Exclusive Interview with Michael Ontkean

"Twin Peaks", David Lynch's genious mix of mystery, horror, crime and drama from 1990, aired in Germany for the first time exactly 20 years ago (September 1991 on RTL). For this anniversary we did an interview with one of the lead actors, Michael Ontkean aka Sheriff Harry Truman, who investigated the case of the murdered Laura Palmer alongside Agent Cooper. Michael Ontkean talks about the work on this cult tv-show and by the time you're reading his answer to the first question you will be hearing the spheric soundtrack in your head.

Foto: Copyright: Cameron Pashak
© Cameron Pashak

Note: © myFanbase 2011 - The interview is exclusive to myFanbase and may not be published on other websites or the like. You may share the first 2 questions or up to 160 characters if you link back to this site. Translations other than English and German may be posted with full credit including the writer's name and link to this site.

1. Last year saw the 20th anniversary of "Twin Peaks". What is your fondest memory from working on the show?

Very first day of rehearsal for the original pilot up in Bellevue, Washington. Just David, Kyle (MacLachlan), and Mike working out the layers of the Cooper-Truman relationship with no one else around. At one point David takes us to his car and plays us the haunting Twin Peaks theme by Angelo Badalamenti. An ecstatic moment in a day filled with laughter and discovery.

2. Sheriff Truman was about the only sane guy in "Twin Peaks" and developed a great friendship to Agent Cooper. Did you become friends with Kyle MacLachlan, too?

Yes. I knew we were sympatico when I asked Kyle his favorite music. Without hesitation he said Led Zeppelin and Kate Bush.

3. If you could jumble cast and characters, who else would you like to play and why?

I was born to play Harry S. Truman. There's no one else to choose.

4. Do you remember something from the casting process? Who was set from the beginning and who's casting was more of a surprise?

Every actor and actress on both coasts wanted to work with David. There was tremendous competition. I was delighted with Joan Chen. Her character, Josie, as written in the script was supposed to be Italian.

5. "Twin Peaks" has a large and diverse cast from teenagers to the old room-waiter. Did you all get together on set and what was the atmosphere like?

As you know, the tone on set is established by the director. David is so open to improvisations and happy accidents. The atmosphere was always loose and full of a joyful spontaneity.

6. Last year David Lynch came to Cologne, Germany, to accept the Cologne Film Price for Outstanding Achievments in Grammar and Poetry in audiovisual Media. Did you realize how special this show was going to be?

David is a fine artist by any reckoning. Anyone lucky enough to work with him knows in advance the process is going to be memorable. The daily experience is the reward.

7. A famous quote by David Lynch says "Keep eye on donut, not on hole". What was he like when you were working with him as a director?

One of my favorite days with David was a great exercise in economy. A long scene, maybe six pages. We started rehearsing on set early in the morning and every time we did a run-through David would eliminate something. A word, a line, a gesture, an action. It was akin to a sculptor slowly taking away material by degrees. This went on all day until a six page scene was a one page scene.

8. David Lynch was able to work with the mistake. He turned Frank Silva, who accidentally showed up in a mirror, into the character of BOB. Were there more spontaneous decisions like that?

Every day was like that.

9. The show left us with BOB taking over Agent Cooper. Did you know what would have happened in the 3rd season?

Not even Mark (Frost) and David knew. It hadn't been written yet, unlike the "Harry Potter" arc which was conceived in advance.

10. Which one of the typical "Twin Peaks" things gave you the most joy? The damn good coffee, the donuts, the stone throwing, the Llama ...?

No contest. The love scenes with Joan Chen.

11. The prequel movie "Fire walk with me" had a slight change of tone. A little more brutal and less funny. What happened in Sheriff Trumans deleted scenes in the movie?

I was shooting another movie in North Carolina for two months so wasn't available until the last day of "Fire". There wasn't a scene to do. I just walked in and out of a doorway so I could collect my salary.

12. You recently worked with George Clooney and Beau Bridges on "The Descendants". Can you tell us something about the movie?

Alexander Payne is great director and a good friend. His filmography is impeccable. "The Descendants" has been chosen to be honored as the closing night movie at the New York Film Festival.

13. myFanbase is a website that is devoted to American television shows. Do you have a favorite show?

"Arrested Development".

Nicole Oebel - myFanbase