Continuing our celebration of Twin Peaks’ recent The Entire Mystery Blu ray release, I talked to James Marshall last week, who portrayed James Hurley on the cult classic series. In Part 1 of our interview, Marshall remembers the early 90’s hitting a ‘crescendo,’ talks Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, David Lynch, an infamous Twin Peaks Season 2 plot, and motorcycles. Part 2 of the interview will go up tomorrow, in that part Marshall discusses his ideas for a hypothetical Twin Peaks spinoff series, and why he thinks it could happen. Check out our recent interviews with Ray Wise, Dana Ashbrook, and Bob Engels here.
How was The Missing Pieces premiere, getting to see everybody there, and also the Twin Peaks festival?
I ended up not going to the festival because I did this independent movie that I was fortunate enough to be a part of, it was a pretty neat little thing. The premiere was really fun. It was just really nice, it gave me a little boost. Meeting everybody again, it was a nice energy thing, I really want to stay in contact with [those] people more. [The Twin Peaks cast and crew] just [has] very unusual, very independent thinkers, who are unique and brilliant, most of them. Just really good people.
I know you’ve seen a lot of those people over the years, but what about people like David Lynch? Had it been a long time since you’d seen some of the people like that?
Yeah, really long. It was great seeing him, I hadn’t seen him in a very long time, so it was nice to see him of course.
What were your thoughts on The Missing Pieces, did you have any favorite scenes that you thought maybe should have been in the film?
No, I thought exactly what was supposed to be in there, should have been in there. What was shown, you can see why [David] would put them in, but you can also see why [they] maybe just didn’t gel with the rhythm of the movie or something, and it could have maybe blown it off key a bit. It’s almost like energetic pauses that take place during editing, and they don’t need to be there sometimes. It can be too much of a pause, there can be lulls, in other words. But it was stunning watching that stuff, man what a powerful time. I don’t want to sound like everybody who is always looking back at stuff, ‘Oh, that was really a time when men were men.’ (Laughs) All that crap, but it was really a powerful time.
There was something about that area of time between the late 80’s and mid 90’s, something was going on. I don’t know what, but there were different kinds of peaks and valleys during life’s course. The 60’s were one of them, and while this era wasn’t anything like the 60’s, but it had its unique corner, kind of hair in the fabric that everyone kind of looked through. To me in the early 90’s, UFO consciousness was rising, people were looking more at close encounters. People were looking outside the box for the first time, coming out of the late 70’s and 80’s lull. It seemed to be the exact right time for something like Twin Peaks. That time was just really powerful, it just felt different from anything I’ve seen before or since, the early 90’s especially.
I was born in 1991, but I’m really drawn to that era. If you look at the filmmakers like Tarantino, or music like Nirvana, a lot of rebellious things going on, and television like Twin Peaks.
All the artists were blooming, like Prince, even though he had come out earlier. There was still this strange ethereal romance vibe that was hanging over from the 60’s, coming into the early 90’s. In the early 90’s it kind of blossomed into a last little awakened look before diving into something really strange, which is where we’re at now. It felt like that a little bit, like a diver taking his breath right before going deep. It was just this moment of everything coming to a crescendo, because nothing really earth shattering has happened since then entertainment wise or art world wise. I’m not putting down the music now, there’s a lot of interesting music that’s been starting to happen in the last 5 years, but there’s not much in the way of visual stuff. Twin Peaks I think was one of those rare things that was kind at the top of the crest of the wave during that period. But yeah like Nirvana, all that stuff, it was a changing period, some kind of shift happened then.
Hopefully young people discovering Twin Peaks is a sign of good things to happen in the future, crossing my fingers.
It seems like there are kind of a lot of young people who really do know about it, it’s a trip.
Everybody I know has been discovering it in the last year or two. I think the reason why is Twin Peaks is a timeless show, if you look at today’s shows the cell phones and technology will make it all dated. But Twin Peaks’ setting is very timeless, it seems like it could be now, without stupid cell phones.
When it comes to Fire Walk With Me, did Sheryl Lee’s stirring performance as Laura surprise you, after you had only previously worked with you as Maddie on the show?
It didn’t really surprise me because she was always really good.
Yeah Maddie was great.
As an actor, it didn’t surprise me that she pulled that off. She really just committed and stayed, and she’s really skilled, as a natural skill. Not necessarily trained, but she has more than that, she has a natural screen ability, and natural skill.
With Twin Peaks the series, you left in mid Season 2 to do a movie, but were there any plans to bring back James in a Season 3, and how did the conversations go regarding your exit with the powers that be in Season 2?
Basically I only got let out of the show to do two movies, and then once that was done I was going to come back. I was going to come back to Twin Peaks, or whatever.
Did you have any discussions about what you might do when you came back?
No, as a matter of fact, I think most of the cast can testify to this, they gave very little heads up to anybody about anything. Whether it was their characters, or anybody, they got a little on their characters, but really barely anything.
When I was talking to Dana Ashbrook a couple weeks ago, he said he tried not to go to the writers that much, so he didn’t get much direction from where he was going in the future. But he said some actors would go to the writers to try to see what was going on. Do you have any memories of that, with the interaction with what the interaction between the writers and actors was?
There was some, but I didn’t have much either, I kind of stayed to myself too. I didn’t feel it was my place to suggest. I didn’t go to them much, we would talk, and I would suggest things, but I didn’t feel it was my place to say much of anything. It was a big gig, it was my first real job, I was just having fun. It was the kind of place where you trust the writing, you trust everybody, even though you have instincts like, ‘Why is this going on?’ It’s like being hired on, to a huge thing.
With Mark and David, did you ever see any difference in the direction they would give you? David directed several episodes, Mark directed one and was the head writer. Did they see to be in the same place creatively, or did you ever hear different types of visions from them when it came to the show?
No, that was private between them for the most part. I would catch little glimpses of the things they would be talking about and the directions they would be going, but not really, that was private between them.
Talking about some of your Season 2 plots, I’m sure you’ve been asked about it, but what did you think of the Evelyn stuff when you were doing it? They separated you from the entire cast. Somebody even edited it together on YouTube, and made it a fictional spinoff pilot, it just shows how disconnected they made it. But what was your reaction to that?
That’s funny, like a satellite TV show walking around a different TV show, that’s what it felt like. I don’t even really want to go there, I don’t want to start sounding like I’m pointing fingers. I don’t know what happened, that was the writing and everything else. It didn’t feel natural to me, and I’ve been interviewed before and I said it didn’t go right. I thought Donna and James should have carried on, it felt like the innocence between those two and the connectedness should have stayed. Everybody had their own light to shine, and Donna and James had their certain kind of light, and it should have stayed like that, I felt. It put a bad taste, a little bit.
Somebody you worked with a lot was Everett McGill. Do you have any cool stories or anecdotes from working with Everett, and have you kept in touch with him? Because I saw David Lynch looking for him on Twitter recently.
No I haven’t been in touch with him, but he was great to work with. He was just about my favorite person there, he was one of my top favorite people there, he just has a great great vibe. Really good person, with a good heart, and really professional. He’s just a good person to be around, he felt like a genuine person, and he always made me feel good to come to set.
Who did you get to bond with a lot, besides Everett obviously, on set? Also people you maybe didn’t get to spend screen time with, like Lara you obviously filmed with.
Everybody pretty much, we all kind of bonded for the most part. Some people not quite as much as others, but Lara Flynn and I would take off on the motorcycle, I had a bike at the time just for fun. Dana occasionally, Kimmy too, we’d hang out.
You just mentioned your motorcycle, which is your iconic thing on Twin Peaks that everybody associates you with. But what happened to the motorcycle that was used on the show? Also, do you still ride today? I’m sure if a fan saw you on one it’d be a pretty interesting moment.
I don’t ride now, I’d like to get one, it would be fun. But any time I’m about to I just stop myself, if I had one to do once in awhile I know I’d do it more, but LA is just hardcore for driving. Here it’s just too much when you’re in a car, so it just freaks me out a little bit.
As far as the bike [from the show], that thing was owned by the guy who supplied them initially for the Pilot. Then he got his bike back, and they imitated the bike, they did a replica of the bike for the show. It actually came out pretty damn good, it was a pretty good imitation of it, I don’t think it ran as good as the other one (chuckles). It always had problems with starting and all that stuff, but I don’t know what happened to that one. You could tell by the decals that it was a replacement. I think the original placard on the side of the tank said Harley Davidson, then on the tank on the replacement one it was like a sticker imitating the same shape as the placard, but that’s the only detail you could really see.