Mäd Love: Peaks and Valleys
WHEW!! I haven’t been able to blog for quite some time due to the whirlwind of press for the finale of our season one of ‘Riverdale’ on the CW last week, and the upcoming premiere of the return of ‘Twin Peaks’ on Showtime this weekend.
So I thought I would dedicate my Mäd Love blog as PEAKS AND VALLEYS to my career that seems to have always been surrounded by the wonderful and strange world of ‘Twin Peaks’…
I left my “small-town” home of Reno, Nevada at the age of sixteen to pursue my dream of becoming an actress in the alluring and glittering town of Hollywood, California. In the summer of 1987, I drove over the grapevine and descended down into the hazy desert valley. Puttering away in the small blue and white Chevrolet Citation packed to the brim and borrowed from my mother. With the windows rolled down, I felt the hot humidity hit my face, and seem to smell a strange combination of blooming orchard flowers mixed with smog. As my car slowed to a stop, in what I would eventually learn to be thirty years (and counting) of relentless bumper to bumper traffic, the exhilaration and hope swept over me like a wave. It’s sometimes hard to remember that optimism I once had ever since I hit the ground running and never looked back.
I immediately signed with Elite Models (even though my 5’6” petite frame was so much shorter than they typically sign), who introduced me to Talent Group for commercial work, who introduced me to Abrams Artists for theatrical work. They were all in high-rise buildings, side-by-side, on the same block of Sunset Boulevard where I spent much of my time rotating between offices, turning in my work-slips and getting my new list of auditions for the next few days. Yes, this was before text messages on your cell phone and even the all-mighty email accounts …and shut up, I’m a dinosaur, I know! I felt very fancy when I was able to afford a pager for those last minute call-backs. I spent my entire day combing through the Thomas Guide to hunt down the exact location that I needed to rush off to. And again, for all of you youngins out there, a Thomas Guide was a thick spiraled map notebook that broke down the entire Los Angeles metro area. Think, a paper version of your google map when you can zoom into more detail… Jesus, I’m old!
As the clock seemed to spin faster than I could keep up with (from eight in the morning until eight at night), I would continuously reach into my back-seat to grab whatever clothing I had stashed back there to achieve the “desired look” of the next audition. From rock-star to video-vixen, girl-next-door to awkward-girlfriend. I would get to the end of the day and realize that I hadn’t eaten all day. Oh well, who had the time or money for that?! This girl was on a mission. Even though I was also cramming in my G.E.D. homework (out of Hollywood High), I had struck a deal with my parents that if I couldn't financially sustain myself by the next summer, I would come back home and finish high-school to figure out a new plan.
The clock was ticking. My days were filled with the cheesiest of “catalog” photo-shoots, “dancing in my bathing suit” commercials, and plenty of obscure music videos, until I finally got that first job acting. It wasn’t a big production. In fact, it was so “low-budget” and quite silly, that it has since become somewhat of a cult-hit. I played “cute girl” at a party who was video-taping her friend’s band practice, when all of a sudden the alien on-the-loose (that had to steal human heads in order to survive) decided to try on our dog’s head instead. This ingenious story was cleverly titled ‘The Borrower’. I had my couple of lines to put on my acting reel and I was off to the races!
I then milked my one line as “guest at a party” on ‘Young and the Restless’ into about three lines. I was pulled aside immediately by the producer to be told that my ad-libbed lines would NOT be compensated since I was only contracted to say the ONE line. I quickly answered “That’s fine. Just promise me you won’t cut them!” ‘Star Trek The Next Generation’ was next. Where I played “teenage girl” who was one of the many forms taken by a shape-shifter. Followed by the tortured teenage girl (and finally the first “named” character) “Tanya” in the pilot of ‘Baywatch’.
The size of my roles escalated quite quickly. I was proving myself as a capable actress. And then it happened. Johanna Ray, who was a high-level casting director at the time, decided to take a chance on me. She brought me in front of the legendary film-maker and quite mysterious David Lynch, who notoriously doesn’t see many people. After I read for David and Mark Frost, they looked at one another and then turned to me. David then quite simply asked, “Would you like to do a tv show with me?” To which I simply answered, “Yes.”
That’s when my life and career changed forever. After the series was barely “picked-up” by the network and put on as a mid-season replacement, it finally aired and almost overnight I was thrown into the spotlight along with all of the other actors. Some of our cast were very wise and seasoned. Others, brand-spanking-new like myself. Without knowing it, we were being hazed and inducted into a beautiful yet bizarre “secret society”. Except this secret society, was on display and adored by many around the world. On the one hand, it was a chaotic whirlwind whenever we were sent out on the road to promote. On the other, a protective and nurturing bubble for us to freely create magic while filming. It was a special time for me. Everyone on set felt like family and friends. We enjoyed working together and would gather together for meals to watch the episodes just like the fans would.
And as quickly as this bright burning event appeared, it disappeared. The business model that was established for network television just didn’t vibe with the free-flowing art form that David Lynch creates. You can’t conform it. Or fit it in a nice little box. You can’t plan it. Or force it. It flows and takes you on a deep emotional whimsical journey. So like that whiff of a quick cool breeze on a hot humid night that you so wish you could just grab ahold of, it had passed. And onto our career paths we were sent. For SO MANY years, productions didn’t want to cast any of the Twin Peaks actors together in any one project, for fear that they would look like they were “cashing in” on a gimmick. Well, there were a lot of Twin Peaks actors. The moment you heard that one of your alumni were cast, you just had to cross that one off of your list.
I’ve been lucky to have worked consistently over these past thirty years since I moved from that small town with stars in my eyes. I’m sure it has to do with my tenacious work ethic that I’ve never seem to have lost. But I’ve also been blessed with varied roles and interesting projects. And it doesn’t mean that I haven't struggled financially. There have been many ups and downs of salary negotiation waves in this “cut-throat” industry. As you work hard and climb up that ladder, someone always seems to walk by and kick it out from underneath you. Our union has had triumphs and defeats over these last three decades. Quite frankly, so has our country. But I just kept steering that tiny little boat through that vast ocean. Took my licks along the way and never gave up.
As my husband always likes to quote, “Luck is being prepared for when the opportunity knocks.” That I can say I did. David Lynch took me in as a novice actor. Showed me that there were boundless opportunities. I went out and got steeped in experience. And when the time came that he called me back to re-visit the foundation that we had all built, I was able to appreciated it that much more.
I hope that I can enjoy the beautiful sunshine up here on this glorious peak for awhile, but when it’s time to pack up and dip back down into the valley, I’ll have my climbing shoes draped over my shoulder.
Bring it. I’m not afraid. The master has prepared me.
I hope that all of you die-hard Twin Peaks fans enjoy our return this Sunday. And for all of you new to this magical world, welcome. I’m sure you’re going to stay awhile…
XOXO - Mäds