MÄD ABOUT MÄDCHEN
A Conversation with Actress MÄDCHEN AMICK
By Tyler Malone
It’s hard to imagine that it was almost 25 years ago when Twin Peaks first aired on ABC in April of 1990. I still consider that show one of the best and most inventive programs in the television medium. By the end of that decade, The Sopranos was just beginning to usher in a new age of television, but I’m not even sure if this supposed golden age that came about at the turn of the millennium (and which may or may not be still going on) would have ever happened without David Lynch and Mark Frost creating the weird and wild world of Twin Peaks.
Not only did the series start to show the public that TV could be as artistically relevant and interesting of a medium as film, it also started the careers of many talented young actors and actresses. Mädchen Amick was one of those new faces. She had moved to LA from Nevada in her mid-teens in an effort to catch a break in the acting world. She hadn’t even been out here a year when she landed her role as Shelly Johnson in Twin Peaks. Since that show’s end, she’s appeared in a number of TV shows and films in both starring and guest roles. She currently stars in Witches of East End. I spoke with her about her career from Twin Peaks to today.
Tyler Malone: You’re from Sparks, NV, but you came out to Hollywood in your mid-teens, determined to make it as an actress. What gave you the sort of chutzpah, confidence, and foresight at such a young age to think that might actually be a good idea? And how did you get your parents to go along with it?
Mädchen Amick: I definitely got my “chutzpah and confidence” from my single mother Judy! She raised me to be a strong and independent woman. I’m also a Sagittarius, which makes me very adventurous in spirit. I was quite mature at a young age so when I came to my Mom, Dad, and Step-dad with a very planned-out proposal of how I was going to “make it in Hollywood,” they took me very seriously and luckily supported me in that decision.
TM: You got your big break very quickly in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks as one of the show’s fan favorite characters: Shelly Johnson. What was your Twin Peaks experience like?
MA: With my promise to come back home if I couldn’t support myself within a year of Hollywood, I was very driven. With that hard work and combination of some luck, I was cast in Twin Peaks before that year was up. I’m so grateful for that experience and being able to say that David Lynch was my mentor! I became friends with many of the cast members and we ran around the sets (and towns we filmed in) causing so much mischief over those cherished two years. I was exposed to brilliant writing, directing, and filmmaking at the beginning of my career which has been a blessing and challenge. I have held everything to that standard ever since.
TM: For me, Twin Peaks is one of the early precursors to shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, shows that have really made the small screen as artistically relevant as the big screen in the last decade and a half. Twin Peaks was one of the first shows that really had a sort of filmic auteurist vision and sort of set the groundwork for TV being taken seriously as a medium. Looking back, now having worked with countless other filmmakers, how would you say David Lynch’s and Mark Frost’s approach was different from others at the time?
MA: Without a doubt, Twin Peaks changed the course of television. We broke the mold and I love seeing its influence in great television shows like The Sopranos, Mad Men, True Detective, etc. I believe that the reason Twin Peaks was so successful is that David Lynch and Mark Frost had a clear vision and they never compromised. It’s a hard job to have so many “artistic opinions” of studios and networks, which are always well meant, but I can see the difference when the creators really fight for and are able to communicate their “true voice.”
TM: You worked with such a great director for your first big project. Who are some directors you haven’t yet had the opportunity to work with that you would love to be able to collaborate with in the future?
MA: I have been a HUGE fan of ALL of the Coen brothers’ films, would cherish an experience with Scorsese or Tarantino, am blown away by Steve McQueen and David Fincher, and, if you ever come across a time machine, can I borrow it so I can go back and beg for a part in an Alfred Hitchcock movie?!
TM: Last year there were some rumors that there might be a Twin Peaks revival. They were ultimately quashed by Lynch. Did you know about the rumors at the time and what did you think about them? Would you have wanted to come back and be involved if the rumors had been true?
MA: I’ve been hearing rumors for years about a Twin Peaks reunion. Along with the show’s creators, I don’t think there would be a scenario where that idea would work, but if for some reason David and Mark wanted to do something, I would absolutely be game!
TM: How did your role as Shelly Johnson affect your career and the kind of roles you looked for as you continued on in this business?
MA: I loved playing Shelly Johnson! She was so hopeful and tragic. Even though her life was bleak she always kept dreaming of a day she could begin a new life. It shaped the roles I chose from that point forward because I very much enjoyed playing the multi-layered part. Even though she was a victim, I didn’t play her as one. I always bring an inner strength to the parts that I play. No one wants to see a one-dimensional stereotypical character…at least I don’t!
TM: Since Twin Peaks, you’ve been on all sorts of shows, as diverse as Mad Men and Law & Order, Ed and ER, The Gilmore Girls and Gossip Girl. Not to mention, you’ve been in a number of films as well, including your critically acclaimed performance in Dream Lover. Do you prefer doing comedy or drama? TV or film?
MA: It doesn’t matter to me if I’m doing TV or film, comedy or drama, as long as it’s a good story with great characters.
TM: What would your dream role be?
MA: My dream role would be to play one of our classic Hollywood great actresses’ life story–like Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Catherine Deneuve, Lauren Bacall, or Katharine Hepburn, just to name a few…
TM: What do you look for when choosing a role?
MA: I love being challenged. If I’m doing a dramatic part in a film or TV show, about half way through I’m dying to do a comedy. I love exploring different characters and what makes them tick. That’s why I’m enjoying my current character Aunt Wendy of Witches of East End so much. I get to be funny in one moment and emotional in the next.
TM: How did the role of Wendy Beauchamp on Witches of East End come into your life? And what is the best part of playing her?
MA: Wendy Beauchamp wasn’t in the original books by Melissa de la Cruz. She was created by Maggie Friedman, our show-runner, to kill in the pilot. She wanted the audience to know that important characters could die and that the stakes were high for the Beauchamp family. Thankfully they decided to keep me around a little longer. The best part about playing Wendy is her quick wit that’s written by our clever writers!
TM: What should viewers expect in that show’s upcoming second season?
MA: Season 2 of Witches of East End has a lot of danger, excitement, love, and loss. The Beauchamp women will have to band together to keep their enemies at bay.
TM: Besides as Wendy in Witches of East End, what other roles can we look forward to seeing you in in the near future?
MA: I continue my juicy guest role of Lou Diamond Phillips’s complicated love interest Deena on the amazing show Longmire that has just premiered their third season on A&E.
Mädchen Amick is an actress best known for playing Shelly Johnson in Twin Peaks and for her current role playing Wendy Beauchamp in Witches of East End. She has appeared in countless TV shows and films throughout her 25 year career.
Written by Tyler Malone
Photography by David Crotty for PatrickMcMullan.com
Design by Mina Darius
Mädchen Amick, Photography by David Crotty for PatrickMcMullan.com