The Long Beach Comic-Con 2018: Conversations with Cast at the Twin Peaks Panel

Long Beach Comic-Con 2018

A cosplayer & onlookers at one of the many artist booths at Long Beach Comic-Con                (Photo: Daniel Siuba)

Conversations with the Cast 

I arrived at Long Beach Comic-Con just before the event officially opened at 10am. My press pass allowed me access to the convention center about thirty minutes earlier than regular tickets. I was surprised to see tables and backdrops being assembled, and cosplayers in various states of undress still putting on their makeup and costumes. My partner-in-crime and fellow Twin Peaks fan Shantel and I rode down to Long Beach together and wandered around the convention center throughout the morning and afternoon. After surveying the massive convention space, we slowly wove our way through the labyrinths of tables toward the back corner where a large banner said “Celebrities.”I knew this was where our Twin Peaks folks would be.

Rather than presenting these interactions as transcribed interviews, I pieced them together so that they read in a way that more closely resembles what each experience was like. Excluding my interview with Ray Wise, none of these conversations were traditional interviews. We also did not snap pictures of everyone, because we were too busy enjoying the conversation. It felt strange to stop someone mid-sentence or mid-conversation to take a picture of them — the interactions were much more satisfying than any photograph.

Chrysta Bell

Although I had been scanning the room and waiting for cast members to arrive, Chrysta Bell popped up out of the blue — I didn’t see her walk up, she was just suddenly there. We walked over to her, introduced ourselves, and she lit up when I told her I was from 25YL. She asked about Andrew and his son Jack, and when I told her it was both of their birthdays today, she said, “Can we Facetime him or something?!” Unfortunately, we could not, as the convention center was basically a dead zone, so we snapped some photos together instead. She said, “At the San Diego Comic-Con, we had like, one third of this table — now I have all of this room to spread out!” I noticed her “Fuck you Tammy” tote bags and told her how I felt bad when Diane said this to her, because Tammy was so kind. “Yeah,” she said, “But I read it so many times in the script I got used to it! And then when I found out who would be saying the lines later on, and it made it so much better.” We talked about David Lynch offering her the role and she said, “Oh he was so coy about it, he’s so cool, if there’s one thing that man is, it’s cool. I also told her that I had been enjoying their album, “Somewhere in the Nowhere”, particularly the song, “Beat the Beat.” “Oh yeah!” she said, “There’s a great music video for it, a friend of mine made it, it has some cool special effects in it. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the music.” I ended up returning to her table again later to say hi and goodbye, and to grab one of the “unsanctioned” — Chrysta Bell’s word — tote bags.

Chrysta Bell getting her table set up (photo: Daniel Siuba)

James Marshall 

Although I only spoke with James briefly, I told him it was my first comic-con. He said, “Yeah, they’re definitely…I don’t know, it’s kind of a strange thing, but it’s kind of otherworldly. You’re being sort of advertised to yet you’re…I don’t know, it’s a funny thing. About three hours from now though, you’ll probably have a headache, if you walk around a lot.” I can definitely confirm that I had that experience: lots of people — some in costume — a huge space filled with rows of tables, bright halogen lighting, no windows, and very little cell service. I also asked, “I wondered what it’s like from your guys’ perspective, being kind of…on display.” “Out here? It’s a little weird, but it’s kinda cool — what’s cool about it is that you get to meet everybody, you know what I mean? You get to say Hi, instead of it being like, you’re ‘somewhere’, you never interact.’” We were then joined by a kind Australian fan, and the two began discussing the Australian Twin Peaks events, and how nice the people at the North Bend Twin Peaks festival are.

James asked him, “Do you ever just walk around when you’re up there? It’s like you’re in the middle of it, the middle of actual Twin Peaks. And it’s heavy, emotionally — and it’s super beautiful.” The fan — whose name I unfortunately did not catch, so we’ll call him Aussie Peaks — asked James what it was like to come back to Twin Peaks after so long. James said, “It’s definitely fresh, and different. It was something that you didn’t expect.” Then, AP asked him, “I didn’t expect you to be playing ‘Just You’ up on stage at the Road House, that was amazing!” James laughed and said, “I didn’t either.” A staff member said, “Make sure you guys come to the panel at 12!” and James said, “There’s a panel? Am I on it?” Then, I snapped some photos of James and our Aussie friend.

It was a little bizarre to see James in person, with prints of him from other films on the table in front of him. I started to recognize how much he is James Hurley to me, even though I have seen him in other roles. Later, when I listened to him speak at the panel, I remember thinking, “He’s so softly spoken and reminds me so much of, well, James.” After being in the same room with these actors, it’s clear that their characters were really forged from parts of themselves that were already there — their voices and speech were just altered for the world of Twin Peaks. It’s like a giant puzzle that David Lynch and Johanna Ray intuitively and artfully pieced together.

Two of our favorite Twin Peaks cosplayers (photo: Daniel Siuba)

Kimmy Robertson

A few minutes later, we wandered over to the Kimmy Robertson and Harry Goaz table. Again, the duo was excited when I mentioned 25YL. Kimmy said, “Oh! With Andrew…is it GREE-vas?” I laughed and said, “I think so.” She also wished him a happy birthday, and we started chatting about being an actor, and her recent comment in her interview with Andrew regarding David Lynch casting her again in the Return. I echoed her comment about “not being replaced with an 18 year-old.” She finished my sentence and said, “It was a miracle.”

The conversation opened up into a discussion about gender dynamics in both film and television in Hollywood. Kimmy said, “Before I had any onscreen credits, before Twin Peaks, I couldn’t even get an audition. After that pilot aired, I had three important phone calls the next day, for different job offers.” As we scanned over the prints in front of her, we noticed a photo of Featherduster from Beauty and the Beast, she and Shantel began discussing the world of voice acting. Kimmy said, “It’s basically impossible to get work there unless a director or an animator or someone has a crush on you. Don’t do it unless you’re passionate about it and will never give up.” She also said that during the recent tour of Australia, she was blown away by how men in Australia looked her in the eye, “Here in America, they look at me like I have leprosy!” Shantel and I remarked later that Kimmy is quite beautiful, and her eyes are gorgeous, so it was hard for us to imagine someone avoiding eye contact with her. Listening to her speak so directly about her experience as a woman in Hollywood was powerful — I could feel her speaking for herself, but also for countless others whose talent has been overlooked for superficial reasons.

Other fans were waiting, so we scooted over to the left to speak with Mr. Harry Goaz, who has to be one of the most easygoing people I’ve ever talked to — his Southern accent and soft voice immediately puts one at ease. Harry had a laptop in his lap and a cap on — he looked like he was hard at work. I said hello, and asked, “What kind of operation are you running over here?” “I’m promoting a show! If you’re gonna be in L.A. you guys should check it out, it’s at the Lodge. I’m usually doing this social media stuff, promoting art and artists constantly, like 10 hours a day.”

One of the most memorable parts about my conversation with Harry was his genuine excitement about the series, and the artfulness of it all — in particular, Episode 8, and hidden meanings within the show. I mentioned 25YL’s various writers who theorize in-depth about what is happening throughout the series, and he said “Oh, some of those writers are really astute! I think they really might be on to something.” As I spoke with Harry, I felt like I was talking with a friend who also loves the show and is genuinely excited about it. He also said he doesn’t like watching his own scenes, “Most actors don’t watch their own work” — he covered his face with his hands when he said this, which still makes me smile.

Harry asked me if I had already re-watched the series, and I said, “Yeah I think I’m on my third or fourth run.” “You just see so much more every time!” he said. “Yeah!” I said, “I am just now starting to notice the reoccurring numeric patterns.” Harry said, “Yeah I didn’t catch the numbers the first time through, I’m seeing that now.” Then he said, “Hey, do you remember the room with the glass box in it? I think it’s in Part 1.” “Of course!” I said. “Wouldn’t that make a great apartment?” I immediately laughed and nodded. “I just loved that, the brick walls, the high ceiling, the minimalism of it. It would be such a great place to live.”

Sherilyn Fenn

I have to say, I was the most excited and most intimidated by Sherilyn Fenn. Perhaps it’s because of Audrey’s intensity in The Return, but in retrospect, I think Sherilyn has a powerful presence inside and outside of Twin Peaks. Shantel and I walked over to her, and she immediately greeted us. “Shantel,” she said, “that’s a beautiful name.” In front of her, next to her prints, she had a water bottle, a spray bottle filled with aromatic essences, and a large obelisk-like crystal — it looked like a rose quartz, but with a deeper red color — it reminded me of red rocks in Arizona, if they were made of cloud and encapsulated in a crystal. I asked about the crystal and she said, “Isn’t it great? Here, hold it in your hand.” She reached out and I felt its weight in my hand. “Doesn’t it have a great weight to it?” I nodded, and the conversation began.

It’s hard to describe what this experience was like. I felt like we gradually moved into another room, deeper within or far outside of the convention center. The intensity of the conversation gradually increased and something felt so familiar about her — not as Audrey, but as someone who I’ve known before. It could all be a starstruck projection, but it felt very real in the moment. I told her about the work I do in psychology, and she said, “Whoa, that is intense work.” “Yeah,” I said, “And I get easily overwhelmed in spaces like this.” I motioned to the room and she said, “Oh me too! That’s why I have all of this” and motioned to her crystal, spray, and water bottle.

One thing that struck me about Sherilyn is how she speaks with her hands — the energy of her words and the emotionality of her tone really comes out through her eyes and face, but also through her hands — it was like watching someone shape a conversation in the air, and sometimes I felt like her hands were communicating other words and metaphors that were accompanying her speech. Needless to say, I was blown away. Internally, I took a few steps back and said, “Okay, since we’re here — what do you think is going on with Audrey in the Return?”

“Okay okay okay! I need to give you some back story first!” Sherilyn launched into a story about how disappointed she was in what Lynch originally wrote for her character — she felt that, “The Return was like, this whole other thing, and pieces of Twin Peaks and the old cast were just sort of tacked on in places.” She said Audrey’s part didn’t feel right to her, and she said, “It’s not that I want to be the star of the show, not by any means — I just felt like there was something missing, and like this character who is so beloved by fans was given so little time. So David was pretty angry, initially, but he went and rewrote it.”

I could only say “Wow in response, because to me, Audrey’s scenes in The Return were some of the most enigmatic, challenging, and emotionally captivating of the entire series. She said, “I think Audrey retreated into herself, and she’s picking up on things that are happening in the real world, outside of her, but also things that are internal, like memories, or other things.” As she told me this, she closed her eyes when she said retreated, and used her hands to convey things from the outside and things from the inside, opening her palms to the air around her. At one point, she mentioned that she wished Audrey and Cooper would have interacted, “Even if they were just in passing, even for a moment.” When she said this, she moved her right hand and her left hand back and forth across from one another in the air. In my mind, I saw cars passing each other — Audrey in one car, Coop in another, briefly sharing a glance as they continued in opposite directions. Sherilyn shared some of her thoughts about Audrey in the panel, but there was nothing like being a foot away from her, watching her body tell the story just as much — if not more — than her words.

As our conversation drew to a close, Sherilyn and Shantel discussed the importance of being transparent and authentic. Sherilyn stressed the importance of being yourself and speaking the truth, even if there might be fear around disrupting a situation. Sherilyn said, “When I was younger, I may have said ‘true’ things with the intent to kind of go after someone else. At my age though, I’ve learned about being honest, and speaking the truth. If you’re superficial…” She put her hands on her face, pressed her cheeks, closed her eyes, and shook her head, “then what is the point?”

We realized we had just under 15 minutes before the Twin Peaks panel would begin on another floor, so we said our goodbyes, and thanked Sherilyn for her time. Her face lit up and she smiled at us, saying,“It was so nice meeting you, see you guys down there!” as if we were old friends.

I am still trying to put this experience into words, but then again, maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe what I experienced is best expressed through the language of the body — a speaking body that can release emotion through gesture and can communicate a story through movement. It now occurs to me that perhaps Audrey told us more of her story through her dance than she ever did through her words.

An Interview with Ray Wise

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mr. Ray Wise, who played the infamous Leland Palmer in all three seasons of Twin Peaks and in the film Fire Walk with Me. I wasn’t sure I would be able to speak Ray long enough to really interview him, but when I saw him sitting by himself right as the convention started, I decided to walk over and introduce myself. I told him I was from 25YL and his eyes opened wide — which are incredibly, vividly blue, by the way — and I told him we’d love to have an interview with him. Ray looked around said, “Sure, I can give you five minutes.” “Right now?” I said. “Sure!” he said. I had nothing prepared in advance for this interview, so my questions were pretty simple. Ray has a presence and an aura that is simultaneously captivating and inviting — the more I spoke with him, the more at ease I felt.

D: What it was like for you to watch Season 3?

RW: It was interesting, I thought visually stunning, and it was great to see a lot of the old folks come back, then of course there were all the new ones, and the new storyline that…it was [laughing] it was a lot of fun, enjoyable.

D: You know, on the way here I was thinking, “What is like to be Leland? To be that character?”

RW: Oh, it was great at the time, I remember that. And I remember every morning was a new challenge — Leland would be doing something crazy, and so I had to go off into a corner and work myself into any, into every kind of state that was called for. But that’s what I loved about it. The character of Leland Palmer is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever played. And he was many-layered, as everybody knows. Yeah, I’ll always owe a lot to Leland.

D: What was it like working with Grace Zabriske?

RW: Wonderful! She’s, you know, weirdly wonderful.

D: [Laughing]

RW: She’s strange, she’s a wonderful actress, and she’s just exciting, and thrilling to be with, you know, because you never know what’s gonna come out of Grace — you just know it’s going to be something spectacular.

D: Yeah, for sure. Were you bummed at all you didn’t get to dance this season?

RW: I was bummed that I wasn’t in it more, yeah! I was just in the red room sitting in a chair saying, “Find Laura”, backwards. And uh, yeah, thrilling. But I tried to make the most of it.

D: Yeah, absolutely. It sticks with you, when you see it—it’s like, “Oh my god, Leland!!”

RW: Yeah, I know! I was hoping that some of the new storylines would include me a little more, but they didn’t.

D: And I don’t know if you know this — I’m fairly new to the Twin Peaks online world, so I didn’t know — but Fire Walk With Me is one of the fan favorites, there are people who say that that’s their favorite part of the Twin Peaks world.

RW: Yeah, I think so. First of all, I think it’s, for my money, I think it’s David Lynch’s masterpiece, that film. Because I think it totally expresses what he is as a filmmaker on all levels, and then it certainly lays the cornerstone and the foundation for the entire series that followed it. Yeah I think it’s a great film, and I’ve seen it quite a few times now — I still enjoy it.

D: Yeah, it’s powerful.

RW: You find a little something new every time you watch it — it’s something else, that film.

D: Yeah,  I always go back to that scene with you and Laura in the car—

RW: That’s my favorite scene in the movie —

D: Really??

RW: Oh yeah.

D: It’s very powerful. I don’t want to take too much of your time here, so I wanted to say thank you again.

Twin Peaks Panel Discussion

The Twin Peaks panel discussion on Saturday, September 8th, 2018, featured Kimmy Robertson, Ray Wise, Sherilyn Fenn, James Marshall, John Pirruccello, Harry Goaz, and Robert Broski, moderated by writer/producer Mark A. Altman. The panel clocked in at about 45 minutes, and was edited for noise and volume levels — at times it can be difficult to hear, as some cast members were far from their microphones.

Here are some panel highlights:

4:00 – The panel begins

9:30 – Ray Wise tells a story about accidentally revealing some Twin Peaks spoilers to Russian press.

12:10 – The cast discusses season 2, and what it was like working with different directors

14:00 – Chrysta Bell describes her experiences getting involved with Twin Peaks 

17:20 – Robert Broski describes his experiences on the show and Episode 8

20:15 – Chrysta Bell describes what it was like to work with Miguel Ferrer, owning a cemetary–and gives the audience details with how to visit in case they are interested…

23:15 – Mark Altman asks John Pirruccello what it was like to play “such a bastard”

26:40 – Harry Goaz describes working with Robert Forster 

28:45 – Mark Altman asks Sherilyn Fenn, “What do you think was going on with Audrey?”

29:30 – Harry Goaz describes his feelings about the hidden significance of Audrey’s mirror scene; Sherilyn describes her experience of shooting the mirror scene 

33:10 – The cast describes working with Don Davis 

35:20 – The cast describes the situation with the Emmys, for both the first season and the Return (Chrysta Bell’s exclamation of shock and horror—and the subsequent laughter—at 36:39 is not to be missed!)  

38:46 – Kimmy Robertson: “Isn’t it ChrystaBell not Chrysta Bell?”

Chrystal Bell & 25YL’s Daniel Siuba – “Until next time!” (Photo: Shantel Garcia)

Written by Daniel Siuba

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