John Pirruccello is a new member of the Twin Peaks cast for season 3, The Return. He plays Chad Broxford, a villainous new deputy in the Twin Peaks Sheriff Department, corrupt and mean, and with criminal links to Benjamin Horne.
GT: So what was it like getting the call for Twin Peaks, The Return?
John Pirruccello: It was exciting because I’ve been a fan from the original series. It was profound, that earlier series. It’s the most profound television experience I’ve ever had.
GT: Sadly, because you were in it, you don’t have the benefit of seeing The Return from the anxious viewer’s point of view. Like mine. So I would have to respectfully disagree—The Return is the most profound thing to ever have aired on television.
JP: Well you got me there, it probably is The Return. But up until The Return, the original was the most profound.
GT: I agree whole heartedly.
JP: David Lynch, with the original Twin Peaks, completely changed everything we knew about TV and moved the needle. And then he did it again with the third season. I think you’re convincing me here; The Return may be more profound because it’s unprecedented. It was unique, really, in my experience, to work on a project as much as I did on that show and still be able to be surprised and have things be new to me, as much as they were. So much was kept secret from me, including things that I actually did. Scenes that I actually worked on were secret from me. So in other words, I’m watching the show and 95% is as much a surprise to me as it is to you watching it. That’s unprecedented. I can’t imagine that happening again.
GT: Coming back to the show after 25 years, and the original being such a groundbreaking show, it couldn’t help—being a David Lynch production—breaking new ground, taking us to an entirely new realm, a new universe…
JP: Yes, I know what you’re saying, but in a sense, since then, I’ve had a realization. Before I shot the show, I went and just watched a lot of David Lynch, including Eraserhead and Elephant Man, and obviously re-watching Twin Peaks Seasons 1 and 2. And then recently I was out with [Executive Producer] Sabrina Sutherland and we were talking about the parallels between Season 3 and these other works, and she said, “Eraserhead, it’s just like Eraserhead.” And I thought, “Okay, I guess,” and I went back and watched it again after she said that. I realized that his vision is basically unchanged. You watch Eraserhead and you watch Season 3, and it is a very consistent vision. Both in its expression, its content, the story, in everything. And he made Eraserhead when he was in AFI. That’s going all the way back to the beginning, and now book-ended with this latest thing that we did and there’s no gap.
GT: I got that, too, when I was watching it. Especially in the first three episodes. I thought, “This is right out of Eraserhead.” But not just that, you could see his student films, The Grandmother, his art work…this was the culmination of everything. Could you feel that on the set, the sense of something monumental? Not to mention to the rabid anticipation after fans waited for 25 years.
JP: Well, I mean, I’m coming from it from the place of somebody who is arriving there like a newcomer. And so it was all sort of overwhelming for me in that sense that I was so in awe of where I was. They took me directly from the airport to the Sheriff’s Station in a car. So I’m there with my suitcase, coming off a plane from Los Angeles, dropped off in front, and I walk into the station and there is Kimmy Robertson [Lucy] and Harry Goaz [Deputy Andy] and Bob Forster, and for a brief second Kyle MacLachlan was there, and David Lynch. So Kimmy greeted me, “Oh good, welcome! So come in. We were wondering who was going to play Chad. Come meet everybody.” She couldn’t have been sweeter. But this is happening six feet from her desk at the station and I’m feeling like I’ve just stepped into the television set and it’s very, very surreal. And I can tell you that surreal feeling never left. Without getting too weird about it, the entire experience had a very dream-like and surreal vibe and atmosphere to it; before I even went, from the moment I heard about it, it got kind of dream-like and surreal. Even the interview itself was very dream-like and surreal. There’s something about David Lynch and his, you know, orbit, and being in his orbit…you know he’s very magical.
GT: What did you talk about?
JP: I talked about dreams in the interview. I just went in to a room and Johanna Ray [casting; associate producer] and Krista Husar [casting] just sat on either side of a camera and they said, “Pretend this camera is David. He’s going to watch it and you can talk about anything you want other than acting and the business.” So I did. I didn’t know what to do—the hardest thing is when you’re given that wide of a berth. So I thought—it just sort of came into my head—well, dreams. Right? He’s into dreams. “I’ll tell you a dream, David. Here’s a dream I had once,” and I talked to him about my dream and then they said is there anything else you want to talk about. So I told him another dream.
GT: Speaking of dreams, one of the scenes that was like a documentary of a nightmare, one that really haunts me, is your jail cell scene where you’re put in next to Naido, the Eyeless Woman [Nae Yuuki] and the drunk man [Jay Aaseng], and they start echoing each other’s sounds, both ethereal and guttural.
JP: Yeah, yeah, that was amazing. You know, when you’re on a project like this there comes a time when you’re not really surprised by anything. You walk onto a set and there is a woman with no eyes and maybe under normal circumstances you‘d be going, “Wow, that’s weird,” but in this context you just say, “Well, that’s just another cool thing that’s happening.” I mean, even right now, thinking back on that time, I can hardly tell you when we were rehearsing and when we were shooting. There were times where I would be doing it and David wouldn’t say cut so I would just keep going. The line between a take and a rehearsal and reality in that scene were all very much gone in my mind. When I look back, it was quite beautiful. It was very hypnotic, the whole thing. You know, I had a couple of lines written down but then I would say something, I would make something up, and then David would say, “Well, why don’t you say that again?” or, “Try saying it this way,” or, “Here’s something to say,” and he was adding dialogue for me to say. It felt so open and expansive, like we’re going somewhere together and he’s driving the ship, but it doesn’t feel overly controlled and I feel very kind of comfortable to just kind of be there for whatever happens. I mean when Nae and Jay start communicating with each other, I wasn’t ready for that. Nobody told me that was going to happen. So my reaction to it is quite real. To me, as an actor, as a person, it was mind blowing; so wonderful, so beautiful. But what often ended up being the case with the way I approached the character, when anything was beautiful I made it ugly. I turned it on its head, just went 180 degrees so if I thought something was cool I decided it was shitty.
GT: What did Lynch give you for your character? I mean, you were, well, a prick. You were not nice at all.
JP: No. He gave me one word. He came and sat down right there, next to Lucy’s desk, and said, “Well, you know, let’s talk about your character.” And I said, “OK.” And he said, “You’re an asshole.” As an actor, you sort of go, “Well, I don’t judge my character; I’m sure he’s got his reasons…” and I don’t know what stupid shit I said to him. He looked at me, just like stared at me, like he didn’t know what he was looking at. And he was like, “No. You’re an asshole.” It was all I needed. It’s amazing to me; he completely changed the way that I look at acting, film acting. It’s like he just simplified. My view of what I do got profoundly more simple after working with him; he just kind of deconstructed the whole thing. I mean, we would do a scene and he would go, “Walk a little faster this time, John,” or, “Hold that up a little higher,” or, “Okay, maybe 10 % less asshole this time.” You know, that was all he really needed. He knew so much more than I did about what I needed. And he could not have been more right.
The Official Twin Peaks UK Festival 2018 runs this weekend at the London Irish Centre in Camden and the Camden Square Gardens on September 29 & 30. Book your tickets here