…her franchise guy or whatever. That scene, that was the first one. I just always remember every time someone would come on the set we’d have this guy named Ime who he was our second AD. He is this beautiful guy and his face just lights up. Every time someone would come on the set and have a re-connection he would just look at me, man. His face was so big and smiley and so happy to be there and had such a good energy. I just always remember it was so fun to see everybody.
It was great. There was that element to it. You hear a lot of these people that are on shows that have been rekindled now. It feels pretty comfortable. You just fit right back into it. It was great to work with Madchen again and hang out and be back in that world. With Peggy and to be back in the dinner and all that. Working with Amanda was amazing. We love Amanda. She was go great. I couldn’t have thought of a better daughter. Great casting. You know what I mean? Really great casting.
AG: I did want to ask you about that scene. It almost seems to me like David and Mark said that “Dana can handle anything”. You would go from these super emotional scenes to some of the supernatural stuff. You were really all over the place. They just gave you this really great arc, as you put it, and that scene in the diner with Madchen and Amanda it’s a moving family moment and then you immediately go to something traumatic and almost supernatural with the woman in the car outside. What was that like for you? You had this wide range of things to play as an actor.
DA: It was fun for me. A lot of fun to play a policeman in all that stuff and then take control of the situation and then of course the whole surreal science fiction-y element with the chick, whatever was wrong with her.
The scene beforehand was family. Yeah, that’s the beauty of working with David. He goes one way and then all of a sudden it takes a big, big turn. You know, I got to admit I love Bobby and Shelly together so the fact that we weren’t together anymore was a drag. The fact that she’s off doing other things was hard for me. It kind of worked for Bobby. It was great. It was great to work with those people again and get back into that world, even though it had changed so much. It was still super fun.
AG: I still have no idea what the scene means with the lady in the car and the girl that’s vomiting. That’s one that I can’t wrap my mind around.
DA: Yeah. Me either. I don’t speculate on that stuff.
AG: How long were you filming for in Season 3?
DA: Gosh. I think I did a month and a half, two months up there in Washington and then about three weeks in LA.
AG: Oh, nice. You had a pretty long run. Everybody I talked to seems to have very wide ranging answers to that question.
DA: Oh, yeah. Some people were like a day, two days. Some people were a week. When I was in LA I didn’t really do much. I was just around in case they needed me. I didn’t really do too much. Yeah. It was great. People came in and out. There was a cast of thousands.
AG: Season 3 really seemed to focus a lot on how the passage of time affects everybody and how that can be either good or bad. Your character really seemed to be the most changed. Starting off as the troubled youth in the original series and now you’re a cop and you’re a concerned father in this new series. What was that like for you getting to play out this really hopeful arc?
DA: You know, it was great. It was great that I got to be able to try and do something different and probably a little bit closer to where I’m at in my life. Not that I was like Bobby ever but I’m a little bit calmed down in my own life as well. I’m married and settled down now.
It was super fun. It was a great thing to get those pages and see what they came up with after all those years. Who knows what happened? I didn’t know if I was going to be a guy riding a bicycle through town and just wave to the camera once and be done. You know what I mean? I was happy that I got to be involved in some of that stuff, that really interesting stuff that young Bobby was never into at all.
I never got to go to the Black Lodge or any of that supernatural stuff. None of that affected me. Except for I guess my dad coming back. He reappeared once maybe when I was there, didn’t he? When he comes back he’s dressed in World War Two stuff. I guess I was exposed to some of that stuff. That’s interesting.
AG: That’s the only supernatural thing that I remember Bobby being a part of prior to the new series.
DA: Yeah. For sure. Except the Miss Twin Peaks contest (laughs).
AG: I wanted to ask on a personal level what did this experience mean to you getting to go back to the show 25 years later?
DA: Gosh. Everything. It was everything. It was the one thing in my career that got me a lot of jobs and made people hire me throughout these 25 years was being on that show. I owe pretty much everything to it. I was willing to just show up and do whatever. The fact that it got to actually be a really decent role and have some fun with it and all that stuff. I couldn’t believe it. It fell from the sky honestly. It was something I never thought would happen and then when it did I just couldn’t believe it. Then it got canceled (when Lynch briefly said he was leaving the project over contract negotiations) for a second and who knew if it was going to happen. It was a lot of blue balls going up to it. Thank God it all worked out.
I honestly couldn’t have asked for anything more really. Just to be able to work with these people again and a lot of the same crew members were there and Sabrina Sutherland who is amazing and friends with everyone. The people are great. It was just like old times getting back together.
AG: Any on set memories or stories that you care to share?
DA: Oh, man. It was great times. Like when we were shooting stuff out in the woods when I’d just be hanging out with Michael Horse, just looking at the mountains and hanging out and talking about life. You know what I mean? He’s always got a great story for me. Just spending time with these people away from shooting too was great. Just being back up in that area. It’s a beautiful, magical area. Going back to the same locations that we were at. It was just a trip, man. It was really just unbelievable. I felt so lucky to be a part of it. Honestly. I don’t know honestly to this day how it all really happened, how I got the part in the first place. It’s a miracle really. It’s a miracle any time you get a job really.
AG: Saved the fun question for last. After what we saw on screen, did Bobby and Shelly get back together or remain co-parents?
DA: Man, I don’t know. I don’t know. I have no idea. What do you think? What do you speculate? I would like to think they did but, God, who knows? It’s not a happy world out there.
AG: I’m a hopeless romantic. I feel like some time after when we saw, Shelly realized that she still loved Bobby and they lived happily ever after.
DA: Yeah. Okay. I’ll go with that too. I thought that at the end of the first series that, “Yeah, Bobby and Shelly got married and probably stayed happily ever after.” It was kind of like that. They didn’t stay together but at least we had a beautiful child and we co-parent. Bobby clearly still loves her.
AG: Definitely. You made that absolutely clear in that scene in the diner. That was one of my favorite moments of the whole 18 hours.
DA: Aw, dude. Really, wow. Thanks, man. Thanks.
If you enjoyed this interview, please be sure to check out some of our others!