When Twin Peaks first hit TV screens in 1990, created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, no one had seen anything quite like it on network TV. It was incredibly odd, surreal, sexy, and sometimes graphically violent. It was a bold move for ABC. More than a quarter of a century later, it’ll be returning to TV screens, but the big four networks didn’t want to touch this one. Cable network Showtime pounced on it, recently announcing the third season revival will premiere in the spring of 2017.
Most, but not all, of the main cast will return, along with some recurring characters from the original run, just as some didn’t return for the 1992 feature film prequel, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Some new, big-name actors will appear in the revival as well, like Ashley Judd, Naomi Watts, Michael Cera and Laura Dern. In this list we’ll take a look at what 14 of those cast members have done up until now, and whether or not they’ll be returning next spring – plus a bonus at the end. Some have turned to writing and other artistic pursuits, and some have retired altogether.
Find your favorite oddball characters in Where Are They Now? The Cast of Twin Peaks.
[Warning: Mild spoilers ahead for the original Twin Peaks series.]
14. DAVID DUCHOVNY (DEA AGENT DENNIS/DENISE BRYSON)
If you thought Fox Mulder was the first federal agent David Duchovny played, you’re in for a surprise. Before there was Mulder, there was DEA agent Denise Bryson on Twin Peaks, known as Dennis before dressing as a woman for an undercover assignment and discovering that’s how she was most comfortable.
We all know the fame and fortune that came to Duchovny after his role on Twin Peaks. After his stint on Red Shoe Diaries, he become Mulder for all but most of the ninth season of The X-Files, plus the two feature films, and then returned for the all-too-short revival this year. In between, there were seven seasons of the hit series Californication. Coming up, he’ll star in the second season of the series Aquarius on NBC this summer, and Denise will be back in the Twin Peaks revival.
13. BILLY ZANE (JOHN JUSTICE WHEELER)
Fresh off his turn in Dead Calm in 1989, Billy Zane joined the cast of Twin Peaks for five episodes in the second season as John Justice Wheeler. Wheeler was a friend of rich guy Ben Horne and fell for Horne’s daughter, Audrey. However, he’s not among the cast list for next year’s third season.
Zane, of course, went on to big things after portraying Wheeler. Well, there was his failed attempt at a superhero franchise with the title role in 1996’s The Phantom, but there was also a little film called Titanic the next year, where he played bad rich dude Cal Hockley. He played an important role behind and on the screen in the critically acclaimed film The Believer in 2001, and he’s popped up in recurring roles on shows like Charmed and Boston Public. He even cameoed as himself in both Zoolander movies and has a whole whack of mostly smaller films in the works.
12. JOAN CHEN (JOCELYN PACKARD)
Before coming to America, Chinese actress Joan Chen was a star in her home country, earning international acclaim for her role in the 1987 film The Last Emperor, which ultimately led her to getting cast in Twin Peaks a few years later. As Jocelyn Packard, she seemed at first to be an innocent widow, owner of the local mill. But she’s later revealed to be, like Britney Spears would later admit, not that innocent.
Though her scenes were deleted from Fire Walk With Me, Chen has worked steadily, though with little fanfare, in film and TV ever since. You might have seen her in the original Judge Dredd back in 1995, on an episode of Fringe, or, recently, on 11 episodes of the series Marco Polo. Chen won’t return for the revival, for reasons that would be obvious if you’ve seen the original series.
11. RICHARD BEYMER (BENJAMIN HORNE)
Before Twin Peaks rolled around, Richard Beymer was probably best known for his lead role as Tony in the film version of the musical West Side Story back in 1961. A couple of decades later, he went from star-crossed lover, to the corrupt Ben Horne, richest man in Twin Peaks. He was so nasty that for most of the series, it was believed he killed Laura Palmer.
Beymer worked pretty steadily through the 90s, appearing occasionally in films and TV shows like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Murder, She Wrote, and The X-Files, though never as a lead or series regular. However, he’s been pretty quiet since the turn of the century, focusing mainly on visual arts like sculpting and photography, and he self-published a semi-autobiographical novel in 2007. In 2014 he turned the cameras around on Lynch, directing the documentary It’s a Beautiful World, about Lynch’s trip to India. Despite his putting acting on the back-burner, the 78-year-old will return as Ben Horne in the new season.
10. RAY WISE (LELAND PALMER)
Ray Wise has been a massively in demand character actor for 40 years, with 220 IMDB credits and counting. But in our hearts, he’ll always be the tragically disturbed, hair-color-changing and possessed father of murdered teenager Laura Palmer on Twin Peaks. Without giving too much away, if you haven’t seen the original series, his inclusion in the new season is potentially going to be interesting and complicated thanks to events that occurred at the end of the second season.
Like we said, Wise is an in-demand actor, so he’s been everywhere since the end of the show and movie. Highlights of his work include a lead role in the horror flick Jeepers Creepers 2, the Vice President of the United States in the fifth season of 24, recalling the possessed side of Leland as The Devil in the series Reaper, a recurring role as Robin’s dad on How I Met Your Mother, a run on The Young and the Restless, plus multi-episode stints recently on Agent Carter and Fresh off the Boat.
9. SHERYL LEE (MADDY FERGUSON/LAURA PALMER)
We first saw Sheryl Lee on Twin Peaks, in one of her first roles, as the dead body of Laura Palmer, wrapped in a plastic bag. But, of course, she has two key roles in the canon of the show, also playing Laura’s cousin Madeline “Maddy” Ferguson, who, naturally, looks eerily like the blonde Laura, only with dark hair. She appeared in 18 of the 30 original episodes between the two roles and also played Laura in the prequel film, Fire Walk With Me.
She didn’t exactly become a major star after her Twin Peaks exposure, but she certainly worked steadily with guest stints on TV shows here and there. She was a regular on the short-lived 1998 series L.A. Doctors and she nearly got the role of another dead character, Mary-Alice Young, on Desperate Housewives. She still works pretty regularly and does a lot of charity work, despite being diagnosed with a rare blood disorder a couple of years ago. Interestingly, IMDB lists her as playing Laura Palmer in the revival. Laura, of course, died at age 16 and Lee is now 49, so that should be interesting if IMDB has it right.
8. JAMES MARSHALL (JAMES HURLEY)
Twin Peaks was the big break for many young actors and James Marshall was definitely among them, having only had bit parts here and there prior to his gig as brooding rebel with a cause, James Hurley. He was the quiet, motorcycle-riding dude Laura Palmer was dating behind Bobby Briggs’ back prior to her death.
We saw more of James in Fire Walk With Me and Marshall followed up the series opposite Cuba Gooding Jr. in the film Gladiator – but not that Gladiator, this was a boxing movie. He’s done a handful of guest spots and TV movies, but his career never really took off, and was actually derailed a bit by a lawsuit in 2010 against a pharmaceutical company, and the health issues that necessitated it. While he’s back for the new series, he’s mostly a musician these days. And why not, after that odd scene where he crooned a tune on Twin Peaks?
7. PEGGY LIPTON (NORMA JENNINGS)
When Twin Peaks premiered in 1990, Peggy Lipton was arguably the most recognizable name in the cast, with the only possible competition being Kyle MacLachlan and, for older folks, Richard Beymer. In her 20s, back in the late 60s and early 70s, she was a regular on the popular TV series Mod Squad. By the time of Twin Peaks, playing Double R Diner owner Norma Jennings, she was in her 40s.
Lipton appeared in Fire Walk With Me, but Twin Peaks was her last major hit. She got plenty of work, mostly with guest and recurring stints on TV shows like Popular, Alias, Crash and House of Lies, but has slowed down a bit lately as she approaches 70 later this year. She’s set to bring Norma back to the small screen in the new season. Also, interesting trivia: Lipton is the mother of actress Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation).
6. MÄDCHEN AMICK (SHELLY JOHNSON)
Along with Lara Flynn Boyle and Sherilyn Fenn, Mädchen Amick was part of a trio of young actresses who broke out on Twin Peaks, the three gracing the cover of Rolling Stone in October 1990. As sweet waitress Shelly Johnson, she finds herself in a terrible marriage to tough guy Leo Johnson and having an affair with Bobby Briggs.
While she’s worked constantly since the series ended, mostly in TV, Amick hasn’t been a major part of anything nearly as big. Sure, she’s had guest spots and multi-episode runs on ER, Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girl, Damages and Californication, but never a long-running series of her own, unless you count two seasons of Witches of East End. Most recently, she appeared in three episodes of American Horror Story: Hotel and is expected to appear in all 18 new episodes of Twin Peaks.
5. DANA ASHBROOK (BOBBY BRIGGS)
A young Dana Ashbrook was all over horror movies and prime-time dramas before getting his big break as bad-boy Bobby Briggs on Twin Peaks. The last boyfriend of Laura Palmer before she died, Bobby was always up to no good, and it turned out Laura only wanted him for his access to cocaine.
Ashbrook returned to play a key role in Fire Walk With Me, but his career never really took off. He was Clyde in a poorly received TV movie called Bonnie and Clyde: The Real Story shortly after the series ended, which led to a run of TV movies. He’s returned to series TV a few times, with runs on Dawson’s Creek, The Kill Point and Crash, but nothing major. Ashbrook will reprise his role as Bobby in the new season, but it’s not the first time he’s brought Bobby back to life. He played him on the series Psych in 2010, in a Twin Peaks-themed episode synonymously titled “Dual Spires.” He was joined in that by Peaks co-stars Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise and others.
4. SHERILYN FENN (AUDREY HORNE)
Before hitting screens as sultry bad girl/rich girl Audrey Horne on Twin Peaks, Sherilyn Fenn was the girlfriend of a young Johnny Depp, even appearing in an episode of 21 Jump Street with him in 1987. But it was as Audrey that she really opened eyes and earned an Emmy nomination, with her pinup girl looks and curious, flirtatious personality.
Fenn parlayed that experience into a handful of femme fatale type roles in films like Boxing Helena, along with a Playboy pictorial, and she even turned down a shot at her own series following Audrey’s post-Twin Peaks life. Her delicate features helped make her a convincing Elizabeth Taylor in the TV biopic Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story. She didn’t return for Fire Walk With Me and as the 90s wore on, her career wore out, until 1998, when she landed the lead in the TV series Rude Awakening, which lasted three seasons. But since then, it’s been mostly guest spots, with a Dawson’s Creek here, a CSI: Miami there. She even played different parts in different episodes of Gilmore Girls. Most recently, she’s had multi-episode runs on Ray Donovan and Shameless and she’ll return as a 50-something Audrey in the new series, despite a precarious end for the character in season 2.
3. LARA FLYNN BOYLE (DONNA HAYWARD)
After working a bit as a teenager with small roles in the 80s, Twin Peaks was Lara Flynn Boyle’s big break. Just 20 at the time, she played high-schooler Donna Hayward, the emo best friend of the murdered Laura Palmer. Though she played a major role in the series, she didn’t return for the film and won’t be back for the new season.
After the series, Flynn Boyle kept busy. She was Wayne’s crazy ex in Wayne’s World and after narrowly missing out as the lead in Ally McBeal, she scooped up a major role on The Practice, starring for seven seasons and earning an Emmy nomination as Helen Gamble. Since then, she’s popped up here and there, with a recurring role on the short-lived series Las Vegas, a guest spot on Law & Order, but she’s been quiet for the last couple of years. Having undergone quite a bit of plastic surgery, the 46-year-old barely resembles Donna Hayward these days. Based on the surreal nature of the show, that actually would’ve been an interesting twist if she’d returned.
2. MICHAEL ONTKEAN (SHERIFF HARRY S. TRUMAN)
Canadian actor Michael Ontkean was strangely busier before Twin Peaks than after, making appearances in Canadian and American TV series as a teenager in the 60s, and he was really busy in the 70s and 80s in mostly small roles before starring as the presidentially named Sheriff Harry S. Truman, as one of the more “normal” characters in Twin Peaks.
When the original series ended, Ontkean became a TV movie staple throughout the 90s and early 2000s. He appeared on a few episodes of the Fox series North Shore in 2004 and had a small role in the 2011 George Clooney Hawaii-set vehicle The Descendants, before retiring to the island state. Lynch and Frost were unable to coax Ontkean out of retirement for the new series. It’s believed veteran character actor Robert Forster will play Truman. Interestingly, Forster was the original first choice to play Truman in the original series, but had other commitments.
1. KYLE MACLACHLAN (SPECIAL AGENT DALE COOPER)
Bold-chinned, impressively coifed actor Kyle MacLachlan has always been a David Lynch favorite. He vaulted from complete obscurity, with no film or TV credits, to the lead role in the director’s big-budget failure Dune in 1984. MacLachlan followed that up with the lead in Lynch’s Blue Velvet before headlining Twin Peaks as Special Agent Dale Cooper, an eccentric, cherry-pie-loving FBI agent in town to investigate the murder of Laura Palmer.
Since then, he’s made an impressive career as a character actor and quirky guest star in films and TV shows all over the map. We’re talking everything from the 1994 Flintstones movie to a good run on Sex and the City and a whopping 96 episodes of Desperate Housewives. Most recently, we’ve seen him take a key recurring role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and play the bizarre mayor of Portland on Portlandia. Less commonly known, but living up to his eccentric persona, he had a website and odd web series featuring his dogs and has a wine label called Pursued by Bear. Not surprisingly, MacLachlan will be enjoying his black coffee once again in the new season.
BONUS: DAVID LYNCH AND MARK FROST
David Lynch and Mark Frost, of course, are the glorious co-creators of the mesmerizing weird-fest that is Twin Peaks. Lynch’s surreal sensibilities first caught the eyes of the masses with 1977’s Eraserhead, and after a few more similarly odd films, he hit us with Peaks. Since then, he’s done more of the same. Mulholland Drive (1999) was inspired by an idea he had for an Audrey Horne spinoff series, and he’s also hit us with the likes of Lost Highway (1997) and Inland Empire. He’ll be back writing and directing the new season of Twin Peaks.
As for Frost, before Twin Peaks, he was a writer on the long-running crime drama Hill Street Blues. Immediately after Peaks, he teamed up with Lynch again for the short-lived, 1950s-set show On the Air. More recently, he went on to write the 2005 Fantastic Four film and its sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. He’s also written a number of non-fiction books and novels, including the young adult series Paladin Prophecy. He’s back co-writing Twin Peaks with Lynch.