Twin Peaks complete series released on DVD - Mark Frost interview - complete transcript
To mark release of the Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold DVD Box Set, Murray Robertson interviews the seminal TV series’ co-creator and producer Mark Frost. This is the complete unedited transcript of the interview.
The List: We’re almost upon the twentieth anniversary of Twin Peaks since it first aired in the US. It seems incredible that it was such a long time ago until you consider the influence it’s had on television drama since. How do you think it holds up today?
Mark Frost: Well to be honest I haven’t looked at it for a while but everyone tells me it seems not to have aged a day. Not in any self-conscious way, but when we were making the piece we weren’t setting out to make topical television that had the shelf-life of a loaf of bread; we were just trying to do something good and the way we designed the show didn’t really fit the fashions of the day. It was about a particular place and a particular time. And so I guess it seems more preserved as a result, at least that’s what I’m guessing people are responding to.
It was so different to anything that existed at the time and that kind of television seems ubiquitous now but at the time it was a very individual thing.
Yes and we were a long-shot to get on the air from the beginning. We had consciously said, ‘We’re not going to try to do anything like shows that we’ve seen before. We’re going to try to do something that’s in and of itself, intact and true to itself,’ and it’s tremendously gratifying to see – decades later – that people still look at it as an influence and are still finding entertainment value in it. That’s a great feeling.
You said that you hadn’t looked at it for a while. How long has it been?
(Thinks hard) I haven’t actually sat down to watch an episode probably since they originally aired. It’s a bit like reading your old term papers. If you work awfully hard on something and you see it a thousand times in the process of making it then – for you – it’s value as entertainment is pretty much done with. It’s now something for other people to consume.
Before Twin Peaks you were working on Hill Street Blues which many people consider the archetypal police procedural, and since Twin Peaks you’ve written a series of supernatural murder mysteries. Is Twin Peaks a sort of amalgamation of those two disciplines?
I suppose it was in a way. I think it certainly had elements of a lot of things that have become staples of entertainment. Long, extended murder mysteries – that’s been a part of popular entertainment for almost two centuries now. I think what elevated it was the emphasis on character and the interest in exploring, not just the plot and the stories, but the people: who they were, what their lives were like, and extending even to the inter-life of the officers as well. I guess that’s the way in which it combined those two things. But you’re always working out of whatever interests you at the moment and it’s very hard to stand apart from yourself and analyse what it is that drives you to do one thing or another. I generally find I just do something that’s popped into my head, urgently saying, ‘write me, write me.’
It seems that Agent Cooper is a perfect combination of those elements – the supernatural and a detective who’s very good at his job.
Yes, we thought maybe he’s a kind of New Age Sherlock Holmes sort of guy who’s eccentric, intuitive, as well as incredibly observant and forensic and I thought it would have been fun to try a character like that and see if a television audience would accept it.
There’s been a great deal of speculation about how much you and David Lynch were involved with season two. Were you as hands-on during season two as you had been at the start?
Certainly through the end of the Laura Palmer story, the resolution of that story, which is more or less the first half of that season; perhaps not quite so much in the second half. I was off directing a movie at one point near the end of that season. I wasn’t as completely involved as I had been but most of it had been finished by the time I left. I think for the second half of the season we probably weren’t quite as hands-on.
You were quoted a while ago as saying that, had there been a third season of Twin Peaks, it would have taken some effort to get everything back on track. What are your thoughts now on the direction it took and the ending in particular?
I thought we’d kind of pulled ourselves back onto the right track by the end of the season. It had taken a little while longer than perhaps I would have wished to get that big second story (Windom Earle) moving. It didn’t have the same initial momentum that the Laura story did. That had been in my mind as very much the story we were going to go to next but regrettably I didn’t feel I could get there quite quickly enough.
Was that always the plan: to have the second story? Or was that because the network had pushed you to resolve the Laura Palmer murder mystery so that you had to come up with a new hook?
We knew there had to be a second story. The network wanted the Laura Palmer story resolved at the end of the first season and we resisted that. We felt that it had played out at pretty much the appropriate pace by the time it resolved. There was a little bit of a bump getting to Windom Earle, I think two or three episodes where we might have accelerated things a bit quicker. That’s something of a regret of mine. But, once that story picked up and because it so intimately involved Cooper’s past as opposed to something he was purely investigating, I felt it had its own fascination.
Did you have a plan for a third season?
We did. I was deeply disappointed when the network decided – and apparently it was a very close-run thing – that they didn’t want to move forward. I felt that we really had a chance to do something truly unique and equally ground-breaking, had we been able to advance the ball beyond where we left it.
Can you give us any hints as to where it might have gone?
It certainly was going to deal with the doppelganger of Cooper, who had been let loose in the world and his struggles to get back to himself. For the fans of the truly strange aspects of the show – the more out-there kind of qualities that so many people seemed to respond to – they would not have been disappointed, I think, in season three.
And it’s those fans that have kept it going, the die-hard fans who embrace the supernatural aspects.
That was probably the spine of our audience: the people who were really deeply devoted to it and I think, as we were outlining where we were going to go, that was the audience that we wanted to be able to satisfy.
Although it’s obviously impractical, do you have any personal desire to return to the world of Twin Peaks?
(Thinks hard) Not really. Twenty years is a long time in a creative life and so many other things have come and gone in the interim. We did talk briefly – about four or five years ago – about possibly trying to come up with a way to go back and round-off the story where we’d left it. But in the end it just proved to be a bridge too far, we couldn’t quite make it happen.
Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold DVD Box Set is out on Mon 22 Mar (Universal)