Twin Peaks Star Dana Ashbrook on Bobby’s Redemption, Learning to Cry on Cue, and Why David Lynch Is So ‘Classy’

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Of all the characters who returned to Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival, perhaps none have been met with a more surprising hero’s welcome than Bobby Briggs. In the 25 years since we last saw him, the former floppy-haired teen punk with a knack for mischief has climbed the ranks to become an esteemed deputy at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, working alongside Deputy Hawk and Sheriff Truman to alleviate a drug epidemic plaguing the area. However, the day-to-day operations of busting the drug trade are soon given a backseat in favor of curious intel about the long-disappeared FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, which comes from a special message via Bobby’s father, Major Garland Briggs, from beyond the grave. Bobby, and only Bobby, can decipher the code that the Major wrote and stored in a chair for safekeeping.

“Somehow he knew that it would all turn out well,” Bobby’s mother, Betty, explains in a particularly poignant scene in episode nine. “He saw this life for you. Your father never lost faith in you.” The road to finding the truth about Agent Cooper and his doppelgänger may soon lie in the hands of this reformed deputy. Earlier today, Vulture called up the very affable Dana Ashbrook to discuss Bobby’s evolution on Twin Peaks, the art of crying on cue, and his “salt-of-the-earth” pal Robert Forster, who plays Truman.

After episode nine, my friends and I decided that Bobby has had the most wonderful arc in Twin Peaks so far.
That’s great. I never know what order things are. I knew clearly that Bobby became a cop and all that stuff, but I didn’t think anything outside of that. I didn’t think about how it was going to be perceived, so it’s funny to see how it falls into place and hear people’s reactions. They get a little flavor of the old Twin Peaks in there with a little twist! People seem to be diggin’ that. I’m just so pleased and thrilled that people like the show. I think it’s a work of art.

I wish it was eligible for Emmy consideration this year!
I’m not that up in all of that stuff, admittedly, but yeah. It’s fun when that kind of thing happens. That recognition would be amazing for the show.

A few of the other cast members told me about different ways David Lynch informed them that the show would be returning. How did you personally find out?
Sheryl Lee and I were going to London to a U.K. Twin Peaks festival. She was going from Los Angeles and I was going from New York, and we were texting back and forth when she was getting on the plane. I was like, “Cool, see you soon in London, blah blah blah.” We’d heard whispers of things — I think the tweet about the gum coming back in style had come out already — so there were frenzied whispers going around. Sheryl talked to David when she was in the car on the way to the airport, and he said, “Yeah, it’s gonna actually happen, and you’re gonna be a part of it.” I don’t know their exact conversation, but that was the extent of it. She said, “Jeez, I’m gonna go see Dana in a few hours — should I tell him that he’s in it, or is he not in it?!” David was like, “Yeah, tell him he’s in it!” [Laughs.] She told me when I got to London, and we told the people at the U.K. festival that we were at least going to be a part of it. I had no idea in what capacity, of course. I would’ve done anything. I would’ve been a PA on it, honestly. I was lucky that I was able to be anything. It’s been so much fun to see all of the people doing their thing together. I’m like, “Oh my God, there’s Tim Roth, one of my favorite actors, and he’s just popped up!”

I’d argue that Bobby is channeling the most Twin Peaks nostalgia after Agent Cooper, since he’s been given the most development as a character. What does it mean to you that he’s now a deputy at the sheriff’s department?
It’s fun that I get to do the evolution of Bobby. The fact that I’m a cop now instead of some degenerate in the town is great. It’s hard to put into words, honestly. I think it’s a wonderful evolution of a character. That scene that Bobby and the Major had in season two, where he describes Bobby’s future, had a very strong impact, and was a beautifully written scene by Mark [Frost.] It’s a good and realistic payoff that he’s a cop.

Were you worried that Bobby would be a punk in his adult life?
No. [Laughs.] I speculated as soon as I knew that I was going to be in the revival. All of my friends and my wife and anybody who knew the show were speculating about what happened to Bobby. Did he put on a bunch of weight? There was a bunch of funny stuff floating around. It was as fun for me as it was for anybody else to see what their ideas for Bobby were.

Why do you think the audience responded to Bobby so strongly?
I really don’t know. All I know is that you get what was written. [Laughs.] I got very lucky that they wrote me what they wrote me. It’s sheer dumb luck, honestly. Who knows what’s to come for all of those returning characters — we’re only halfway through. Who knows. Bobby’s been a taste of the old Twin Peaks and got a good character evolution there, that’s probably it. But that’s only the first nine episodes! I’m so excited to see it, because I have no idea what happens with other characters. You haven’t even seen Audrey yet. There’s much more to come, which I’m as excited for as a fan.

Well, I’ll cross my fingers that you’re not a dirty cop like Chad.
[Laughs.] I’ll only say that I’m excited to see what comes out, that’s for sure.

You’ve had two weeping scenes so far, with Bobby tearing up when he sees Laura Palmer’s photo, and when his mom tells him about the Major’s prophecy for his future. What’s the best trick you’ve learned about crying on cue?
I’m the new Andy. [Laughs.] Crying has always been hit-or-miss for me. You just gotta put yourself in the situation that the character’s in and do a little imagination about it. There’s a little bit of menthol that can be sprayed in your eyes to help you get going. It helps when you’re feeling it and makes it a little more realistic if you feel real emotion. It’s easy when you feel comfortable in a situation. With David, it’s just the most comfortable acting situation you could possibly be in. I mean, look at what Matthew Lillard had to do! He’s the man, he’s amazing! He had to wail and scream!

And talk about scuba diving!
While he’s screaming and crying! It’s always a challenge and always fun to see how it comes out. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

The crux of the ninth episode hinges on the Major’s message to his son, which can only be opened and deciphered by Bobby. Could you have imagined a more full-circle moment?
It’s crazy, because I miss Don [S. Davis] a lot. [Editor’s note: Davis, who played Major Briggs, died in 2008.] I love that guy. He was such a fantastic actor and such a fantastic person. I really miss that aspect of working with him. When we filmed that diner scene 25 years ago, he made it so much more powerful and he gave me so much to work off of. I was just a young guy starting out, and he would help me out. A great actor in every sense of the word. I really miss him when I do those scenes. It was also wonderful to hang out with Don after we wrapped filming, too. We would go to Twin Peaks festivals and he was there, and I got to know him really well on a social level. He was a great guy. As far as the character, there was a similarity in real life, because Don had a great influence on me as a young actor. That translated to the on-screen moments.

I’m amazed at how flawlessly the deceased actors have been given their due on-screen. The Major and BOB still get a significant amount of narrative action, plus those moving scenes with the Log Lady before Catherine E. Coulson passed away.
David has paid homage to and honored those people so beautifully. And we’ve lost a lot of people since the beginning. It’s a tearjerker. Catherine was really hard for me particularly and everybody else, too. She was one of David’s really dearest friends, and that all went down while we were working. That was pretty, pretty heavy. I loved the way that she got to be in it, because she loved the show and being the Log Lady. She kept that log with her. She was in charge of the log. She was a beautiful person and it was devastating for everybody. We were actually working when that all went down, so to see how David worked to ensure she was in it was heart-wrenching. The fact that those other actors were factored in, and in such a big way, was beautiful. I have no idea how he did it. David makes it classy. He doesn’t do it in any sort of tacky or exploitative or weird way. He’s a classy guy. Catherine was one of his oldest and dearest friends. It was tough on everybody.

Do you think Bobby will be receptive to the supernatural elements of the town, just like his father?
Oh jeez, I don’t know. I’m not sure on that one. It’s only going to be answered by watchinggggg!

Well, you looked like you had a lot of fun breaking open that metal vial!
That was a very fun scene to do, for sure. It’s even more fun having Robert Forster and Michael Horse right next to me. How can you beat that? How can you beat that?! Robert! Forster! I mean, come on.

It’s a bummer that Michael Ontkean didn’t return, but Robert is a legend.
He’s honestly one of the most salt-of-the-earth, best guys I’ve ever met. I text him every once in a while, it’s really funny. All of the police stuff is a joy to shoot because he’s new on the force, too. Sheriff Truman and Bobby are the two new guys. Andy and Hawk have been on the force for a while, so we’re the Sheriff’s Department newbies.

Is Robert good at texting for a 70-year-old?
He’s spot-on. He’s sharp as a tack, that guy. I used to see him in the hotel while we were filming; he would be sitting in the common area and going over the next day’s work and eating dinner. He’s the best. He’s an inspiration. If I could emulate his career, I’d be very happy.

Is there any chance that Bobby and Shelly’s relationship has survived over the past 25 years?
Oh, yeah, I’d float the possibility. Sure. Their relationship could be stronger than ever. Who knows. [Sings.] Who knowsssss!

Twin Peaks Star Dana Ashbrook on the Return of Bobby Briggs