I recently had the opportunity to speak with Chrysta Bell as part of our Season 3 Rewatch interview series. Chrysta Bell was incredibly gracious with her time, talking to me for double the amount of time we agreed upon when scheduling the interview. Hope you enjoy this conversation!
AG: You’ve recently been on tour. Is that still going on?
CB: Well, in a way the tours are ongoing because even when you’re not physically on the plane or a stage in Denmark, there’s the administrative aspects and the less glamorous parts of it. Right now, I don’t leave the country until next month when I go to Hobart Tasmania for the Dark Mofo Festival. I am working daily on the logistics and getting everything set up and worked out for these occasions. The touring in a really big way was for me in 2012 when This Train was released. My dear friend Chris Smart, who is also my bass player and my songwriting partner, he’s really great at remembering everywhere we’ve been. I think it’s 90 cities and like 34 countries. For me, I’m just like “oh it’s overseas” you know, and this is where you see the difference of personalities, he’s like, “Chrysta Bell, we’re here you know. Four years ago, you know that was the spring tour when…..” Thank goodness I have those types of historical perspective that are much more accurate than just “this place looks familiar.”
I’m a bit more abstract, I say. Often, I’ll just remember the impressions that the city has left on me. I don’t know, that’s how my brain works, but I love just knowing that Chris can come up with “no it’s been 90 cities over you know six years and seven months,” and it’s incredible. It’s nice to have those figures to think about and to reflect upon, and it’s continuing. I want to tour as long as it’s possible. It’s really an experience, unlike any other. It’s quite rewarding, challenging and it keeps you in this place that’s constantly pushing your own envelope, just a little bit more out of whatever comfort zone you thought you had going. There’s so much tension into getting this experience, so you appreciate it so much even when it has its challenges. It also has these moments of transcendence, where you feel like you’re living your purpose and all of the brutality otherwise makes sense.
Sometimes when we’re in our little worlds or a big world or whatever you want to call it, we don’t realize that other people you know, they’re in their worlds. This is kind of how I started doing a few more things that were opening up my life to people that were curious. People around me were just like look, we know that you’re Chrysta Bell, living your life, but other people might be curious about you. I’m curious about other people. So, it made sense, and I did put some effort into live chats and making more of a concerted effort to connect to people in my newsletter and open myself to questions and comments. It’s neat to learn about other humans and how they’re handling and walking through their lives because it’s probably really different than what we do. I hear a child in your life [laughs].
AG: [Laughs] That would be my three-year-old.
CB: Wow! What is your child’s name?
AG: His name is Jack. Little known fact, Jack has been by my side for several interviews I’ve done & usually finds a way to say hi.
CB: Oh, that’s a great name! I think it’s very professional to have a child with you. I mean that’s ideally that’s what we’d be doing if we were in our natural tribal states. We wouldn’t be separated from our children, and we would also be doing our passions all at the same time. I’m down with it. Hi Jack! I want to share with you that my first manager, the man that was one of the most influential people in my life; his name was Jack Hazard. He was everything you would hope he would be with the name Jack Hazard (laughs). Jack was actually the original believer in me, before David Lynch, before anyone really, there was Jack. He was my original supporter, and he went full on and just supporting, introducing, and encouraging me, and he was the manager of my first band. Jack is a very special name for me so good job on the name, which I think it’s a big part of it.
AG: Thank you! You brought up David Lynch. How did that relationship start?
CB: It was many moons ago now. Jack Hazzard was my first manager, and when I signed to a record label, he felt that I was in good hands. Then I had another manager came into my life. His name was Bud Prager, and he was industry royalty. He had sold 100 million albums in his managerial career. He was really the one who brought Foreigner into their height and bands like Metallica and Megadeth. He saw me at a show, and he was like “Look Chrysta Bell, I think you’ve got the stuff. You know it’s a billion to one odds that anything will ever happen in your career and chances are slim, but I believe in you, and I’m willing to try with you”. It had been nearly 20 years since he had worked with Foreigner at that point and he really wanted to have a happenin’ group. Now he was going to give it a shot with me. Bless his heart. Gotta love this man. He was trying to figure out the angle that we could take. I was 19 at the time, turning 20 and he said “Chrysta Bell, I think the way to do it is we need to get you on camera. I think this is really where it would be strongest for you’. I said great, and he pulled in a favor and then that person called in another favor and then eventually the favor train ended up at Brian Loucks at the Creative Artist Agency.
I got a meeting with Brian Loucks and the reason that was incredibly significant as Brian is a revered agent, and it’s really hard to get a meeting with him. He used to be David Lynch’s agent, and he’s really one of the only people that I know of that David really trusts his intuition. He introduced David to a number of other artists, including Rebekah Del Rio and so it’s kind of like this is David’s conduit for reaching out into the world to identify the kinds of personalities that David might resonate with to create art. Fifteen minutes into this meeting, Brian said he had a feeling that David Lynch might want to work with me. This was essentially what Bud had been hoping for, is that Brian would come up with something and he came up with David Lynch, which was obviously great. So many people talk about these meetings and how they’re going to get you in to see these big names or going to introduce you to them but it so rarely comes to fruition. It’s so often just blowing smoke and never happens but my manager stayed on Brian and Brian was a different echelon of an agent. He had these unbelievable contacts, and he had the trust of the people that he had that he worked.
Maybe four weeks later, I flew back to Los Angeles. I stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel, and Bud came to pick me up, and we met Brian for coffee. The three of us drove to David’s studio in the Hollywood Hills, which also happens to be the home from Lost Highway. We’re walking up the steps it’s already so surreal anyway, and then I’m like “oh my god this is where Patricia Arquette bent over to pick up the videotape!” Oh my God, you know, all the feelings that you would have if you are meeting David Lynch for the first time. It was really an extraordinary moment. We knock on the door, and David opened up the door. He’s just charming, a warm, compassionate person. He gives me a big hug. He says my name right the first time and completely puts me at ease, and then we sit in the studio together and have a nice chat. We ended up writing a song together that day, and that was something I would say— like to call it fate or destiny but I’m meeting David, and in the end, the nice connection that we made was something that really had a tremendous influence on my life. Andrew, I still sometimes can’t believe it myself but it was really truly wonderful. Now it’s been 20 years of friendship with this remarkable human.
It’s been so fruitful and so fun. I feel very fortunate. I feel very fortunate that we had a great connection, and part of that is David; he’s just really easy to talk to. He’s got great stories; he’s super witty. It’s hard not to like David but he actually really seemed to like me. We just had a great exchange. It was super sweet like I felt really enlivened by our interactions and I felt really cared for and considered—all the things you want in a producer or a collaborator. That it was David Lynch was an ultra-special cherry on top of the cherry pie or something.
AG: How did the idea come up for you to be the new Twin Peaks?
CB: I found out on Twitter like everyone else, and I was just so excited for him. I felt like it was such a beautiful possibility. There was not a single thought that crossed my mind that I would be a part of it in any way, shape, or form. David and I had been able to do all this work together, this music. I just felt selfless still from that time and energy that we shared together. I felt excited for him. I didn’t even dare to dream that I would be a part of it. I think big, but that seemed inconceivable. I hear it’s happening and then it’s on again off again. Then he and I are in Brisbane, Australia, when he did this beautiful exhibit of a retrospective of his life’s work at the Modern Museum of Art in Brisbane, Australia and I was there as well to perform for the opening gala. We were chatting, and he was saying at that point that he didn’t think that it was going to happen. At that point, it was seemingly cemented that it was actually going to happen and then he has just dropped this bomb that it’s not going to happen and everybody was so sad.
I think the next day is when he gave this live talk and that that was kind of one of the big catalysts for him actually being able to do Twin Peaks the way he wanted to do it. He wasn’t going to do it without being able to do it the way he wanted to do it. He was going to be nice but it was going to be right, or it wasn’t going to happen. He and I had some sessions for Somewhere in the Nowhere, and it was one of the final sessions, and he said, “Chrysta Bell, you know I think I have a role for you in my next project.” He didn’t even say the words Twin Peaks. He didn’t say if it was a big role or a small role. He didn’t say if it was for music or acting. It was all he said, and I didn’t ask at that point. Twin Peaks was maybe not even happening. It was a little bit like this mini explosion, you know, where you know you may be a part of Twin Peaks. He said” I think you’re right for this role” and then he kind of gave me this look and I knew with that look he was saying it’s up to the universe and I’m just like, I know.
I knew that he wouldn’t have shared it with me unless he felt really moved to because he’s super conscious not to get people’s hopes up. He knows what a big deal it is and how serious people would take it. He’s just too thoughtful to put anyone through that. It was just enough for me to be like, I know that I was being considered and that it was a possibility. Now I had to sit with it. So, I did, and I sat with it for a long time, and we had a few more sessions where he would give me a little bit more information. He’d be like, “You know this character is nothing like you Chrysta Bell. She’s hyper-intelligent and very professional” [laughs]. He’s so coy, yet super sweet and really funny like he always is. He’s just kind of like giving me these little morsels. Then at some point, I’m like, OK I guess I should go watch Twin Peaks again because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it. I really hadn’t watched it since the since I was a child and what had made the most impression on me in Twin Peaks was the music, and I was too young to understand anything else.
For a long time, I was trying not to over saturate myself with David because he was already such a huge influence on my life. For me, it’s intuition. I let my intuition decide when I should bring more of his work in when I should listen to this album, that album. There were always staples in my life of David’s work, which was Jocelyn Montgomery’s record that he did, Lost Highway and a few other things. Then, of course, the art that we did together and then these cool things he would show me, all of that was very present. At this point is I haven’t seen Twin Peaks in a long time, and he was like, “Chrysta Bell, do you know who Gordon Cole is in Twin Peaks? I told him that I hadn’t watched it in a long time, but I’m sure I know that I’ll get to that part soon. He’s like “OK, well you know your character will be working with Gordon Cole” and I was like okay good to know. I’m watching Twin Peaks on Netflix on my couch in my house at 3:00 in the morning. I’m a late night owl, you know, and Gordon Cole walks on the screen, and I sit up, and I start to flip out. He was so cool about it. He was going to let me just discover Cole and have my moment with it. Then that was the moment that everything really hit me. I understood not only how big it would be for my life but that it was just kind of it was difficult to wrap my head around how exciting, and for me, it’s a big word but cosmic that I was going to be with David on Twin Peaks. Not just in Twin Peaks but with David and then to find out with Miguel and then later find out with Laura Dern.
AG: That was precisely my next question. You worked with those three on screen. I do want to talk about Miguel specifically, but first, let’s start with working with that group as a whole.
CB: You know Laura obviously is amazing, and she had a multi-decade relationship with David, so yeah it’s a close-knit group. I loved every minute that that that Laura and David were on set together that I got to be around because their dynamic is so charming and it’s so fun to witness because they’re both so sharp. They could have a comedy show. They’re both hilarious and really fun, and you understand why they’re best friends because they get along beautifully. They’re both even toned and thoughtful. Laura Dern’s scene where I shoot her, the whole monologue that she gives is such an intense monologue. She felt that and she is like effervescent, she’s unbelievable and so great. Afterward, she brought in macaroons to the whole crew to punctuate this incredible day that we’ve all had together and it was like the epitome of class and sweetness. So being on set with them together and watching their dynamic is really a gift. I told the story, but I’ll share it with you again. That is precisely how I think of how the smoking scene came about. David and Laura would be talking together, and I’m sitting next to her literally just kind of like gawking. I’m just like oh my God, this is so cool. They look at me, and there’s they’re so sweet and they kind of know that I’m a little giddy, but they’re totally fine with that. Then Dave is like “OK you guys, I’ve got an idea for a scene, and it’s not in the script.” He totally played on the dynamic of them being old friends with so much history and me being the new girl. It’s cool to be by them but also kind of intimidating and super awkward. He’s so in the moment, and he picked up on how there was this kind of cool thing happening. He didn’t like to improvise scenes yet here he was doing precisely that. It was them in their intense, beautiful moment together with all these different dynamics and layers and me like off to the side like what is going on, but it’s so cool. It was cool that he was so in the moment and with all of those dynamics happening and then we did it, and I thought it was that I was a great scene.
I think part of the reason he asked me to be Tammy is that we’ve been hanging out for a long time at that point and we had a maybe a similar dynamic that Gordon has with Tammy and knew that that would work. He’s really paying attention to all these details and I think that’s one of David’s exceptional abilities is following his intuition, listening to his gut and having faith that things will work. Sometimes they don’t, and that’s OK too. I’ve learned a lot from that aspect of his personality about just listening to those voices. Don’t overthink it, just let it out play out, then be curious and see what happens and it might just be magical.
AG: What was it like working with Miguel? Any memories you care to share?
CB: Well, I will do my best to speak about it. It’s still a little tender for me. (Pauses) I was affected by Miguel, and I was affected by being able to spend that much time with him and getting to know him. He was an expert, an extraordinary man. He was so gracious with me and very thoughtful and told me these great stories about old Hollywood. We just had these effortless, enjoyable, fulfilling conversations between scenes. I really fell in love with Miguel. I fell in love with his personality and just his way. When he passed, well I’m still pretty shaken up about it.
I can say I just felt it was a great honor to work with Miguel. It was like a master class, you know, in professionalism and even more so because it was my first acting job. He kept giving me very gentle tips and helpful hints. I would be just kind of wandering around after we’d wrapped a scene because I didn’t know what to do. He’d tell me that it’ll probably be a good 45 minutes to an hour and a half before the next set up is up, so you can go to your trailer and get some refreshments. I’m like, oh my God, thank you because I didn’t know. He would take opportunities to tell me when he thought I did a good job because he knew that it was a pretty intimidating, first acting gig. He had compassion for that. It was really nice that he took some extra time and energy to give me some encouragement and to support me. Outside of these great conversations, he was just super fun to talk to and very engaging. Of course, you know, he’s got like a voice like his papa and his mother was Rosemary Clooney. I mean he’s industry royalty, and he’s this humble, thoughtful, super cool guy who is an icon in the world of cinema.
I just thought I felt very fortunate and super blessed. I scored hard. David and I both, we can’t talk about Miguel without the waterworks. What better timing because this guy was such a jewel. It’s so beautiful. Catherine Coulson, Harry Dean Stanton. Warren Frost. I think that’s one of the things that makes Twin Peaks unlike anything else is that David is operating on a lot of different dimensions, things that you couldn’t have possibly have played. It’s like fate and destinies were kind of orchestrated around Twin Peaks you know?
AG: Thank you for talking about it with me. I know that it’s definitely a sensitive subject and I really appreciate you discussing that with me.
CB: I love talking about him. I kind of I wish I wasn’t still so…I mean, I’ll always be tender. Honestly, I’m super cool with death—I own a cemetery. I’m super clear that death is transformation and you know really, it’s just sad for the people that are left behind — the reality of being in these people’s presence. I love to talk about him, and I appreciate you asking about him. He’s a legend. I want to get the word of Miguel to be spread far and wide, so I’m happy to share. Harry Dean was the same way you know.
AG: I know we’ve gone well over our allotted amount of time, and I thank you for being so giving with your time. If I could ask one last question, it would be about Part 17. Everything came together in the scene in the Sheriff’s station, in terms of all of the different plot lines meeting up in one location. You’re there working with a lot of other cast members you wouldn’t film any other scenes with. What was it like filming that scene for you?
CB: We knew that was going to be a big scene, but nobody got a script for it (laughs) No one could know anything, we just showed up. It was fun because it was the day I met Dana Ashbrook. I met Robert Forster and Amy Shields, and suddenly, everything opened up. I was standing next to Kimmy Robertson. I met Harry. My heart was leaping with excitement, you know like I said I’m standing with all these people too. So that was the first level. Even though we were just meeting, Robert Forster gave every cast member a really lovely gift.
I tried to go get water. It was during that dream that everybody’s looking into. The whole thing is happening, and there was this shelf with these sandwiches and refreshments. I walked over there, and I picked a bottle of water, and someone from props was like “No, that’s for the scene.” I was so embarrassed, and then Dana Ashbrook went and got me a bottle of water from craft services and gave it to me, and I was like “Could you be any more perfect?’ [laughs)]—oh my gosh he was so thoughtful, such a gentleman. Oh, and getting to meet Jim Belushi and Robert Knepper! It was kind of an overwhelming sensation initially, meeting all of these amazing people that are obviously not in my scenes otherwise. Now I got to meet all of them, and that was great. There’s a little bit of tension because you know we’re filming the scene and realizing that the show is almost over. It’s just so many emotions because in a way you just kind of wanted to continue but also you want to see it how it ends. It’s the culmination, and it’s super important and very exciting, but you’re meeting all these people, and there’s still so much you don’t know. Most of you don’t know anything.
Everything is happening, and you know the way it comes together and posed is very different than how we’re filming it. David is like, “OK look over in this direction and everyone sees something very strange,” and we’re like OK! Then at one point that there was actually smoke in the scene—real smoke! David was talking about something else, and he saw it and was like “Holy smokes”! [laughs)] Everybody just started laughing, and it was a moment of levity because you know David is the only guy who can say holy smokes (laughs). The room was smoky, and it was a beautiful moment. Those are some of the things that I remember the most.
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