chat room

Eamon Farren On Playing Twin Peaks’ Embodiment of Evil and What Makes Him Such a Lynchian Villain

When Richard Horne first made his way onto the screen in Twin Peaks: The Return, he seemed like one cool cat who could easily pick up a beautiful lady or two at the Bang Bang Bar. The cigarette! The indifferent stare! Those beautifully sculptured cheekbones! Swoon. But in typical Lynchian fashion, Richard went from alluring to troubling in the blink of the eye — he chokes a young woman vying for his attention at the bar, and in subsequent episodes, reveals even more violent, Frank Boothian urges that include running over a boy with his car while drugged out, seemingly killing the woman who witnessed him do it, and then attacking and robbing his grandmother in perhaps the most disturbing Peaks scene in recent memory. (Hello Johnny, how are you today…hello Johnny, how are you today…)

Despite this nightmarish on-screen portrayal, Vulture decided to call up Australian actor Eamon Farren — who, thank goodness for this writer, is a very amiable and polite young man — to discuss embodying evil, Richard’s motivations, and what it’s like to shoot such violent scenes.

Hey, Eamon. I’m emotionally scarred by episode ten but excited to talk to you nonetheless.
Hi, Devon. [Laughs.] How cool. Thanks, me too.

How does it feel being so feared of by the entire Twin Peaks community?
I think it’s pretty cool and it’s a bit of an honor. I had a feeling when we were making this thing that this would hopefully be the reaction that we got, and I think Lynch and I have achieved what we wanted to so far.

Before we dissect your character a little bit, can you tell me how you became involved with the show? Did you have a previous relationship with David?
I was doing a play in Australia called The Present, which I did with Cate Blanchett on Broadway early last year. We were in Sydney for the first run. We were almost at the end of our season and it was a Wednesday between shows. I got a message on my phone from my agent telling me to call her immediately. When I called her, she sounded a little bit confused, but said she got a message from Lynch’s camp to ask if I was available and interested, and if so, there was a part for me in Twin Peaks. It was a pretty cool call to get! I said yes straight away, obviously. As for a previous relationship, I’d done a movie with his daughter, Jennifer Lynch, a few years ago called Chained with Vincent D’Onofrio. I never asked him, but I’m assuming he saw that film and kept me in his mind.

So you didn’t have to audition at all? That’s nice.
Just the call. It was one of the most bizarre and wonderful happenstances in my life. Every now and then hopefully something like that happens in people’s careers and I was really, really happy to get that call.

Did David give you any indication as to who you’d be playing before you came to the States?
I got nothing, in true Lynch form, which is what I love. I had a very quick phone call with him. He called me at home in Australia on a Sunday a week before I left to come. He asked if I had any questions and I said, Yeah, I have a bunch of questions, can I ask who I’m playing? He said, No buddy, not really. Come over here and come into this cool forest and make a cool thing with cool people. So that’s all I had. I jumped on a plane the morning after we closed The Present and I arrived in Seattle and started shooting. With the whole thing, because we only get scenes only on the day of, I threw myself into it not really knowing anything. That was a really cool way to work — I turned up. I had brief chats with Lynch about little things not really to do with the character, it was more about each other and sharing a laugh. I got a sense of Richard from the writing. It’s all on the page, really. That’s the great thing about Lynch. The writing is so particular. I didn’t have a lot of go on except in the moment on the day, and that was a really great experience, to throw yourself in and find yourself in the moment. We usually only did one or two takes for each scene. If there’s anyone you’re going to trust in the world, it’s going to be David Lynch.

When you finally found out how violent and inherently evil your character was, did it give you pause as to whether you wanted to be the face of pure Lynchian horror? Especially since Richard has mostly been violent towards women so far?
I recognize the violence towards women especially and his actions … it didn’t give me pause, but I was aware of the actions and what was being put into the world. But I was all-in with this project and this character simply because I think to be part of this Twin Peaks family and legacy is such a privilege. But also there’s something that Lynch does that creates character, tension, and circumstance that’s valid and necessary for the story. Obviously the scenes and the actions that Richard does that we’ve seen already in the show are brutal and horrible, but I feel like to show that in its full, for want of a better word, glory — ironically, glory — is really important because that sets off what needs to be set off in the story. So, no pause from me. I just wanted to do the best job I could to represent that kind of person and that kind of action truthfully, so we can hate his actions and even, if you want, hate him as much as you should.

What would you say is the prime motivator for Richard’s disturbing behavior? It seemed after the scene you shared with Balthazar Getty’s drug dealer in a previous episode, Richard was sent off by being called a “kid” in particular.
There’s a lot that motivates his character. Lynch and I talked a bit about that, and Lynch also trusted me with making my own decisions about where it came from. He didn’t share specifically where he thought it came from, and that was a fun bit as well — because it adds to that horror to viewers. We shouldn’t know where exactly this stuff comes from. We’re just presented with this full person in trauma or rage or hurt or all of the above, or maybe just pure, bad evil. I know exactly where I think it comes from, but I think it’s important to keep it to myself, specifically because Lynch would want it that way, but also because it gives the chance for every single person who encounters Richard to wonder and have their own version of what they’re seeing. It’s truly more scary to not really know where it comes from specifically. That’s what adds to the horror to Richard.

Do you see him as a competent villain, or rather one that’s plagued by impulses and rash decisions? How do you read him?
He has to be someone that is impulsive and rash and full of rage and full of trauma, whether that be his own trauma or other people’s trauma, whatever it is. Therefore, the impulses and the rash decisions make him very unpredictable. That’s where his terrifying elements come from — he’s so unpredictable and no one could be safe in the presence of this guy. I don’t even know if he has knowledge of where he could go next or what he could do next. That’s truly horrific. If we ever encounter people who give us fear in our life, the unpredictability is what strikes the fear. Understanding and knowledge of some other person gives you some comfort or at least some other understanding of where they’re coming from. That’s what’s great about what Lynch did for me. He didn’t give me the time as an actor to try and figure out a very specific and acknowledged backstory or reasons why. The “why” isn’t really the important question, it’s “what” and “how” and “where” he’s going to go to next. That’s what makes him a Lynchian villain.

For scenes where violence is depicted onscreen — like Richard choking his grandmother and another girl at a bar — as opposed to offscreen where we can use our imagination, what direction does David give you when you’re filming? Are your mannerisms very carefully laid out ahead of time, or are you given range to experiment with something in the moment to get more fearful reactions?
Lynch lays it out in the script. Almost everything that we see is in the script, as far as the physical actions. There were a few things that I threw up to David that he either really ran with or didn’t. As I said, we usually do only one or two takes, so I felt the trust from him to know that we could explore what was within the page. I also really respected that if it didn’t work, we would make adjustments. Physically, what Lynch did with Richard was to show you just enough violence to really hit home that this was a physical threat, but then pepper it with off-screen stuff to really keep the imagination alive as well. With those two in tandem, it’s more terrifying than your average villain that you meet in the world. We can see his physical threat sometimes, and then we’re left to our imagination with others. That’s how Lynch creates true terror — we have enough to go by that we recognize, but we also then have the space to imbue him with the horrors that we can find within ourselves or our imaginations.

How do get into the mindset for when you film particularly unpleasant scenes?
My own preparation for the day is to search for the truthfulness in that moment, and the physical violence has to ring true. I have to lean into that and go there. But the most important thing is that I got to work with some incredible actresses opposite me. Trust is a big thing on set when you have those moments. Everyone that was working on those scenes, either with a violent moment or any other moment, everyone wanted to be there and wanted to tell the story. I was very lucky to have worked with women who really trusted me and I trusted them. They gave as much as they could in that performance and gave me the permission. And then Lynch gave us the permission to lean into those moments. It’s essential to be ready yourself, but you can’t do it unless you’re working with very confident and trusting actors.

For the grandmother scene in particular in episode ten, obviously that was a pretty intense and physical moment. Lynch was warning us to portray that in a way that was truthful and scary, and I was amazed at the crew and the actors in the scene to give each other permission to do it. To be safe always, but to go there. That’s what makes the magic in those scenes.

After you film those scenes, do you feel emotionally drained?
I hope I never brush those moments off, because they’re moments … if you lean into them and if you find the truth in them, it would be horrible to be able to brush them off. As an actor, I never like to carry anything with me. It’s my job to lean in and tell the truth and find those moments. The great thing about the set, too, is that the mood was always jovial but committed. It was very easy to enjoy the making of it as opposed to getting lost in any unnecessary character hangovers. I like work as an actor where the work is very important, but it’s also very important to realize, as Lynch said to me, that we’re working on a cool thing. You should never forget that. The work can only be elevated when everyone enjoys what they do and enjoys each other. And David made sure to set that all up.

After that grandmother scene in particular, I was so emotionally drained that I immediately texted my grandma and was like, “Hey Mimi, just checking in to say hi…”
Yeah, I think there’s something definitely wrong with you if you watch that scene and you don’t want to call your grandma. [Laughs.] It’s terrifying and horrific. I would be quite worried about you, Devon, if you felt any different. My grandparents have already passed away, so I felt a little but able to not have that moment afterwards. But if my grandma was still alive, I’d pay the international toll to make sure she was okay.

What do you make of the theory that Richard is the child of Audrey and Evil Cooper?
I would never make any assumptions, Devon. Ever. [Laughs.]

What have you found most enjoyable throughout your newbie Twin Peaks experience?
When I walked on that set, what was really amazing for an actor, especially a young actor, to walk into was the family that Lynch carries through and had carried through his whole career. That crew that was working on that show was all extremely talented and had mostly worked with Lynch for 30 or more years. There was a real understanding between every single member of that crew about how he works, and they all want to be there because they love working with Lynch. It was lovely to walk on set and meet all of those people and immediately feel like you’re part of that legacy, which is a generous thing to encounter as an actor on an established crew. But to meet Lynch, who I had been a massive fan of his work for my entire life, was incredible. People like to say don’t meet your heroes, but for me, this is one time when I was more than happy to meet my hero. He was generous and funny and smart and taught me a lot. He gave me an opportunity that expanded myself not as an actor, but as a person in the world. Everything we shot I was always amazed at how innovative and simple at the same time some things can be. The camera techniques that give you that visceral feel of what it’s like to watch a Lynch project. The effects and the way that they shoot stuff feels like a throwback to old filmmaking. That’s what he’s done with this show — it feels nostalgic and feels ahead of us.

People can’t tell this from our conversation, but you’re Australian and have a lovely accent. Did you model your accent for Richard after anyone or anything in particular?
I didn’t model Richard’s voice off anyone in particular. As an actor, I like to be specific with accent work, and this may sound like a cop-out answer, but when I read his words on the script it came naturally. Richard has a lilting quality to the way he speaks. He wasn’t so much of an American accent, but it was the tone of his voice that I wanted to work out. Coupled with the way he speaks and coupled with what he does, I think that conversation of duality is fun to play with.

What’s the hardest word to say in an American accent?
I can’t speak for every Australian actor, but I think the hardest thing to remember about the American accent is the “r” sound. You have to lean into the “r”s, but then sometimes you get caught up in leaning too much into “r”s and you sound like a Jamaican guy hybrid. [Laughs.] It’s the “r”s that you need to watch out for.

Eamon Farren On Playing Twin Peaks’ Embodiment of Evil