Annette McCarthy talks Twin Peaks!

The Twin Peaks interview series here at braddstudios.com continues today with Annette McCarthy, known to Twin Peaks fans as the wealthy and scheming Evelyn Marsh, who frames James Hurley for murder!  It was a ton of fun chatting with Annette as she merrily recounted a few entertaining stories from back in the day.  Aside from Twin Peaks, Annette has appeared on dozens of classic television shows such as The Twilight Zone, Baywatch and Night Court!  Not to mention she used to play a ’58 Telecaster in a band and hang out with Twisted Sister back in the day! Without further ado, let’s rock!

BD:  Hey Annette!  How are you?

AM:  I’m good, how are you?  This is very kind and considerate, and I love that you asked!  This is wonderful.

BD:  I couldn’t be better.  Thank you again.

AM:  I am very pleased, and you must know it was a very small part and it was just a few weeks long…

BD:  It doesn’t matter!  I’m a longtime fan of Twin Peaks so it is great to talk.

AM:  Oh great! (laughs)  It was a great show and I got to work with so many great directors, it was just an amazing experience.

BD:  So growing up, was acting something you always wanted to do?

AM:  Always.  My auntie was an actor and she was actually an unknown name, but a great actor and she was once nominated for an Academy Award. Just a great actor, her name was Joan Hackett.  She passed away many years ago and I grew up with her in many ways, going to Broadway plays.  We were poor growing up but she led the way for us to enter into that world.  She did many, many great Broadway plays and was a great actor.

BD:  Did you ever watch Twin Peaks before you were cast as Evelyn Marsh?

AM:  I did.  My former husband and I were very great friends with Steven Soderbergh (the director) and he came over with a VCR cassette and said, “You guys gotta watch this!” and he put it in the VCR and we watched it and I was not  a fan immediately.  I didn’t like it right away, but it really grew on me.  It’s one of those shows you love or hate, and it grew on me.  By the time my role came around and I auditioned, I was totally game.

BD:  So just how did your role come about?

AM:  I auditioned for it, and they just kept writing. It actually was a one-time kind of  deal.  I was supposed to do something naughty or tawdry on the show or something and they just kept writing and I was very pleased! (laughs)

BD:  Before you were cast in the second season, Twin Peaks obviously had this reputation for being this crazy and weird show, just what was your expectation coming into it?

AM:  Well knowing David, I knew of him and his quirkiness so I expected that, and I got everything that I expected!  It was indeed quirky and delightful.  It was not like any other set I’ve been on.  I’ve done a thousand different t.v. shows and bit parts and it was quirky and unusual.  The best set I’ve ever worked on.

BD:  What was it that set Twin Peaks apart from everything else?

AM:  The atomosphere, the crew.  I got to work with directors like Caleb Deschanel, please give me a break!  Diane Keaton did the last one, really I can’t describe it.  It was just too delicious.

BD:  What was it like working with her?

AM:  She was… what you see is what you get.  She is an unusual woman, as I am in many ways.  She was quirky and very unusual and I loved that.  She didn’t go down the normal line, she just said, “Turn left, turn left a little bit! And we did, and it worked.

BD:  Do you remember much about your audition?

AM:  I do (laughs) Oh! I got to meet with David and I remember wearing a very sleek black dress, a skin tight black dress and he sort of asked me to be emotional.  As an actress it’s very confrontational to just be crying in front of these people and I did! And he said, “You’re on!”

BD:  Wow,  I mean, how intimidating was that?

AM:  Incredibly!  Incredibly intimidating.  You meet David and you meet the whole crew and it’s like, “Holy crap, this is a big deal!” Like I said, you either liked it or you didn’t like it and the amount of people that loved that show was overwhelming so I had to perform, I had to do good.

BD:  After your audition, was David Lynch very involved with the show?  I have always heard varying stories about the second season.

AM:  Very much, hands on all the way.  We shot out in Van Nuys, it was very hot and David was doing other things , he had his fingers in all these pies but he was very hands on.  Very much.

BD:  And how about Mark Frost?

AM:  No.  Not that much, he was in the casting and he was available, but no, not that much.

above:  James Marshall as “James Hurley” and Annette McCarthy as “Evelyn Marsh” in Twin Peaks

BD:  Many of your scenes were with James Marshall and Lara Flynn Boyle.  What was it like working with them?

AM:  Well… wonderful! (laughs)  I got to make out with James Marshall!  Please! He was fabulous.  She was a kick.  She did a scene that she actually had to leave the bar as I’m smoking a cigarette and make a call to James Marshall or something in code… and as a spoof she used my name – she said, “Ok, Annette! Yes, Annette!” She really made me laugh.  She was a rip.

And James! Please, delicious!  Kissing him was like… actually I have to tell you, it was the real deal.  He gave me that kiss and I went to Mars!  I knew him for a little bit afterwards, and he’s a very good man.

I only worked for a few weeks, but I loved James, he was my favorite because we clicked and we worked very well together, it was really simple.  It wasn’t a hard thing.  As an actor or an actress sometimes you don’t really click with someone and it just doesn’t work and it’s a “job”.  That was not the case with him.  And the directors, as I said were just really wonderful.

above:  Annette with Lara Flynn Boyle as “Donna Hayward”

BD:  What was it like working with some of the other directors?

AM:  Caleb Deschanel directed my auntie in a film and I knew him very briefly, so that was smooth and excuse me – somebody who (laughs) did the art direction in Black Beauty and all that, it’s a dream come true for an actress.  He was just wonderful, and P.S. – I got to babysit Zooey Deschanel when she was a baby, and I babysat Sophia Coppola!

BD:  So after your role as Evelyn wrapped up did you watch the rest of Twin Peaks’ run on ABC?

AM:  I did…umm, you know what?  It sort of jumped the shark for me in a bit, because when something outplays it’s…I don’t mean to say that, that’s disappointing isn’t it? 

BD:  No, not at all.  Many people have that problem with the second season.

AM:  It just wasn’t intriguing to me, it just wasn’t on top, but it was good, it just wasn’t as it was.  I’m sorry for saying that!  I apologize!

BD:  No!  It’s your opinion.  Do you ever re-visit the series?

AM:  All the time!  I am Gloria Swanson!  I am Joan Crawford sitting in bed watching my own movies, yes!  (laughs) I still love it and its so intriguing.  You either love it or you don’t and I didn’t love it at first but then I loved it!  So I do re-visit it all the time.

BD:  Ok, so if the series is fresh in your mind, what are some of your favorite scenes?

AM:  Mine!! (laughs)  and P.S. – I didn’t get to share a scene with him, but with David Duchovny dressed as a drag queen!  I didn’t act with him but I met him afterwards and we shared some really funny stories about that, so I do love that.  I love him dressed up as the worst looking woman I can imagine. (laughs)

BD:  Yeah!  That was one of the crazier ideas that really worked wasn’t it?

AM:  It went crazy, but it was cool, you know?

BD:  I am curious, did you ever watch the prequel film Fire Walk With Me?

AM:  I did not.  Oh God, am I awful?  I didn’t!

BD:  Oh no, I was just wondering!!  So aside from acting, what are your big passions in life?

AM:  I am a fantastic cook!  I cook for a living now, I am an executive chef and I currently have my son home from graduate school and he is being stuffed every single day, I’m cooking for him 3 times a day.  He’s like “Mom! Stop!”  I cook for fancy parties… so cooking and food is my incredible passion.

BD:  You’ve got quite a list of screen credits to your name.  Aside from Twin Peaks what has been the most fun?

AM:  The most fun was my second episode where I did The Twilight Zone.  I worked with Dick Shawn actually knew my auntie, they appeared on the same Broadway stage in 1962 or something.  I met him when I was a baby and we performed together in the late 80’s.  My favorite thing about was that we did that at Studio City CBS, I lived two blocks away and I got to walk to work.  I had just had a baby 2 or 3 months before, and Dick Shawn was a riot, he was just great.

BD:  Correct me if I am wrong, but is it true you were once in a rock band?

AM:  How do you know that?  Who are you? (laughs)  Yes, I was in a rock n’ roll band for many years, and we actually opened for Twisted Sister…the lead singer? What’s his name?!  (edit. – Dee Snyder) A really stupid commercial just came on and he was singing for this carpet company.  That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.  My band used to open for Twisted Sister.  What the hell was his name?  When we hang up I’ll remember!

BD:  Ahh! I can’t remember right now either.

AM:  Anyway, one of my funniest memories was we used to open for them on Long Island before they were a big band, and he met me in the hallway – we used to play a club called The Mad Hatter – he met me in the hallway and he shoved something up my nose without even saying hello! It was just, “here, do this!” He shoved some drug up my nose and I was just not quite right the rest of the night!  That’s a fun memory.  Really, like “whoa”. And now he’s doing carpet cleaner ads!

BD:  So was your band a glam-rock/hair band?

AM:  No! We were very much Grateful Dead-like.  Very mellow.

BD:  What instrument did you play?

AM:  Oh my God, well here’s a fun story.  I played a ‘58 telecaster! I bought it from my sister’s boyfriend who worked on 48th street at Manny’s where the Beatles bought their equipment in New York City.  They were the biggest retailer of musical instruments.  They gave me a break, and when I had children I sold all of my guitars because I thought I all would do then was just bake cookies and make curtains.  Anyway, later my son was in charge at Guitar Center in Southern California and he brought me down to what’s called “the dungeon” on Sunset Boulevard where they have all these guitars and he showed me a ‘58 telecaster.  I sold it for $3,500.00 and now it goes for $58,000.00!  I wanted to strangle him!! (laughs)

BD:  Do you play much anymore?

AM:  Sporadically, but not much.  You can’t get your hands on that kind of instrument any more.  I bought it fresh..ahh…those rotten kids! (laughs)

BD:  So 20 years later, Twin Peaks is pretty much universally renowned as a classic influential show.  What does it feel like now to have been a part of that?

AM:  Remarkable.  The fact you are calling me all these years later is remarkable to me.  I am very pleased and honored and I believe that’s the best work I’ve done, because I was directed so wonderfully.  Great directors and great actors and I love you for calling me and asking me!  It’s wonderful.  Thank you.

And that’s that folks!  A heartfelt thanks goes out to Annette for her time.  If I ever win the lottery, she is getting that Telecaster back!

Please stay tuned for many more fun interviews in the coming days and weeks with Twin Peaks’ own Bob Engels, Ian Buchanan, and Kenneth Welsh… not to mention a few more surprises.

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3 Comments on “Annette McCarthy talks Twin Peaks!”

  1. Ken Moore
    August 18, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Love it! She was a favorite Thanks Brad!

  2. Cody Downs
    May 29, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    Though Evelyn Marsh has a mixed reception amongst the “Peakers”, I’ve always wanted to hear a retrospective from Miss McCarthy herself — especially since 22 have past since the series ended. This interview was a joy to read!

    • May 29, 2013 at 7:37 am #

      Thanks Cody! I was very happy to hear her point of view as well.

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