Netherlands-born actor Carel (pronounced “Carl”) Struycken is known for his roles in a number of different franchises, from Lurch in the “Addams Family” movies to the nearly-mute “Mr. Homm” in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” But to “Twin Peaks” fans he will always be “the Giant,” an enigmatic Black Lodge denizen who serves up cryptic, coded messages to Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) during his investigation of Laura Palmer's murder. Though the character appeared only briefly during the run of the show's second season, his presence and influence loomed large (literally and figuratively), and for fans he continues to represent a fascinating piece of David Lynch and Mark Frost's mysterious, offbeat puzzle.
With the much-ballyhooed “Twin Peaks” revival series set to premiere on Showtime sometime in 2016 (2017?), we hopped on the phone with Struycken to talk about working on the original series (“It felt very much like a dream”), his working relationship with David Lynch, and whether we can expect to see him in the heavily-anticipated followup when it finally hits the small screen. See below for all the highlights from our conversation. (You can read my previous interview with “Log Lady” Catherine E. Coulson here.)
1. His first meeting with David Lynch taught him a new, very David Lynch-ian phrase.
“I was a bit starstruck, because as I said, I was a big fan of 'Twin Peaks' and of 'Blue Velvet'…and 'Eraserhead.' But I remember clearly what his first words were. He walked up to me and shook my hand, and he said, 'everything's just gonna be peachy keen!' That was the first time I'd heard that expression.”
2. His interpretation of the Giant? A “psychiatrist from outer space.”
“I saw him as kind of a — you know, how there used to be angels who came down to tell people something, or command them to do something. I saw him a little bit like that, or a psychiatrist from outer space. Something like that.”
3. He had no idea what phrases like “The owls are not what they seem” and “There is a man in a smiling bag” meant when he was saying them — and he actually preferred it that way.
“[David] probably didn't want to know himself what it means. As you may know, David Lynch is very kind of against analyzing stuff, right? …you don't want to know where it came from because otherwise you may destroy the process while you're trying to figure it out.”
4. Working on a David Lynch project can feel like living in an alternate reality.
“You kind of immediately get attuned to a certain atmosphere or vibe on the set. And that's very much part of how he works. I've read things about him on 'Dune' where he would walk around I think with a stethoscope and listen to everybody's heart. And I also see that as kind of creating some kind of a — well, getting you off the normal plane of existence and putting you somewhere else, so to speak. So to me it was much more like he was a genius in creating a space and an atmosphere than that he would give very specific instructions, apart from telling people to talk slower or to walk slower or things like that. Everything else was kind of — I don't know, you kind of automatically understood what was going on.”
5. The only time he sees his fellow cast members is when he's attending “Twin Peaks” fan conventions — which he loves, by the way.
“I kept in touch for like a year or so [after the show ended] with a few people, and then — well, life interfered I guess. [But] I still run into people. I've gone to two or three of the 'Twin Peaks' festivals. I hope to be invited soon again. And those are always great events. Very different from most fan get-togethers. Like I do a lot of 'Star Trek' and horror conventions. But the 'Twin Peaks' festivals are always much more intimate and usually they travel around and have a picnic on one location where they shot, and do something else at another location. So it's very different and incredibly nice to attend.”
6. He views the “Twin Peaks” fanbase differently from other fanbases he's tapped into in one essential way.
“'Twin Peaks' fans are usually — are often — fans who are not fans of anything else. [Laughs] I mean, you have 'Star Trek' fans, you have 'Star Wars' fans…but they are in general part of a universe of fandom, and I think 'Twin Peaks' are much more independent and they may not be fans of anything else, but they just discovered 'Twin Peaks' and want to delve a little bit more into it.”
7. He still hasn't been contacted about reprising his role in the Showtime revival — but he expects to be.
“I haven't been contacted, but I — well, I expect to be contacted, let's put it that way. …I think I belong there.”
8. He has a theory about why the show appeals so strongly to citizens who lived under dictatorial rule.
“I was shooting two movies in Romania in '93 I think or so, and that was just a few years after they had gotten ride of Nicolae Ceau?escu, the dictator there, and one of the first things they had pirated from the West, one of the first pirated shows that was shown on national TV in Romania was 'Twin Peaks.' And it was immensely popular, and I think part of the reason was that they — under that dictator — nothing made sense, right? Nothing in their lives made sense. You could be kicked out of your house in the middle of the night, and the house would be bulldozed in the middle of the night, and there you were with your suitcases and your family standing outside watching your house being destroyed. And there were constantly things like that in the lives of the average Romanian. So when they saw 'Twin Peaks,' it was like they had this very deep connection I think with a surreal other world. And there was something there that they recognized.”