Nicole LaLiberte Says Filming Her Grisly Twin Peaks Motel-Room Scene Was ‘Fun’

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Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Spoilers ahead for episode two of Twin Peaks: The Return.

With 217 cast members on tap to appear in Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival, the newbies have already begun to give the returning cast a run for its money — and that includes Nicole LaLiberte’s turn as the ill-fated Dayra, who’s hired by Agent Dale Cooper’s evil dopplegänger for an unspecified job, only to turn on him and meet her maker via a bullet in her brain. It’s an unpleasant slow burn of a sequence to watch unfold in a motel room, especially as her lingerie-clad dead body stays onscreen for a few additional minutes as Evil Coop continues typing away on his computer, completely unperturbed. Following the premiere, we called up LaLiberte to learn about her unusual TP audition process, working with Kyle MacLachlan, and why filming such grisly scenes is actually pretty “fun.”

How exactly did you get on David Lynch’s radar to appear on the show?
My audition story isn’t an uncommon one. I actually had auditioned with [casting director] Johanna Ray a couple of other times, and she had cast me in some other projects. When this came around, she brought me in with hundreds of other people. It was really a lot. It was the classic interview to get the role. No information was given to me, no script. There wasn’t an audition in the sense that it was an interview. I went in there and it was Johanna and her assistant. They told me, “David’s not here.” She looked at me very intensely and said, “But we’re going to pretend he’s here.” I was like, okay, I get it. It was actually in that moment that I felt really connected to him. He’s like me, there’s a similarity here and an understanding of an interconnected thing. It made me relax.

When was the first time that you actually met him, then?
The day that I shot my death scene.

Was he just like, “Welcome to my set, prepare to be violently killed by Kyle MacLachlan.”?
That was exactly it. [Laughs.] At the time I was smoking Yellow American Spirits — I don’t smoke anymore. And he was smoking Blue American Spirits. So sometimes I would go to set and I had forgotten my cigarettes, and I would go up and him and be like, “Can I have a Blue?” And he would be like, “Of course, of course.” He would light it and hold an ashtray for me. He’s such a gentleman.

What a nice Montana guy.
A nice Montana gentleman! We have a deep connection to the esoteric. I learned so much working with him and I’m so grateful to be a part of Twin Peaks. It’s such a gift. I’m a superfan. I’ve watched the first season many times. It very much mirrors my own tastes. It was a very, very good fit, and he probably saw that.

You serve as an associate of sorts to Cooper’s evil dopplegänger, but we don’t get to learn anything about who Darya really is, despite the fact that she was hired to kill him. Did David feed you any additional information about the character to help shade your performance, or did you give her a little backstory of your own to fill in the blanks?
Not in the slightest, no. No, no, and no. Which is fine with me. I learned this really wonderful technique by Harold Guskin in New York, an acting coach, and it’s called “taking it off the page,” where you don’t commit to a whole story in your past, you only look into the future with your lines. Let it affect you. So it was a wonderful opportunity to be there and use this technique.

Who do you think hired Darya and her partner to kill evil Cooper?
I have no idea, I wish I had some thoughts. [Laughs.] I only got the pages of what scenes I was in, so I didn’t even know other characters until the show premiered. I’m so happy that it’s that way though. In a way, it’s a relief to the actors. We don’t have to worry about sharing things; keeping that mystery alive for everybody. Even you!

You and Kyle share what I would consider to be the most tense, violent, scene of the series so far. Were you able to spend a bit of time with him beforehand to go through the scene and get to know each other?
No, we didn’t have any special time before the scene. I basically showed up on set, I had my robe on, and I took it off and went in the bed in my lingerie, and we started the scene. There was not really much discussion. But Kyle and I immediately felt connected to one another and I think that helped a lot. We really cared about one another naturally.

How did that scene play out while you two were filming it?
It was a long time in the moment, and there’s a lot of time that goes by when David wants to change the lights and cameras and stuff like that. It took about half of a day to complete. It was very, very fun. You get to go places you don’t usually get to go. And sometimes you even get to surprise yourself a little bit. You get rattled by your own work, and that was exciting. As for the punching, I didn’t actually get punched. His fist punched my nose a couple of times. One of the times I hit my head on the headboard, but things were tame on the bed and not too painful. It wasn’t depressing at all to film it, honestly. It was exciting. The atmosphere was very charged and alive. Everybody was really focused on what they had to do. And then also letting go and letting whatever wants to come through come through.

I talked to a few Twin Peaks--watching friends about your gruesome death scene, and they all shared the same surprise as I did — mostly because when the original series aired on ABC, network television wouldn’t indulge that level of violence in the ‘90s. It’s imagery we hadn’t seen before in this universe.
Absolutely. And also, everyone remembers Agent Cooper as this very kind, gentle character, and to see him doing this horrible thing is probably really upsetting to die-hard fans. I think also because the first two murders, Madeline [Zima] and Ben [Rosenfield]’s characters, you don’t really see what happens there, and then with Cornelia [Guest]’s character it’s a very quick sequence. But this was very much like a cat-and-mouse game, and it was drawn out.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t ask: Was that Kyle’s real hair, or was he sporting a long wig? It’s quite the look.
[Laughs.] Oh god, I have no idea! I didn’t get up in his hair. He has quite a bit of hair, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s real. But I’m not sure, I’m not the one to ask. Keep asking around.

Nicole LaLiberte: Twin Peaks Motel-Room Scene Was ‘Fun’