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Kyle MacLachlan loves Special Agent Dale Cooper — just don't ask him to pick his favorite version in 'Twin Peaks'

Kyle MacLachlan loves Special Agent Dale Cooper — just don't ask him to pick his favorite version in 'Twin Peaks'
Kyle MacLachlan returned to the role of Special Agent Dale Cooper -- and several others -- for "Twin Peaks." (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

“Twin Peaks” true believers expecting to see Kyle MacLachlan’s Special Agent Dale Cooper ordering up a mess of pie and damn fine coffee in the show’s limited-series return had to be confounded as MacLachlan spent most of the season’s 18 episodes playing a variation of Cooper — the catatonic Dougie Jones, the evil Mr. C, the Cooper we saw in the series' last chapter — but barely stepping into Coop’s shoes.

Of course, devotees of series creator David Lynch know better than to have any expectations at all. MacLachlan certainly didn’t. The actor stopped by The Times recently for a video interview to discuss the pleasures of returning to work with his friend. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

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When you were reading the 500-plus-page script for this, at what point did you start to think, “Where is Special Agent Dale Cooper?”

Where does he show up? [Laughs] David had said it was going to be different. I will say that in the original reading of it there were other — and I don’t want to speak too much about this — but there were other things that were in place in the script that were more of ... let’s just say Cooper was a little more present. But ultimately, in the final edit when it was assembled, David felt that it would be better served to happen when it did. So, without going into great detail …

Because you can’t …

Because I can’t. I may have even said too much. [Laughs]

But the real excitement was of looking at these other facets of this character, other things that David needed me to do. And that was, as an actor and as a friend — because David and I are friends — really exciting. And pretty awesome to have David feel like I was capable of doing what he needed me to do. Because I hadn’t really shown that or done that in my career.

Kyle MacLachlan in a still from "Twin Peaks."
Kyle MacLachlan in a still from "Twin Peaks." (Showtime)

You’d never had a scene where you had an arm-wrestling match with a large, hulking guy …

Funny enough, that scene you’re mentioning I think in some ways was a bit of a turning point for the character of Mr. C, who was a pretty heinous individual. But people said at that scene, and that moment, they started to root for Mr. C. They wanted him to actually win this arm-wrestling match. And I’m not going to say he became a beloved character. But I think people were sort of rooting for him to emerge victorious, which was interesting.

Those kinds of tonal and character shifts were fascinating to watch. In other episodes, it’s the Dougie screwball comedy. I was glad Dougie came back to Janey-E. Of course, when Dougie shows up again in the last episode, it’s not Dougie …

He is yet another small shift in the Dougie-Cooper continuum. So he’s certainly not Dougie complete, and he’s not Cooper complete. But he is an entity that I think is the perfect choice, the perfect person to be with Janey-E. So they found each other.

In the last episode, the Cooper that we see is not really Cooper either. It seems to be a Cooper that’s in-between Cooper and Mr. C.

He certainly has shreds of Mr. C in him. David just said, “You know, he’s just not quite Cooper. He’s a little different.” And that was about the extent of the definition. It was just a slightly harder version of the Dale Cooper that we know. So these are all slices that just made sense to me.

You’ve had several months to sort of digest that last chapter.

Yeah. What does it all mean? [Laughs]

We shot those sequences when I come to the house and I meet the new owners very early in the filming. And I remember wanting to get the same sense as, you know, the cold shivers in the back when you visit the Palmer house and you realize that Laura’s not there and you look up and you see the ceiling fan and some of these frames and these images from the original television show. And I knew we were going into that territory. And we captured it, I think, really, really well.

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But I was still a little uncertain as to what it was leading to. Even the final line, “What year is this?” I have my own sense about where we are, and where we may have missed a certain kind of — I don’t know what to say — like a connection or a junction somehow.

But in terms of going back and trying to figure out what it all means, it’s like, no. All I know is I’m in a place and I’m at a loss. And the Cooper character that we all know and remember I don’t think was ever at a loss. And to see that for the first time was very frightening and disheartening and confusing. That’s not what I played, but it’s what I saw when I saw it. It was like, “Oh, now we’re in trouble.” You know? And you realize that even the best man — we think of Cooper as the best man — maybe he didn’t get there. We don’t know.

The actor who plays Agent Dale Cooper says he had a big pot of black coffee to help. He joins The Times' Glenn Whipp for a wide-ranging discussion about the show.
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