Mädchen Amick returns to David Lynch’s cult classic Twin Peaks Sunday night. She talks to Awards Daily about her contributions in bringing Lynch back to TV.
On Sunday night, the Red Room opens again. Showtime ushers in a return to David Lynch’s cult classic Twin Peaks. This return features most of the original cast, including the beloved Shelly Johnson as portrayed by actress Mädchen Amick. When we last saw sweet Shelly, she remained in her marriage to the tortured Leo Johnson (Eric Da Re) despite receiving a marriage proposal from Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook).
How has 25 years treated Shelly Johnson? Mädchen Amick shares a few observations but no details, sorry spoiler fans. Even she hadn’t seen the finished product as of our conversation.
“Shelly’s definitely more mature, but there’s a lot about her that’s very much the same. She’s still very optimistic even after going through horrible situations in her life. I was very happy to see that,” Amick carefully reveals. “Her life circumstances are different, and it was very surprising to me to see where she was at but I was happy to see the spirit of Shelly still in there.”
Learning Her Art Through David Lynch
You still feel the incredible youthful energy of Mädchen Amick even after only a few minutes on the phone with her. Like Shelly, Amick remains optimistic and enthusiastic about her career after 30 years in the business. In fact, she’s still counting her blessings after such an auspicious break out role as Shelly Johnson at 17 years old.
“[Twin Peaks] sent me on a path that is completely rare and unique. I don’t think I would have gotten that kind of experience and been inspired the way I was if I hadn’t had that as my first main job. To work so closely with David Lynch and to see a master at work opened my eyes to the creative world.”
Amick and the Twin Peaks team met with immediate and dizzying critical acclaim when the series premiered in 1990. Over its initial 2-season run, the series received 18 Emmy nominations and two wins. It dominated the culture conversation with a nation-wide obsession over “Who killed Laura Palmer?” As a result, it made the cast household names and spawned an infamous 1992 film in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
Working with director David Lynch proved a life and career-altering experience for Amick. She recalls one of the best pieces of advice he gave her and how it changed her acting career forever.
“He was directing me in a shot where I was on the telephone, and he started to tell me that he wanted me to slowly drift my gaze up toward the ceiling so that, at the end of my conversation, I’m just staring up at the ceiling. I did it a couple of times, and it just felt really strange. I didn’t understand why, so I went over to him and asked him why I was doing that. He took a breath and said, ‘Because it looks beautiful.’ It made me realize that sometimes you don’t need to know the reason behind it, it can just look good and feel good. It immediately dropped all of the reasoning and meaning behind everything that I was trying so hard to learn. It opened me up and freed me up to accept that it can just look or feel good. That was a big moment for me.”
Needless to say, that kind of experience doesn’t come often. When Twin Peaks ended its initial run on ABC, Amick explored further acting opportunities but never found that same feeling of openness and exploration. Where Twin Peaks broke boundaries, other projects created them. In the real world away from Lynch, Amick’s acting experiences saw limitations and structures stifling the creative process.
The frustration led her back to David Lynch for advice.
“He helped me understand that success is completely relative. He told me, ‘Not all of my films are known to be lucrative or successful in the industry, but they’re satisfying to me. That’s all I need.’ ”
Amick realized what drove Lynch’s filmmaking. Hint: it wasn’t commerce. She discovered that Lynch pursued projects for his art. Projects that were personal to him. That focus on art resonates with her still today as she pursues a directing career, first music videos and eventually television or film.
Atypical Mothering In Riverdale
Growing up, Mädchen Amick’s parents raised her in an art and culture-loving household. They encouraged exploration of art in all its forms – music, painting, and dance. It’s an encouragement she shares with her two children and husband of 25 years, songwriter David Alexis.
“I think we were a little more cautious with them in that we wanted to make sure that they were prepared and understood that, if you do choose to go into the arts as a career, these are going to be the challenges. This is how it’s going to be hard,” Amick explained. “So, make sure that, if you’re going into it, go into it with full knowledge and have a plan to support yourself on the side. We didn’t want them to look at my successes and just assume ‘Oh, well, that’s easy. I can do that.’ Nobody really understands how hard you have to work to make this an actual career.”
Yet, her current role as Alice Cooper, mother of Betty, on The CW’s Riverdale, a modern take on the classic Archie comics, appears the complete antithesis of Amick’s personal parenting style. A demanding perfectionist, Alice tries to control Betty to force her into a better life than she experienced herself.
Credit Amick’s acting skills to make the transition fully believable.
“Alice basically makes completely opposite decisions than I made as a mother, so I always have to go against what my own instincts would be,” Amick confesses. “As I understand Alice, she’s trying so hard to control everything around her, which just means she feels completely out of control underneath. She overcompensates by wanting everything to be perfect and protecting her kids, and she just goes about it like a bull in a china shop.”
Returning to Twin Peaks
The news hit the pop culture landscape with the force of a Cat 5 hurricane. The announcement that Showtime, David Lynch, and Mark Frost would return to Twin Peaks led the core cast to reconnect via a series of phone calls and dinners. Cast members and fans buzzed alike with anticipation for the return. However, budget conversations between Lynch and Showtime briefly fell through, seemingly stopping production. Lynch called each cast member to let them know he would not continue with the project. That news caused the cast to advocate for Lynch’s return via a widely viewed YouTube video.
“As a cast, we started talking and venting. Everybody was just so worked up. I came up with the idea of, instead of trying to lash out at people and going into a negative space, making a video with a little saying relative to our characters saying, ‘Twin Peaks without Lynch is like…,’ ” Amick explained. “It was just this perfect thing nicely standing behind David. It said in a nice way that, if David wasn’t involved, we as a core cast wouldn’t be involved.”
This cast response and the subsequent fan reaction touched Lynch, and Amick, in unexpected ways. In fact, the process of editing the video brought her to tears. She attributes the eventual Showtime / Lynch resolution to this very genuine and very heartfelt outpour of affection.
“It was incredibly important. We would absolutely not have been involved if he weren’t involved,” Amick affirms. “It wouldn’t have been right.”
Back on the Twin Peaks set nearly 30 years after shooting the original pilot, Amick found herself “a complete and total emotional mess.” She wasn’t alone. Lynch’s mandate at authenticity to the original material led him to bring back as many original cast and crew members as possible. The experience felt completely surreal to Amick – a nostalgic and touching fantasy.
One that, of course, remains under wraps thanks to Lynch’s legendary secrecy regarding the Twin Peaks property. In this era of binge watching and heavy spoilers, the secrecy feels like a nice return to event television. The kind of event television that spawned the original Twin Peaks and officially introduced us to Mädchen Amick.
Amick and fans alike will reconnect with Twin Peaks when it returns to Showtime Sunday night at 9pm ET.