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The end of the second hour of Twin Peaks: The Return reintroduced viewers to Shelly Johnson (Madchen Amick), and things had changed considerably for her. While during the original series she was a young girl in the middle of more than one toxic relationship, she revealed to her friends that now her own daughter was in a similar situation.
With the arrival of “Part 5,” viewers met her daughter Becky (Amanda Seyfried) and the man (Caleb Landry Jones) that Shelly is so scared of. It’s a heartbreaking reversal of roles for the character as she attempts find the best way to help her child, which Amick says is a line all parents have to walk at some point in the lives of their children.
The actress spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about how emotional it was coming back to Twin Peaks, what convinced her the revival could actually work and working with Seyfried to create such a crucial character dynamic.
Coming back to Twin Peaks after over 25 years, what was that experience like for you? Did you think about a revival over the years or what Shelly would have been up to?
I didn’t really think it would ever come back, to be honest. I always felt like it was a special little lightning-in-a-bottle thing that would only come around once. I was under the impression about how other people bring back shows that it’s always this remake or this revamp or this reboot, you know? Sometimes they do a good job with bringing it back and sometimes it makes a mockery of itself. And I never thought that should happen with Twin Peaks because that was so special. You don’t want to bring it back and ruin the legacy.
It wasn’t until [creators] David [Lynch] and Mark [Frost] announced that it was going to be on Showtime and the way they were going to bring it to life — which was with both of them writing it, David directing it, having it be on Showtime where they weren’t restricted by anything and it was actually just going to be as it was 25 years later, continuing on. I thought, “Oh, that’s how you can do it successfully. OK! I’m on board!”
Then I started thinking about what did Shelly do in those 25 years.
The level of Lynch and Frost’s involvement is important because it’s hard to imagine Twin Peaks working at all without them.
Absolutely! And I think that was my worry, because back in the day we were so constrained by network television and they still made something brilliant. But that’s kind of why season two went awry. There were restrictions that network television wanted to put on it. So when I realized they were going to do it on cable, where there weren’t the restrictions, I was like, “That’s going to work.”
Diving into the world, the Shelly we meet now is grown up, she’s not that young girl anymore. In fact, she has her own daughter. Was it easy to slide back into this grown-up version of the character?
You know, I was really struggling with whether I wanted to go back and rewatch the original series again. It’s been a while. The last time I saw pieces of it was when my kids were in high school and they were watching for their film class.
I thought I needed to go back and watch to be reminded of who Shelly is. Then it got closer and closer to the time we were going to film it and I decided no, Shelly has matured 25 years. She’s inside of me somewhere and I wanted her to have a different feel to her. I didn’t want to mimic anything I had done before. Instead, just let it be a grown-up version of herself.
It must be a strange experience to have your kids watching your show for their film class.
You know, it was! But at the same time, I’m so glad it’s appreciated and celebrated. Anybody who is interested in filmmaking needs to watch Twin Peaks.
Thus far, we haven’t really learned about what the citizens of Twin Peaks have been up to since the original show ended. Clearly, Shelly has a daughter. But will we get the opportunity to see what’s happened play out on screen?
You’re just being fed little nuggets and getting to revisit them like, “Oh, that’s who they are now. But what happened in between before we got here?” That’s the beauty of David Lynch is he’s going to dribble it out in the most delicious tease you could ever imagine.
Along those lines, how were you filled in on your journey in the revival? Did Lynch sit you down ahead of time or did you learn as you went?
We were all invited down to read just our scenes. We came down to the production office and we would take our scenes and tuck away in some office or desk or comfy chair and read our material. Then once we read it, we went and sat down with David and his first question was, “Do you like it?” It was so sweet and so what you wouldn’t assume would come from him, if you know David. He just hopes everybody’s happy with what he laid out for them to do.
Then you have a conversation and you bring up questions. “What about this? What about that? I was really hoping this.” That was the dialogue. You can ask any questions you want. Then you get whisked away to your filming location and you continue to talk about your ideas or questions. Mark was on set when I was filming, so I could sit down and pick his brain, too. “What do you think happened here and there?”
We don’t really know for sure how we even relate to the other characters in town unless our scenes have to do with them. And that may even just be those scenes in that small little storyline. But maybe there’s a bigger history or past between them. You just have to take a leap of faith with David Lynch.
We met Shelly’s daughter in “Part 5.” Becky seems very similar to her mother when it comes to the toxic relationships she keeps. Given her own experiences, how worried is Shelly?
Very! Hopefully you felt that with the scene between Shelly and Norma (Peggy Lipton). It’s this reminder that was a beautiful throwback to the Shelly and Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) scene, drinking a flask in the car. Now you see Becky and her current boyfriend. They’re snorting coke this time, which is a little different than drinking from a flask, but it’s a very similar dynamic.
You get to see Shelly looking at her daughter worried, and she has to walk that line that really all parents do. She’s worried for her and wants to help her and warn her. Yet she also knows, because she was this way, that you can’t push her too much or you might lose her -— you can’t scare her away. So there’s a lot she has to watch her go through, which is tormenting her.
We do that as parents. I do that with my kids. I want to just scoop them up and hold them and protect them, but you have to let them stand on their own two feet and figure it out.
A treat for the audience is this moment also gives Shelly some very useful perspective when it comes to Norma. Because now Shelly is in her shoes.
Norma’s always there to give her the even wiser version of her advice!
This was the first episode we actually saw you back in the diner, back in that uniform. Though more than two decades has passed since the show ended, that visual felt like a trip back in time. What was it like for you, slipping back into the uniform and walking onto that set?
I’ve mentioned it a few times, but I had to hold back tears the entire time that I was in the diner and I haven’t been able to talk about it specifically, just generally saying, “I was in familiar clothes in a familiar location!”
Now I can say, I put back on my diner waitress uniform, I looked in my apron and it still had my initials from 25 years ago. I’m standing in the diner, looking at all these familiar faces and David directing me — I just had the hardest time holding it together and not being a blubbering mess, you know? It was a really beautiful, surreal thing and to be honest, it doesn’t feel real yet. It still feels so surreal, just bizarrely magical.
And you got to experience all of this with a new co-star in Amanda Seyfried.
I can talk about how happy I am they cast Amanda Seyfried to play my daughter. They said they really put a lot of thought into it and they went through a lot of different ideas. They thought the daughter of Shelly is something special and they had to make sure they cast just the right person.
I heard the different names being thrown around and I thought, “Oh, yeah, that’s good.” Then when it was Amanda, I thought it was so perfect. She was so lovely to work with, and it’s great to see these actors that have these gigantic film careers and they’re just like kids in a candy store and so excited about it. It’s very sweet.
Beyond that, this is a new generation of Twin Peaks viewers. These new episodes are being seen by people who found the show on streaming or DVD somewhere, rather than the original airing. It’s also in the social media age.
It’s bizarre, definitely a journey. I’ve tried to go with that wave of social media. It took me a while, but I finally gave in and have tried to embrace it the best I can.
But there’s something really special about Twin Peaks. Even though I’m on other shows and I’ll live-tweet them and take screen grabs to post — you engage the social media audience. But this is something that’s special. When it premiered, I said to the fans, “I love you and hope you enjoy it, but if I can suggest we all go dark for two hours and just enjoy what we’re watching.”
There’s beautiful filmmaking that I just love, like the beginning of hour three with that purple world and space. I just thought it was the most beautiful thing put on film. Of course, the social media promoter in me wants to take a screen grab and post it, but there’s just something too special to downgrade it to that. Talk about it, but then go experience it in real time. I’m trying to encourage these newbies to go back to a little bit of old-school watching.
Twin Peaks airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime. Keep checking with THR.com/TwinPeaks for continuing coverage of the series.
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