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Revisiting 'Twin Peaks'

Crazy characters, familiar faces return for the revival of the '90s cult classic

Twin Peaks, 1990

AF archive/Alamy

Mädchen Amick, Peggy Lipton, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie, & Kyle MacLachlan in "Twin Peaks" (1990)

Rustling pines, cherry pie, damn fine coffee — and a plastic-wrapped body of a murdered homecoming queen that has washed up on a rocky shore. Yes, that serial slice of surreal melodrama known as Twin Peaks, which pushed the limits of early ’90s prime-time TV with its bizarre plot twists, alternate universes and enigmatic logging-town denizens, is back.

So are creators Mark Frost and David Lynch, who also stars in and directs Showtime’s 18-hour revival that kicks off with a two-hour premiere on May 21.

As befits a pop-cultural sensation built upon secrets, most details are hush-hush. What is known? There are 217 actors in the cast. Most fresh faces will show up in just one episode each. Some returnees may not play the same characters. The story is set in the present, and some events unfold beyond the borders of the show’s namesake hamlet. Catch up with these nine Twin Peaks stalwarts who form the main ensemble, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

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Madchen Amick

Left: Alamy; Right: Courtesy of Showtime

Mädchen Amick, left, in "Twin Peaks" (1990) and with Peggy Lipton, right, in the new "Twin Peaks"

Mädchen Amick

Then: As Shelly Johnson, a high-school dropout and the abused wife of drug-dealing trucker Leo, she was secretly seeing bad-boy Bobby Briggs. She waited tables at the Double R Diner — when she wasn’t being sadistically mistreated by her spouse.

Beyond Twin Peaks: Amick’s career slowed a bit initially, the highlight being the 1994 theatrical thriller Dream Lover, opposite James Spader. But the 46-year-old hit her stride in her 30s on such must-see TV shows as Gilmore Girls (as the fiancée of Christopher Hayden, dad to Lorelai’s daughter, Rory) and Mad Men (as Don Draper’s ex-lover Andrea Rhodes). She currently plays Betty Cooper’s mom, Alice, on Riverdale, based on the Archie Comics.

Dana Ashbrook

Left: ABC/Getty Images; Right: Everett Collection

Dana Ashbrook, left, "Twin Peaks" (1990) and in "Dual Spires" episode on "Psych" (2010)

Dana Ashbrook

Then: His floppy-haired Bobby Briggs was a rebellious high-school quarterback and a supplier of cocaine to girlfriend Laura Palmer — all of which led him to be one of the first suspects in her murder case. He and Shelly, his girl on the side, were last seen discussing the possibility of marriage.

Beyond Twin Peaks: Ashbrook, 49, was cast as Depression-era bank robber Clyde Barrow in 1992’s Bonnie & Clyde: The True Story. But he would be more gainfully employed on the small screen, including the role of a cop on the short-lived Crisis Center (1997), cutthroat stockbroker Rich Rinaldi on Dawson’s Creek (2002-2003) and an L.A. criminal on Crash, a 2009 spin-off of the 2004 best-picture Oscar winner. He also participated in a Twin Peaks homage episode, “Dual Spires,” on Psych in 2010.

Sheryl Lee

Left: Everett Collection; Right: NBC/Getty Images

Sheryl Lee, left, "Twin Peaks" (1990) and in "Psych" as Doc Gooden (2010)

Sheryl Lee

Then: Lee’s primary task was posing as Laura Palmer’s blue-tinged corpse. She also had a second recurring role as Madeleine Ferguson, Laura’s Vertigo-inspired brunette look-alike cousin.

Beyond Twin Peaks: Lee, 50, was able to flesh out what happened in the final week of Laura’s life in the 1992 feature-film prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. That same year, she joined Al Pacino on Broadway in the play Salome. She has appeared in such movies as the 2010 Oscar-nominated thriller Winter’s Bone and last year’s Woody Allen comedy Cafe Society.  Her TV series work includes One Tree Hill and Dirty Sexy Money.

Kyle MacLachlan

Left: Everett Collection; Right: Courtesy of Showtime

Kyle MacLachlan, left, starred in the "Twin Peaks" original series from 1990-91 and is back in the Showtime 2017 revival, right.

Kyle MacLachlan

Then: The veteran of two Lynch-directed features, Dune (1984) and Blue Velvet (1986), became the breakout star of the original Twin Peaks as the trench-coated java aficionado Special Agent Dale Cooper.  His clean-cut FBI guy caused female hearts to flutter as he relied on his Zen-like insight to track down Laura Palmer’s killer.

After Twin Peaks: Since playing Charlotte’s first husband, Trey, in Sex and the City, MacLachlan, 58, has been in high demand as a regular on TV shows. His roles include Bree’s second husband, Orson, on Desperate Housewives; the Captain on How I Met Your Mother; supervillain Calvin Zabo on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; and the mayor of Portland on Portlandia. MacLachlan also was the voice behind Riley’s workaholic dad in Pixar’s Oscar-winning animated blockbuster Inside Out (2015).

Everett McGill

Courtesy Everett Collection

Everett McGill played "Twin Peaks"' Big Ed Hurley in the original series.

Everett McGill

Then: In a town rife with infidelity, Big Ed Hurley’s complicated affairs of the heart managed to take the cake — and some pie, too. The lanky gas-station owner made the regrettable mistake of marrying nutty Nadine (Wendy Robie), but also had an undercover romance with high-school sweetie Norma (Peggy Lipton), owner of the Double R Diner, despite her scary criminal husband Hank Jennings.

Beyond Twin Peaks: McGill, 71, was a popular character actor before the series began in 1990. He worked alongside Robert Redford in the 1980 prison drama Brubaker, appeared in the 1981 prehistoric cult film Quest for Fire with Rae Dawn Chong, costarred with Clint Eastwood in the 1986 war adventure Heartbreak Ridge and was a bad guy in the 1989 James Bond spy thriller Licence to Kill with Timothy Dalton. He also showed up in two Lynch-directed films — Dune and 1999’s The Straight Story, McGill’s last acting job until now.

Kimmy Robertson

Left: Everett Collection; Right: Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

Kimmy Robertson, left, in "Twin Peaks" (1990); Right, with Harry Goaz, in the 2017 "Twin Peaks" revival

Kimmy Robertson

Then: Lucy Moran, the intrepid, baby-doll-voiced sheriff’s department receptionist who knows how to put on a great doughnut spread, lent some welcome down-to-earthness to all the weird mystery-solving. Though she had a fling with store clerk Dick Tremayne (Ian Buchanan), her heart (and baby-to-be) belonged to Deputy Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz).

Beyond Twin Peaks: A trained ballerina, Robertson, 62, did TV guest spots and appeared in the 1989 film comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids before snagging the role of Lucy. Her squeaky way of speaking made her a natural to do cartoon voices for characters on The Simpsons, Batman: The Animated Series, The Little Mermaid TV series and The Tick, not to mention for the feather duster in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991).

Russ Tamblyn

Left:Everett Collection; Right: Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

Russ Tamblyn, left, "Twin Peaks," 1990-91; Right: Tamblyn in "Twin Peaks" 2017

Russ Tamblyn

Then: Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, Laura Palmer’s hipster therapist who had a fondness for tiki decor and the colorful apparel of his native Hawaii, liked to sport 3-D glasses, claiming it made the world look three-dimensional. As one of the kookier inhabitants of Twin Peaks, he was, naturally, a prime suspect in his patient’s murder case — although he had a deeper understanding of her double life than many.

Beyond Twin Peaks: Tamblyn, 82, is probably best known for his dancing and singing roles in such musicals as 1954’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and as Jets leader Riff in 1961’s West Side Story (Peaks co-star Richard Beymer — aka Benjamin Horne — was the romantic lead, Tony). More recently, he showed up in the offbeat crime drama Drive, with Ryan Gosling, and in Quentin Tarantino’s Civil War epic Django Unchained.

Ray Wise

Left: Everett Collection; Right: Alamy

Ray Wise, left, "Twin Peaks," 1990-1991; Right: Wise in the 2014 horror film "Digging Up The Morrow"

Ray Wise

Then: Laura’s distraught father, lawyer Leland Palmer, had a breakdown after her death, even flinging himself into her coffin at the funeral.  Bullied as a child, Leland became possessed by an evil spirit named Bob. Under its influence, he would kill prostitute Teresa Banks, niece Madeleine and his daughter, Laura, whom he abused when under Bob’s demonic sway. Leland himself died after running into a metal door, but later his doppelganger greets Agent Cooper, saying, “I did not kill anybody.”

Beyond Twin Peaks: Wise, 69, once considered to play Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger, often takes on characters with dubious scruples. As a result, he has accrued a wide array of credits in a career that spans five decades, both on TV — from Dallas and Knots Landing to Mad Men and How I Met Your Mother — and in movies such as RoboCop and X-Men: First Class.

Grace Zabriskie

Left: Everett Collection; Right: Courtesy of Showtime

Grace Zabriskie, "Twin Peak"' 1990-91; Right: Zabriskie in "Twin Peaks," 2017

Grace Zabriskie

Then: Nobody has ever cried and shrieked for so long and so hysterically on TV than Sarah Palmer, Laura's grieving mother. The dedicated chain-smoker possessed paranormal powers that could sometimes help her predict the future or see visions of a white horse. Her husband, Leland, controlled by the evil spirit Bob, often drugged his wife when he was about to commit a heinous deed.

Beyond Twin Peaks: Zabriskie, 76, appeared alongside Sally Field in 1979's Norma Rae. She has been a standout in such notable films as An Officer and a Gentleman, The Big Easy and Armageddon. She also left her mark on two Lynch-directed movies, Wild at Heart and Inland Empire, while racking up TV credits, most notably on Seinfeld as Mrs. Ross, mother of George Costanza's fiancée, Susan, who died after licking the adhesive on the envelopes of their cheap wedding invitations.

Laura Dern, Ernie Banks, Naomi Watts and Jim Belushi are among stars slated to appear on Twin Peaks

Getty Images

Laura Dern, Ernie Banks, Naomi Watts and Jim Belushi are among stars slated to appear on the new season of "Twin Peaks" (2017)

New to Twin Peaks

Here are some of the more familiar new faces joining the Twin Peaks universe this time around: Jim Belushi, Michael Cera, Laura Dern, Robert Forster, Ernie Hudson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jane Levy, Don Murray, Tim Roth, Amanda Seyfried, Tom Sizemore, Harry Dean Stanton, Eddie Vedder, Naomi Watts and Charlyne Yi.