‘Twin Peaks’ star from Alamo Heights mourns end of TV series
San Antonio native Chrysta Bell, who stars as FBI agent Tammy Preston in “Twin Peaks,” is feeling both relieved and anxious as the two-episode finale of the Showtime series draws near.
“The relief is I don’t have to keep certain secrets anymore — sharing it with people is cathartic,” the Alamo Heights High alumna said in a phone chat this week.
“But I’m having some anxiety about it ending. There was so much of a buildup; it’s strange that it’s almost over.”
David Lynch’s 18-hour revival comes to an end with back-to-back episodes starting at 7 p.m. Sunday.
Chrysta Bell said she most likely will watch it with the “Peaks” gang at a finale party in Los Angeles thrown by co-star Mädchen Amick, who plays Shelly both in the new series and the original on ABC.
“Mädchen is such a sparkling, intensely lovely human. I can imagine if she throws a party, everyone she invites will come,” she said. “I’m going to try my best to get to L.A. and be there.”
The experience of “Twin Peaks” was a life-changing one for Chrysta Bell, who was born Chrysta Bell Zucht but uses the shortened name professionally.
“It was beyond enjoyment. It’s been a source of growth and maturity and humbling and awe-inspiring,” she said.
A musician and chanteuse for most of her life, Chrysta Bell was a newcomer to acting on TV. So it was both daunting and extraordinary, she said, that her debut role — as an FBI agent and the first woman to be invited into the legendary Blue Rose Task Force — was one that afforded her lots of screen time. Better still, it was alongside three “Peaks” icons from the original.
In the series, Tammy joined FBI director Gordon Cole (Lynch) and Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) in the investigation of paranormal occurrences related to some mysterious murders, the disappearance of agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and the appearance of his evil doppelganger.
They eventually solicited the help of Diane (Laura Dern), the trusty assistant whom Cooper would speak to via tape recordings while investigating Laura Palmer’s murder in the first “Twin Peaks.
In the script, Chrysta Bell said, “Tammy was described as hyper-intelligent, whip smart, all business and someone who looks great in a skirt-suit.”
As an actress, Chrysta Bell made sure to bring something of her own to the role.
“Tammy’s personality comes through in her reactions to Gordon and Albert,” she said.
She also brought that provocative walk.
“I’ve known David for 20 years, and he was very familiar with my gait. He said give me that walk, and I obliged,” she said. “When you put a voluptuous woman in a pencil skirt and high heels and train a camera on her derriere, I’m sure there’s something extra that happens.”
That walk, however, became another bone of contention among fans who already were spewing online hatred for Tammy. “People would say she’s objectifying women. But I say, ‘Can we not celebrate the form of a woman?’”
“It’s been a full spectrum experience,” she said of viewer response. “I certainly wasn’t emotionally prepared either for the adoration or vitriol.”
One of her biggest challenges was preparing for her big scene in last week’s episode. She was to shoot Diane — actually Diane’s tulpa (an extra body created from one person’s mind in order to travel to other realms).
She not only did some research into tulpas but went to a gun range.
“Tammy’s a badass and I had to do her justice,” she said.
Still, she wasn’t looking forward to the reaction “because (Dern) is so beloved.”
And for good reason, Chrysta Bell acknowledged. “She’s just amazing, an extraordinary actor, but also fun to be around, quick-witted and gracious.”
She said she was particularly awestruck by Dern’s delivery of Diane’s big monologue prior to the shooting.
“We got to sit there while she did it. She was poetry in motion. Then, after Laura blows our minds with the performance, she brought everyone on the set macarons.”
Chrysta Bell also said working with Ferrer, who died before the show aired, was “special and extraordinary.”
“I didn’t know he was sick at the time, that he wouldn’t be around much longer,” she said. “He knew but didn’t put that on the people around him. He was so much fun. His humor was dry, and he had this super-gracious spirit. After all, he was the product of Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney.”
Does it bother her that fans’ response to the series has been a mixed bag?
People who love “Twin Peaks” are “something like a cult,” she said, so one has to expect strong reactions.
“I think the new ‘Twin Peaks’ is equally as powerful as the original. In that one, there was more of an emotional connection to the characters,” she said. “In this one, there’s more of a connection to existence itself.”
As for Lynch, he isn’t one to pay attention to that kind of criticism.
“He doesn’t read Reddit, he’s not looking at recaps,” she said of her longtime mentor. “He believes one’s energy is precious. Everyone has their opinions, and he’s not saying he’s above it all, he just has better things to do with his time, like create more art.”
Will people find Sunday’s “Twin Peak’s” conclusion satisfying?
“I have no idea,” she said. “Everyone has their own personal reactions to this series. All I know is being part of it has been one of the more extraordinary experiences of my lifetime. I’m still not able to fully grasp that I was a part of it.”
What Chrysta Bell can grasp is how it’s affected her career.
“It’s opened doors for me,” she said. “I’ve had some scripts come in, and I was asked to star in a musical off-Broadway. I haven’t signed the contracts yet. But, yes, there’s definitely some movement.”