Mark Frost on the 'Twin Peaks' revival: 'We had to go somewhere new and different and even more startling'
Mark Frost has, unsurprisingly, been in high demand today, ever since it was announced that he and David Lynch would be writing a sequel miniseries to their ABC masterpiece of weirdness "Twin Peaks," which Showtime will air in 2016, 25 years after the final episode ended with Kyle MacLachlan's Agent Cooper trapped in the Black Lodge while his evil doppelganger replaced him in the real world. (If you had watched it at the time, the story would make both more and less sense than that sentence.) He's given many interviews, all of them brimming over with excitement and featuring virtually no specifics on anything besides the existence of the miniseries itself, which Frost and Lynch will write all nine episodes of, with Lynch directing all nine.
In those interviews, Frost wouldn't confirm which, if any, original castmembers would return, whether the miniseries would primarily take place in the town of Twin Peaks, how much if at all the story would have to do with the murder of Laura Palmer, or even whether Angelo Badalamenti would be returning to compose the score. Some of this is simply legal logistics — if, say, MacLachlan hasn't signed a contract yet, Frost can't say, "Oh, Agent Cooper will be back for sure!" — but some is also Frost and Lynch's desire to maintain an air of mystery over their wonderfully weird brainchild.
So when I got a few minutes on the phone with him this afternoon, I took one all-encompassing stab at details before going off into other areas, including how Lynch — whose directorial output has gone way down in the later years of his career — came to want to shoot all nine himself, lessons learned from the show's problematic second season, what it's like to be doing "Twin Peaks" again in a far more hospitable era and on a more appropriate network, and more.
I've been reading all the interviews you've done today, and you've been reluctant to say much of anything about the actual content of the miniseries. What specifics, if anything, are you comfortable talking about?
Mark Frost: Um, almost nothing. It's always been our feeling about this show that the less said upfront, the better, and let the show speak for itself. Aside from that, we can just say it's our fondest hope that people who have been waiting so patiently for so many years for this will not be disappointed, and will in fact be thrilled — that's our hope — and that we know people have high expectations, and we can promise you, your expectations are not as high as ours.
How did it come about that David is going to direct all nine hours? He hasn't directed a lot in the last 15 or 20 years.
Mark Frost: We were talking about it at this lunch in August three years ago at Musso & Frank, it suddenly sparked to life, just thinking about it. He just got this determined look in his eye and said, "I think I've got to direct all of these." And I said, "Good on ya, mate. Let's do it. Let's write 'em all, you direct 'em all, and that's probably how it should be."
Years ago, right before "Buddy Faro" debuted, I asked you about the bumps in the second season of "Twin Peaks," and you said that you and David had never expected the show to go for more than those original seven episodes, and that you ran into a lot of trouble continuing the story past that. It sounds like you have a much more clear and specific vision for how this new season is going to go.
Mark Frost: Well, we have had 25 years to think about it. If you can't figure it out in that amount of time, I guess it's time to hang it up.
Looking back on what happened in year 2, are there certain lessons you've been able to learn in the ensuing 25 years that you can apply to this?
Mark Frost: I think what we've learned is you've gotta have a very strong central path through the woods. It's fine to have tributaries and streams, and little byways, but ultimately, that path through the woods has to be very dark, clear and dangerous. That's the path we're going to keep to. There'll be, I hope, a healthy percentage of delightful sidelines or paths off to the side, but there aren't any shortcuts. You've gotta follow that main path.
I'm sure you've been paying attention to the many TV shows that have in some ways taken the torch you guys lit back in 1990 and transformed what it's possible to do in TV drama. How does it feel to be returning to this era that you helped set in motion?
Mark Frost: You know, it feels really cool. I've enjoyed so many of the shows that have come along afterward. We're always very flattered when people cite us as a benchmark for what they were able to do. I think so many extraordinary things have been done. We're excited to get another at-bat in the ballgame, and hopefully we'll hit it out of the park.
I remain floored that you were able to do all of the things that you did on the ABC television network in 1990 and 91. Is there any way that doing this today, in this environment, and doing it on Showtime, takes the subversive fun out of it? Or can you go even stranger as a result of where and when you are?
Mark Frost: Our feeling is that we couldn't just hit repeat on this thing. We had to go somewhere new and different and even more startling. We're not trying to remake the show. We're trying to top the show that came before. So that's very much on our minds. We're really hopeful that the fans are going to find us, not just in return, but also in advance.
I know Showtime is going to rerun both of the original seasons in the build-up to when these episodes are released in 2016, and they're available on Netflix and elsewhere now. Are you making any sort of effort to make the miniseries accessible to newcomers, or is it designed entirely as something where you have to have been along for the entire journey to follow where you're going now?
Mark Frost: I would think that it would be very helpful for people who want to come in at this point to catch up a little bit. That was undoubtedly Showtime's thinking as well when they talked about running the old episodes again. Certainly, at this point, there's no shortage of ways for people to tap into them. As we get closer to that time, I'm hopeful we'll bring a whole bunch of new people to the party.
I know you're reluctant to say anything specific, but you did 29 episodes that covered a whole lot of ground and featured a lot of characters. Are there certain areas you might suggest newcomers focus on as they catch up, or do they have to know everything from the fish in the percolator to Windom Earle?
Mark Frost: I'm gonna leave that up to them. I don't think it's essential that you've seen every hour. But if you like it, by all means watch it, and then be ready for where we go from there.
Going back to the end of the original show, I've had a long-running argument with a fellow "Twin Peaks" fan about whether you intended that final scene with Cooper's doppelganger as a cliffhanger for a third season that didn't come, or as a definitive "Evil triumphs. The End." conclusion. What were you intending with that?
Mark Frost: At the time, we were doing whatever we could to get ABC to say yes to a third season. That was very much part of our thinking. It turned out to be a pretty good stopping place, if it had never gone anywhere else, it had at least had an exclamation point at the end of it. Now we have a chance to write the next sentence.
Finally, can you say if there will be any singing and/or dancing in the new episodes?
Mark Frost: I cant say, but I hope the fans will be singing and dancing when they see them.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com