Madeline Zima Interview

Glass Box Memories, Twin Peaks Love, and Inspired Filmmaking

Madeline Zina occupies a special place in the hearts of long-time Twin Peaks fans. When we were (finally!) treated to a few moments of 2017’s Season 3 in the lead-up to its May release, Zima’s Tracey Barberato was seen daring Ben Rosenfield’s Sam Colby to “Try me.” We were intrigued.

Tracey’s screen time was relatively small, however her death rattled viewers and made the question “What was that in the Glass Box?” one of the more interesting questions to come out of the May 21 premiere. I spent a wonderful afternoon chatting with Madeline about her inspirations, Tracey’s bigger role in the Twin Peaks universe, and her recent triple threat experience of writing, directing, and producing the short film Warm Human Magic.

TP: Madeline, thank you for this opportunity!

MZ: It’s all good!  I’m so happy to be included and be a part of the Twin Peaks universe.

TP: Tracey Barberato: just a young woman looking for fun in New York City, or is she a bigger part of the Twin Peaks puzzle?

MZ: You know what’s so funny? It’s so funny watching something and having experienced it, because they’re such different animals.  When I filmed it, I was just trying my best to impress David Lynch and do a good job. Straight up.  And then watching it, there was just so much more that came across in the performance that seemed as though she was having some sort of ulterior motives outside of just being curious about what this guy [Sam] was up to. I think maybe that’s just…I don’t know if I made that choice as an actor, but I think it’s just a part of human nature that we all feel like we’re curious about things that are just out of our reach.  And I think that she, and the way that [Season 3] has been turned into a menagerie of almost surreal things that are disconnected and connected, I have to hope that she’s connected to a bigger part of it, but that we just don’t see it.  That’s a part of the mystery that David is always trying to capture.

Madeline Zima as Tracey in Twin Peaks carrying two cups of coffee

TP: You didn’t have to have the answers!

MZ: Yeah. Watching it, it seemed more like…it’s just so bizarre to watch something, and having experienced something so different when you film it. But watching it, it seems like she had more of an ulterior motive than I necessarily intended as an actress. So that was just a funny thing the way that art and especially filmmaking…it takes on a life of its own, especially depending on what lens you’re seeing it through.  And through David Lynch’s lens, I think she is connected to some broader piece. I tried to ask him questions about what the bubble was connected to the outside of the Glass Box, and couldn’t get any answers. I think it’s more fun to question than it is to have an answer. That’s the fun of it! It’s more like reading a novel where your imagination plays such a large role in the storytelling, and that’s refreshing for the brain, especially in the current society that we live in.

TP: I’ve seen some photos of cast meet-ups, and I’ve asked a few cast and crew this question: Is being in a David Lynch movie seemingly some sort of family affair? The Blu-ray extras that came out with Season 3, there’s the business of filmmaking, but then there’s a lot of caring and emotion, especially when the actors finish their filming.  Can you talk about that?

MZ: In an industry like the film industry, where there is such little loyalty and return business, David Lynch stands out in the fact that a lot of the people who were working on [Season 3] are the same people who worked on the original Twin Peaks. He inspires that kind of loyalty, and he gives that loyalty to other people. I mean, I can’t tell you…I’ve even heard of cast members reaching out and saying: ‘Hey, I’d like to be back in this!’ him going: ‘OK!’ I mean, that just doesn’t happen in the film industry. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve auditioned for people who have cast me in things before, and I don’t even get a second shot at it.  It’s for a variety of reasons, but there’s definitely a very distinct, loyal feeling David and everybody that works with him gets to experience. It is like a family.

Madeline Zima and her Twin Peaks cast friends
Madeline and her Twin Peaks cast friends

I’ve been invited to another Twin Peaks dinner because it’s ongoing; there are meet-ups all the time. I feel very honored that I was handpicked by David and chosen to be a part of the Twin Peaks world. I still can’t believe it sometimes, and it also happened so long ago that I’m pinching myself.  It was just like a surprise, just like the surprise of being in [Part 1]; it was just shocking to me.  I wasn’t even sure that I was going to be in it at all. Like, this could probably be cut out!  I really thought that, so I feel very honored to be among the very special and talented actors and crew and producers who are really a part of his family.

TP: I keep looking at and loving the Season 3 Blu-Ray extras. Twin Peaks seems so different. Sure, there’s a bunch of “regulars,” and David Lynch is the constant. Would you please describe the atmosphere on set?

MZ: I was so nervous, and I remember seeing the other actor I was working with, Ben Rosenfield, was also nervous. He was more of a fan. He’s seen every episode, more connected to the Black Lodge [mythology], conspiracy theories, and he understood the whole style that David is famous for. [He] was excited to show him what he could do, and I was just sort of trying to fit in because, aside from one or two scenes that I had watched on YouTube, I really hadn’t seen any of the original [series] when I filmed. I was just trying to fit in and not mess up. We rehearsed at the trailer a few times, and I was like: ‘Oh man, [Ben] really has a specific idea of what he’s doing!’ and I was nervous and I’m not really sure because I didn’t read dialogue.

My audition wasn’t an audition. When I got cast, I didn’t really know if my interpretation of the character is going to be something that these people like at all.  We ran lines a few times at the trailer, then we were called into set, and we were sort of waiting around, and we were like: ‘Are we really going to see David Lynch any moment?’ It was kind of like spotting some sort of mythological creature, and then you see a crowd of people, then him with the swoop of white hair going by. Then we were summoned into a private rehearsal with David, and he liked what we were doing, and I was like: ‘OK!  I’m supposed to be here!’  That was the first minute that I started to get relaxed a little bit, because I was just trying to hide all my nerves, and just grateful that that I had been chosen to be a part of it.  I just wanted to fit in.

TP: What’s it been like interacting with Twin Peaks fans?  I know we can be an interesting sort!

MZ: You know, I love Twin Peaks fans!  I went to the pop-up last year on Melrose that was the pie shop, the café. Everybody was so nice, everybody’s very intelligent and cool. I didn’t meet anybody that weirded me out too much. I can’t say the same thing about Californication fans.  There’s been a lot of super-weird people that like that show [laughs]. Not all Californication fans. I just want to clarify: there were just one or two. On my Twitter page, I’ve gotten death threats when people were upset about what Mia [Madeline’s character] did to Hank Moody [David Duchovny].

Twin Peaks people seem to be a little bit more…they want to offer something. They want to be a part of the experience, and it’s a different experience. The people are so excited about the interactive aspects of the show; they’re so excited to meet people who’ve gotten to work with David, and they’re excited to continue the mystery and continue the questioning. There’s this sort of philosophical spirit that comes with being a Twin Peaks fan that I love and I’m really grateful to be in that club.

TP: There are different levels: those fans that might just want a selfie, and those that attend events like the Twin Peaks festivals. Or you may have someone yell out: “Glass Box and Chill!”

MZ: I know! I want to go, but I haven’t been invited! I’d love to go to that. It sounds like so much fun. I think that [‘Glass Box and Chill’] is so clever and funny. That’s no big deal.”

The Glass Box in Twin Peaks

TP: It’s inspirational to have Twin Peaks back in our lives, and to get a new part of our brain engaged in Twin Peaks has been great and you’re a part of it!

MZ: Yeah, I found that not just with the cast, all the people who are attracted to the David Lynch world just tend to be a more open, slightly less egotistical group; people who are just interested in that thing that is just bigger than themselves. And there’s some kind of humbling thing in that, or at least that’s my interpretation of what I’ve discovered. Just the openness of Kyle MacLachlan, the openness of Laura Dern, you know what I mean? I’m such a fan of her, and I got to introduce myself to her at the premiere. It was scary to do so because I’ve been a fan for so long, and I got to meet her. She’s open and lovely and kind, and again – Laura and the rest of the cast and David and his whole crew, and all of the people in the production are just a cut above.”

TP: Your scene with the blue tennis balls made it to the Blu-ray extras…

MZ: Oh, did it?! Oh, really?! Oh, cool! That’s amazing!

TP: It really seems like David’s having some jokes at your expense and Ben Rosenfield’s expense: the blue balls…the blood machine. Can you give our readers a bit more context to those behind-the-scenes moments?

MZ: Yeah, he had these fucking sticks with the balls on them! And he’s having fun just being a part of the scene and being the stand-in for the monster, or the apparition, or ghost or whatever the creature was…a demon, I guess. I’m there and I’m naked, and just trying to figure out a way to just be. Honestly, I don’t remember it. It was a few years ago, so I’m trying to cast my memory back there and remember it more clearly, but it was challenging for me, that day, and that scene. Being naked, and being that vulnerable, and the blood and the whole thing was just a challenge and I tried really hard just to be tough about all of it.

from S3 extras, David Lynch saying the scene between Tracey and Ben gave him Blue Balls

TP: It starts with you and David looking at the monitor, Ben is in the background, and then David says something like: “Now I’m gonna hit you with these blue balls.” You all have a couple of laughs about it. Then it cuts to him actually poking the blue balls at you and Ben while you are on the sofa. Then there’s another cut to tests of the blood machine, then you and Ben actually filming the attack. How many takes did you have for that scene?

MZ: We had one shot with the blood. And right before we started shooting I just suggested, because I’ve done a few horror films, and I know that you can do [effects] later if it doesn’t work with the blood in that one take that we had. I said: ‘Hey, maybe we should do a dry run. You can put the blood later if it doesn’t look right.’ We did! We got the blood in one take because we had to. I don’t even know how many gallons of blood being sprayed on us and we had to keep going forever. It felt like it forever that the blood was just going and going and going like a fire hose. We were trying really hard to just stay in the moment as long as possible. It doesn’t matter if blood is going up your nose or in your mouth, you’ve got to just continue to stay in the moment. It’s a huge challenge for any actor. It turned out wonderfully. I think that what was in my mind and what it ended up being, it was a hundred times better than I could have ever imagined. I was very grateful and happy that it came together as beautifully as it did!

TP: It was violent, but very effective. It sure as heck scared me!

MZ: That first bounce, that first jump, that jolt that comes against the glass? I remember that [during] the premiere, everybody just jumped, and it was the first really big scare of the piece. It was just amazing, pretty amazing.  The sound design and the score…

TP: You wrote, directed, and are the executive producer for Warm Human Magic, which premiered this summer. Please tell us about the film, directing your sister Yvonne, and all of your experiences!

MZ: David Lynch and that whole experience was a big inspiration as far as wanting to direct. When I filmed Twin Peaks, I had the script for Warm Human Magic, but we weren’t prepping to go into production. I had one producer interested in doing it, but he wanted to own the film and all the rights to it, and I just didn’t feel right about that. Since it’s my intellectual property and I’ve gone through the trouble of writing it, I want to own it and be able to have creative control over it. Which is another inspiration from David, because I feel like having the creative control is really everything when you’re a writer/director, and it’s your vision, and you literally created it out of thin air. You should have the final say about how it turns out, for better or worse.

Madeline directs her sister Yvonne in Warm Human Magic
Madeline directs her sister Yvonne in Warm Human Magic

I wrote this thing a few years ago, and it was just about a night in my life where I was heartbroken and sad and trying to connect, and going about it in a way that doesn’t connect you to people.  At first I was going to put myself in it, but I was happy that I didn’t in the end, because directing is so difficult.  It’s amazing, and it’s not the most difficult job in the world, but it takes so much mental energy to keep focused all day long in a different way than when you’re an actor, and in a different way than when you are cooking.  I mean, it’s just exhausting in a different way, that’s all I can say.  I’m really happy that I just focused on directing.  I spent a lot of time on my shot list, and storyboarding it, and getting as prepared as humanly possible before I started production.

Directing Yvonne was so much fun, because I know how talented she is.  As an actor, it’s hard to watch shows; a lot of shows are amazing and a lot of the acting is very inspiring to me. But sometimes you watch shows, and it’s like: “How do these actors have jobs?” They’re so terrible, and I know so many talented actors that don’t have jobs, and it’s frustrating. Working with Yvonne was amazing because she is so talented, so I know there was no problem getting her to cry, to laugh, getting somebody to feel something and connect to her because she’s very gifted.  She’s very open in that way and able to have a lot of range in front of the camera. So, I knew that I could push her in certain directions without worrying too much about hurting her feelings.  Not that I was mean or abusive or anything like that, but I could say things that would piss her off. There were shortcuts to getting her to a performance that I wouldn’t do with other people. That allowed me a certain freedom, and again – creative control to really get the performance that I was looking for.”

TP: How can we see the film?

MZ: As of right now, it’s still going to festivals. [It recently] was in Madrid, at the Madrid International Film Festival. I was nominated for Talented New Filmmaker, and Yvonne, her performance was nominated for Best Actress in a Short Film. It’ll probably be out on YouTube or Vimeo at some point, right now it’s still doing the festival thing, but it will be out online eventually.  You can find out more on Twitter @WarmHumanMagic which is connected to my Twitter page, and is easy to find and follow.  We’ll have updates where it can be viewed online in the next six months or something.

Warm Human Magic by Madeline Zima

TP: 25 Years Later readers are in love with quality. All of these experiences that you’ve shared are where a lot of our readers love to “live.” You’ve been inspired by David Lynch, we’re inspired by artists like you, and it I’m so appreciative of the time that you’ve shared with me.

MZ: That’s what it’s all about: inspiring each other and encouraging each other to create and to question, and to search for mystery and meaning in everything. That’s humankind’s quest in this lifetime. We’re passing on the torch of inspiration to each other, and that’s what we have to do in this life.  That’s why it’s so important that we magnify all that is beautiful and kind and joyful and light and graceful. All the negativity is so loud; it really takes a herculean effort to quiet yourself down to see the beauty of a rose.”

Twin_Petes is a 27 year-plus fan of the show, music, merchandise, and emotions that emanate from the woods surrounding Blue Pine and Whitetail Mountains.  He and his family now reside in what can best be described as the Purple World.  His favorite response to most questions is: “That…cannot be revealed.”  He loves all things Lynch and Frost.  You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @Twin_Petes.

Written by Twin_Petes

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shovels, Sunset Boulevards, and Sharp Dressed Men: The Return Part 15

We Are The Art Life: Interview with Megan McGrorty