As a veteran of the television screen since the 1970′s, John Apicella has appeared recently in Brothers and Sisters as well as a host of acclaimed shows like Seinfeld, Friends, NYPD Blue (among tons of others) but most importantly in this neighborhood, Twin Peaks! John played the role of one Jeffrey Marsh, husband to Evelyn during the middle of Season 2. John has some interesting stories to share with us about his time on Twin Peaks, and even a deleted scene from Lost Highway in which he appeared. John even shares a a current trait with many of our kind…he’s a David Lynch fanatic like us! Let’s rock…
BD: Twin Peaks was a huge hit before your appearances in Season 2, were you much of a fan before you were cast as Jeffrey Marsh?
JA: I was certainly a big fan of the show from the pilot on — I was — and am — in fact, a Lynch fanatic and I’ve been fascinated by all his work, in film and in other disciplines. I think he’s an amazing guy.
above: John Apicella as Jeffrey Marsh, with Annette McCarthey as Evelyn
BD: How did your role on Twin Peaks come about?
JA: I got the role through the regular audition process. The TP casting office called my agents and arranged a meeting. It was unusual in that I was not part of a group of actors called at the same time, as is the normal practice in television. I was the only guy there that afternoon to read for Jeffrey Marsh (I assume they saw other actors at other times). The only person in the waiting room besides me was Van Dyke Parks, who was up for another role (which he also got). We were waiting for about 20 minutes before they called me in and I had a very enjoyable chat with Parks. I wanted to talk about music (his Discover America album was one of the first things I loaded on my iPhone when I first got it) but he wanted to drill me about the acting game and how to get a theatrical agent!
BD: Did you ever meet Mark Frost and David Lynch?-if so what did they (or the other directors/producers) say about your character?
JA: I don’t recall meeting Frost, but I did meet David later on, when he cast me in a role in LOST HIGHWAY — the priest in an execution scene which was eventually (to my deep sorrow) cut from the film. David was kind enough to call me personally to let me know he decided he had to cut it for pacing, but that he loved the scene and the work (and he had the producers send me a nice embroidered jacket!). Directors very rarely do that. But for Twin Peaks, I didn’t meet him personally, though I was told he did look at my tape (the audition — for the director and a couple of other people — was videotaped in the office) and approved my casting. The role was pretty straightforward and my only instruction was to make him a regular guy, genial and kind, without a hint of menace or meanness.
above: The Marsh mansion… a.k.a. Michael Jackson’s former Encino crib!
BD: What do you remember about filming? Any interesting stories?
JA: The Jeffrey Marsh scenes were shot at a house in Encino rented from Michael Jackson. I think it was Jackson’s main L.A. residence, but he only stayed there rarely and it was often rented out for film shoots. Twin Peaks was a very secretive show. I never saw a full script for any of the episodes I worked on, only the pages with my character’s dialogue. I heard this was pretty much the standard even for the regulars on the show: Nobody knew exactly what the big picture was except for the producers and directors and department heads, all of whom were of course sworn to secrecy.
Half of my work was voiceover stuff, done in a looping studio at CBS Radford in Studio City, a few blocks from where I live in North Hollywood. These were late night sessions (I think my arrival call was 11pm) but were a lot of fun to do. I was very happy to have even a small part in season two of Twin Peaks. Even then I thought it was an historic series and time has proved that to be true. The show is not only memorable in its own right but also has had a deep influence on American television which continues to this day.
BD: You have been on dozens and dozens of acclaimed hit shows in your career, what experience stands out from everything?
JA: I guess there are lots of memorable moments – talking about early live television broadcasts with Jack Lemmon, hearing a great stream of Morey Amsterdam stories from Dick Van Dyke, listening to Sally Field soothing a cranky crew by singing the theme song from THE FLYING NUN on a sound stage at 1 in the morning — but I guess the most memorable moment was when Jimmy Smits nearly killed me.
We were shooting on location for NYPD Blue in downtown L.A. My character was supposed to flag down the detectives’ car by stepping out in front of it. Jimmy was driving and would jam on the brakes at a certain point and scream to a stop just in front of me. The action was very carefully choreographed, and the stunt coordinator showed me exactly where to put my left foot, and said, “If the car comes closer than you expect, just lean forward and stretch back your right leg straight out and the car will go right under you.” We did a couple of rehearsals perfectly, then take one, then take two, then take three, all perfect. Then on take four Jimmy hit the brakes and they were overheated, so the car just kept right on coming toward me. I lifted up my leg as the stunt coordinator instructed and the hood of the car slipped under my body, stopping just as I smacked lightly up against the windshield face-to-face with a very surprised Dennis Franz on the other side of the glass. Jimmy jumped out to see if I was okay, which I was — totally unscathed by the near-miss. He looked out at the crew and gave a smiling thumbs up and we got a big cheer. Everybody loves a death-defying escape!
Many thanks to John for taking the time to shed a little light on his time in Twin Peaks!