Today’s interview guest is none other than Geraldine “Geri” Keams, a.k.a. Irene Littlehorse from Twin Peaks episode 20. As we all remember, Irene Littlehorse introduces our hero Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) to the seedy bungalow known as Dead Dog Farm which leads to a deadly stand off and drug bust with Jean Renault (Michael Parks). Geri graciously accepted an invitation to join my interview series to talk all things Twin Peaks, and of course her first major project with Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales. Let’s Rock!
BD: To get started, where are you from, and what ultimately led you to acting?
GK: I grew up on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona. I attended an Indian boarding school and had fun writing and directing my own plays. Guess this is when it all started. I enjoyed performing and entertaining the audience.
I ended up at the University of Arizona in the Drama department which began my formal training as an actor. I eventually went to New York City and studied there as part of the Café La Mama Repertory Theatre Co. I spent the next few years teaching theatre to American Indian youth in the Southwest. After a few years of teaching in the Southwest, I ended up in Los Angeles pursuing a career in film and television.
BD: Before you were cast as Irene Littlehorse, were you a fan of Twin Peaks?
GK: I was a real fan of Twin Peaks early on and never missed an episode, I was hooked to the mystery and the style in which the scripts were written and the scenes were shot.
Characters all seem to come from a dream and it was only thru Agent Cooper that gave the story line a central point of view. I also enjoyed it because David Lynch took risks to tell a story. He was an eclectic artist and I had a lot of respect for him.
Taking those leaps were commendable and Twin Peaks became a phenomenon.
BD: How did you originally cross paths with your role?
GK: Michael Horse who played Deputy Tommy Hawk was a friend of mine and he had given my name to Johanna Ray who was the casting director for the show.
They called me in to their studios out in the valley. I remember it being a long day.
I think my audition time was 4pm and I was still there at 7pm. I read at first for Johanna who asked me to stay for the directors read, so I read for Caleb Deschenal who directed the episode. I was tired and nervous at having to wait so long, by the time, they got around to me, but, I remember taking a big breathe and going in to do my reading. I don’t remember a call back. It was cast that day and I found out a day or two later that I had the role.
BD: I am curious-did you get to meet Mark Frost or David Lynch during your time on the show?
GK: I missed meeting either Mark Frost or David Lynch but their presence was every where. They had built this studio and it was an amazing building with character.
The atmosphere was friendly and everyone who worked there seem to like working there. After I got the part they had me drive straight to set which was a park out by Van Nuys.
BD: So all of your scenes were with Kyle MacLachlan-what was it like working with him?
GK: Kyle was soooo cool! He was very generous with his time and treated me as a fellow actor. He was available for my scenes when camera covered me and he was off camera and still gave me the lines. A lot of actors won’t do this by the way and you have to get use to reading with the script supervisor. You have to work harder and staying in character. There was small talk here and there and Kyle mentioned that he had just bought a house and was laying the wood floor himself. He said it was really hard work and that maybe he should of gotten someone else to do it. He was very nice and friendly. Not the star mentality you see so often in Hollywood. It was a joy to work with him.
above: Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Geri Keams as “Irene Little Horse” reviewing Twin Peaks real estate
BD: What was it like filming on location at Dead Dog Farm?
GK: Dead Dog farm looked authentic and could have been a farm in Washington State. There were groves of tall pines and the old bungalows that used to be owned by the park service. The skies were partly cloudy as it had just rained a couple of days before. It was one of those bungalows where Agent Cooper and I had a scene inside the cabin. He sees something on the sink and if my memory is correct he says something about cocaine?
BD: Yep, that’s right! What were the sets like?
GK: The inside of the real estate office was shot at the Twin Peaks complex in Van Nuys. David Lynch had his own studio! Wow! I was impressed.
I remember seeing a guy that looked like the character Bob running around there with a tool belt around his waist. I made a comment to someone that this guy with long hair looked just like Bob. And the guy said, “Oh yeah, that’s Frank and yeah, he plays Bob” I kept starring at him and he turned out to be a very nice guy! His character on the show was so creepy I couldn’t get that out of my head.
above: Kyle MacLachlan and Geri Keams on location at “Dead Dog Farm”
BD: Did all of the scenes you filmed make it to the air?
GK: I believe all of the scenes made it into the episode. Going to Dead Dog Farm, the office scene. It took quite a while to shoot the quarter landing on the table. It had to be perfect and I realized that there were no magic tricks like they have today. They just shot it until they got it right!
BD: So your first major role was The Outlaw Josey Wales, what was that experience like?
GK: The Outlaw Josey Wales was a first class production. I didn’t realize my first major role in a film would be first class. The limos, flying first class, five star restaurants and the rest! The production itself was a lot of hard work as I had to ride horses, wait out in the heat, wind and rain while filming and there’s a lot of waiting when making a film. Clint was a first class star and director. He left everything up to the actor. If the actor felt they did a good job he’d move on. If you wanted to do another shot, you had to have a very good reason. I remember doing very few second and third takes. The first director, Philip Kaufman got fired because he took too many takes. All of Clint’s films apparently are shot like this.
One day I made a comment about how an avocado would taste really good right about now and the next day there were two boxes of avocado waiting for me on set. They had flown them in overnight. It was quite awesome working for him and making this classic. It still running on cable after 35 years!
BD: What projects do you have going on these days?
GK: I’m of course still available for work in films and television. I’m still with my manager of 30 years, Miriam Baum. The last projects I’ve appeared in, include supporting roles in, The Sons Of Anarchy and the last couple of episodes of HBO’s Big Love before they ended the series.
I also have a children’s show that I perform throughout the country called, “Legends Come Alive” telling American Indian legends to schools, museums, and performing arts centers. I love show business and performing and am still actively involved.
I’m married now and live with my husband in Pasadena, California. Needless to say but life has been good to me.
Many thanks to Geri for her time and reflections on Twin Peaks!