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The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Take Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook), for instance. Twin Peaks fans are very used to seeing Bobby at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department. In fact, that’s where he ends up at the end of the original run’s very first episode: behind bars, barking like a mad dog at romantic rival James Hurley (James Marshall). Throughout his run in the series, Bobby was linked to all kinds of bad behavior — skipping school, taking drugs, the occasional murder… you know, standard rebellious teenage stuff.
These days, Bobby still regularly appears at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department… as an employee. In the fourth episode of Showtime revival’s of the David Lynch and Mark Frost drama, Bobby makes his surprising debut as a silver-foxed deputy — a dramatic change of circumstances for the character, one that serves as a shortcut into emphasizing how much time has passed since the original Twin Peaks. It’s a reflection of how much Ashbrook has changed as an actor, too, according to what the man tells The Hollywood Reporter; indeed, he celebrated his 50th birthday this past week, a milestone that happily coincided with his iconic character’s unexpected comeback.
“It’s a very exciting time,” he says with a laugh. “It’s been a pretty big week.”
Beyond Bobby’s surprising new circumstances, the character stood at the center of the Twin Peaks revival’s most nostalgic and emotional moment yet. Midway through the fourth hour, Hawk (Michael Horse) and his colleagues are sorting through the old Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) case files in order to further unravel the mysteries put forth by the ailing Log Lady, played by Catherine E. Coulson, who passed away shortly after filming her scenes for the series. Bobby steps into the room and immediately wells up with tears as soon as he sees a photo of Laura, confronting this ghost from the past for the first time in years. The scene marks the return of the iconic “Laura Palmer’s Theme,” reaching soaring heights as Bobby’s waterworks begin to flow. It’s the first sign of the classic Angelo Badalamenti score, which has been notably absent through the early going of the new Twin Peaks, and its return comes not a moment too soon.
For Ashbrook, filming the emotional scene was both difficult and joyous. Speaking with THR (with that signature Bobby Briggs laughter bubbling under every word), here’s what he had to say about that Laura Palmer comeback, Bobby’s new gig, the way the Twin Peaks revival is honoring the many actors from the original series who have since passed away, and more.
How much time did you spend thinking about a return to the world of Twin Peaks since the show went off the air?
I have to say, I didn’t spend any time thinking about it until I was told the show’s going to come back. I didn’t think it was ever even a possibility, ever. I didn’t even entertain the thought too much. But once David said that it was all going to happen, everybody — all my friends, everybody I know — started speculating: “Is Bobby going to be a five-hundred -pound wrestling coach?” Who knows how old Bobby turned out! It was fun to just speculate and guess, and sit around and make stuff up. But I didn’t think I would be working for the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department! (Laughs.) That’s for sure!
It’s surreal, because we’re used to seeing Bobby at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, but usually on the other side of the bars!
Oh yeah. (Laughs.) I thought it was pretty funny. It kind of proves that scene that happened in season two with Bobby and his dad, Major Briggs, where they’re in the diner and Major Briggs tells Bobby he had a dream about him, and the beautiful magical plots, and that he sees the future of Bobby’s life, and he’s going to be okay. I think it harkens back to that. It’s a question for David and Mark, as to how Bobby ended up becoming a policeman. I really have no idea how they came to that conclusion, but I think it was great. It’s a great choice.
We’re so used to remembering Bobby as the kid in the leather jacket. How did you tap into Bobby in this new context, wearing a police uniform, especially so many years since you last played the character?
You fall back into the whole vibe of it. It was pretty easy to get back into that. Clearly my character has changed a lot in 25 years, but so have I, you know what I mean? It’s a natural evolution of a person to change. When a person becomes sort of a straight-laced person after being so crazy like Bobby was… with the drugs and the murder and all that stuff. (Laughs.) It’s a real change of life. It’s a lot different of a character. It wasn’t so hard to fall into it, because my life has changed a lot. David sets up the whole vibe and lets it all happen for you. He’s pretty amazing like that. I just sort of followed the leader on it.
Bobby represents what Twin Peaks is right now. It’s familiar in a lot of ways, but it also feels very different in a lot of ways. There’s an absence of music, it’s darker through the lens of the Black Lodge… and it’s crystallized in someone like Bobby, who is a fan favorite from the original run and provides a real sense of nostalgia, but at the same time, there’s this new shade to him.
Yeah. Oh yeah, man. It really is different, but also the same. You put it really well. It’s like you have this stark contrast of the way the show used to be, with these soft and beautiful tones. Now, it’s like sharp and angular. All of the stuff in New York, that whole color palette, and the grays, and just that shot of the city… that first shot was insane. Insane! I keep looking up for that glass room now. I want to see the glass room. (Laughs.) And so when it came to that scene in “Part Four,” which is as far as I’ve seen actually also — the music in that scene, I feel like it’s the first scene that’s scored, as far as I can tell. There’s music in the road house but I think it’s the first scene that was scored, actually, in the first four eps.
It’s the scene where Bobby sees Laura’s picture, and it’s the return of Angelo Badalamenti’s score… so far, that’s the scene that feels the most like Twin Peaks classic. There’s a disorienting quality to the first couple of hours of the new Twin Peaks, and in this moment, it really makes you realize: “I’m back in Twin Peaks.”
Yeah, man. Yeah. It was sweet. And I gotta say, it was written exactly that way. Exactly the way it came off. Honestly: “Bobby walks in. He sees Laura. He’s emotionally moved.” It’s just… it’s crazy. It’s crazy. It was really fun for me to do that, and really challenging, because I was in such a happy place on that set. I was so happy to be around all of those people and having so much fun watching everybody do their thing. (Laughs.) I wanted to make sure that I didn’t f—k it up!
Listen to “Laura Palmer’s Theme,” by Angelo Badalamenti:
Entering that scene, you must know how much weight is resting on that moment, even without knowing the full scope of what the project is all about. Just reading that scene and knowing what Laura meant to Bobby, there’s so much involved in seeing him look upon her face for the first time in all these years.
Oh, yeah. It was definitely in my head every single day until the day we did it — and then I was very glad when it was over. (Laughs.) For sure. Absolutely, man. It was a big connection to that past. Twenty-five years ago, and all the sudden this guy sees the picture of that? It’s crazy. Put yourself in the reality of it, and the reality of what’s going on in Twin Peaks, and Bobby just happens to be walking along and he sees them opening up this case that’s been closed for 25 years. Are you f—ing kidding me? What’s going on? It was fun. It was fun to do. I’m glad it worked out. I’ve gotten some really nice comments about it. People have been great.
You mentioned Bobby’s father, Major Briggs. Don Davis passed away almost ten years ago, but the revival has still managed to include his character, both through Bobby’s remembrance of him, but also through Major Briggs appearing to Cooper in the stars. There are others from the original cast who are no longer with us, but still have impact on the new version of the show. How much weight does that add to this revival, and how much gas does it provide for the creative engine, in your mind?
We’ve lost quite a few people from the original, if you really go and look around at who’s still around and who’s not. The recent ones are the most crazy. But Don passing on… he was probably one of the most spiritual people in Twin Peaks, you know what I mean? He was more in touch with what’s going on in the Lodges and out in the woods. He showed up at one point wearing a 1942 flying outfit or something like that. He was into some shit, through the Air Force connection and all of that. I don’t know exactly what. Him not being there? That’s a big thing. It’s hard. It’s hard. He was such a great actor, and such a great character. And the work that Catherine [E. Coulson] did as the Log Lady… I don’t know if you’re familiar with all of the stories, but she was on her last legs. She was very weak. You could tell. She passed just a couple of days after we finished filming that. She was unbelievable, man. That whole thing was crazy. It shocked me. It blew me away. All of those people, all of the people who have passed… I think there are even some shots of Frank Silva, Killer BOB, aren’t there? So they live on. They live on through Twin Peaks, man. It’s cool.
It’s really powerful.
It really is. The whole thing with Catherine just put everybody who knew her into tears. She was such a sweet lady, and such an old friend of David’s, and such a good friend of David’s.
Speaking of tears, you have a very tearful moment in this episode, and you also mentioned before the Major Briggs scene from season two, which also produced some very memorable Bobby Briggs tears. How do you get there with the waterworks?
I don’t really think I’m that good! (Laughs.) But goddamn it, it’s hard. They always make me cry, man. There’s a lot of people who cry on Twin Peaks though, man. Just for no reason, sometimes people will cry. They’ll be sitting at the roadhouse and they’ll start crying, you know what I mean? From the original series. There’s great stuff like that. You know… emotion! (Laughs.) Bobby’s not afraid to show emotion.
He’s his father’s son! He’s a sensitive boy.
Exactly! (Laughs.) Everybody always thought James (James Marshall) was the sensitive one. But it was Bobby.
If the return of “Laura Palmer’s Theme” was peak Twin Peaks nostalgia, what’s it going to be like when Bobby crosses paths with James and Shelley (Mädchen Amick) and the rest for the first time?
Oh, man. I hope everybody’s happy with it. I hope they all dig it. It’s cool. It’s cool stuff. I really am excited to see what the reactions are going to be from people. I really am. Who knows. Who knows what’s going to go on. Jeez, there are so many characters that are still yet to come.
How many more episodes until you start barking like a dog again?
Wait, you missed it? It was in “Part Three!” We did it in “Three.” (Laughs.) No, we didn’t even discuss the barking. The barking I think has been put to rest. They tried to get me to do it on Good Morning America, and I was like, “Guys… guys! I don’t know if I can even do it!”
Well, you don’t have to do it here. I don’t know if it will play in print.
You’re the best. (Laughs.) Thanks for sparing me that.
Did you share Bobby’s reaction to the sight of Laura Palmer? What do you think of his new role in the series? Sound off in the comments below, and stay tuned to THR.com/TwinPeaks for continuing coverage.
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