Those of us who were old enough to remember David Lynch’s groundbreaking hit series Twin Peaks from the early 90s may have remembered the vulnerable Shelly Johnson who was thoughtfully portrayed by Mädchen Amick in her breakout role. Thirty years later she stars again in the hit revival of this cult classic that has left its indelible mark in the history of filmmaking. This talented and blessed actress has been steadily working her way in Hollywood and at 46 is at the top of her game. Here Madchen opens up on what it’s like to star in two of the year’s most popular cult classics- Twin Peaks and Riverdale.
What are some of the current projects you’re working on?
I just finished Twin Peaks and that was such a mind blowing experience to return to that world and work with David Lynch and Mark Frost again. It was really magical and I was so excited to finally see all the parts finally air on Showtime and see the fans’ reactions to it. Of course everyone wants to see a follow up season. And I would totally be up for that if David and Mark want to continue.
As far as Riverdale, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I went in and met with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to put the pilot together. I thought it was an interesting concept to bring the Archie characters to life. But we’ve seen in the past that it can go horribly wrong. So at first I was skeptical but I really loved Roberto’s ideas and how to bring them to life and keep them current and modern. Alice Cooper was inspired by Annette Bening’s character in American Beauty and I thought it was a great opportunity to portray a character that is trying so hard to keep everything so perfectly together but was secretly crumbling inside. I was immediately intrigued and excited by it. I’m still filming through the end of March.
How did you keep these two characters separate while filming Twin Peaks and Riverdale?
The characters of Shelly Johnson and Alice Cooper are polar opposites as moms and their approach to raising a daughter though they are both flawed and try hard. Shelly is very careful about how she parents her daughter and doesn’t want her to make the same mistakes she made so she tolerates a lot more and has a soft side to Becky’s circumstances in an abusive relationship. And then you have Alice on the other side who is just a bull in a china shop and doesn’t consider any consequences about protecting her daughter and keeping her out of harm’s way. Though both shows are of a similar genre with a murder mystery that gets to know the town’s secrets, they both have different tones and speed. Riverdale is very fast paced and quick witted while with Twin Peaks the whole world has slowed down to a much lower rotation around the sun.
Were you surprised when they brought Twin Peaks back?
Definitely, I had heard rumors around it and was secretly hoping and wishing for a revival for years. I thought how can you bring Twin Peaks back and have it on network TV, we barely got away with it the first time. It wasn’t until David & Mark announced it would air on Showtime and then it all made sense. Let David Lynch make Twin Peaks the way it was in his mind and that’s how you can continue the story and have it evolve. It was surreal and it’s hard to even fathom that it happened.
How do you think Twin Peaks has evolved for a new generation?
I think it got a lot bigger. The original story was involved in a small perfect town and you got to see the underbelly of the town and the way it evolved into a global story, which was how they were able to return to it. It just grew and it’s almost like a reflection of our fan base. Over the years it’s become such a cult classic and the art world is inspired by it. USC Film School even has a college course just on Twin Peaks itself.
What do you feel has made Twin Peaks such a cult classic?
Starting my career with Twin Peaks I got to see a masterpiece at work and I didn’t realize it until I went out and had a 30 year career. I constantly reflected back on that experience and apply what I learned to my body of work. What became really clear to me over the years was that to make a successful show requires whomever is at the helm to have a true vision and stick to that vision even though they are being pulled in so many different directions with different voices. You also have to sprinkle in a little bit of genius at the same time to make a true cult classic.
What was it like to work with David Lynch again 20 years later?
That’s a big question. David is almost simplistic even though his artwork is very complicated. As a human being he’s just very truthful and present. He’s a very kind hearted person and he really loves and cares about the people he works with and collaborates with. He’s incredibly respectful so everyone on the set is revered and has a creative collaborative voice and he’s very present. You’re part of a master plan and you don’t necessarily understand but you are an integral part to that being.
Did Twin Peaks end in a way you were happy with?
I think it was fulfilling yet left us hanging and wanting more, which is so classic David Lynch.
Your family is heavily involved in the music industry, would you ever consider that path?
My father was a musician who had a band so I grew up on the road. I’ve been around music my entire life and I absolutely love it. It’s in my DNA. My husband is a singer/songwriter and I have two kids that are writers and performers- it’s all around me it just doesn’t come out of me. I just don’t have the natural talent for it. I passed the genes along, that was my contribution.
If there was a dream project you could be involved with what would it be?
At the moment I’m obsessing over Mind Hunter on Netflix by the master David Fincher. I would absolutely love to be involved with a project he does. I’m also a huge fan of the Coen Brothers and that would be a dream come true to work with them. I’m also a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino. I have a mix of filmmakers that I love and find extremely talented.
How would you describe your personal style?
Quirky, bohemian, comfortable. I think I pretty much fit into all of the different bohemian cities we’ve lived in like Hawaii, Santa Barbara, LA, New York, and San Francisco. Combat boots, jeans and a hat is very comfortable to me.
I’m so thankful to be 46 years old and have worked in the business for 30 years. Not only being blessed to act on iconic shows and cult classics, but stepping behind the camera and taking control myself as a filmmaker from the ground up is a new chapter and very exciting to me, so keep your eyes open!
Photographer UDO Spreitzenbarth @udophotography
Make-up Cynthia Rose
Hair Michael Solis
Stylist Suzi Grgurich
Imaging Lorraine Baker