From ‘Twin Peaks’ to mayor of ‘Portlandia’
Kyle MacLachlan of “Twin Peaks” returns in the third season of the sketch comedy series “Portlandia.”
Special to The Seattle Times
10 and 10:30 p.m. Friday on IFC. Many Seattle-area providers air the IFC East Coast feed, which means the show will be on at 7 and 7:30 p.m.; check with your cable or satellite company.
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Watch out, Seattle: The mayor of Portland is out to spirit away your citizens in the new season of IFC’s “Portlandia.”
The third season of the sketch-comedy series debuts Friday with two back-to-back episodes. In the second episode, Portland’s mayor (Kyle MacLachlan, “Twin Peaks”) calls on Fred (Fred Armisen, “Saturday Night Live”) and Carrie (Carrie Brownstein, Wild Flag) to try to recruit Seattleites to move to Portland.
“Seattle, ‘Gem of the Northwest,’ ” the mayor says, scowling at the cover of Portland Monthly magazine. “How do they get away with this? When will we be on the cover of Portland Monthly?”
For Yakima native MacLachlan, there’s no animosity toward either city, but he sees them differently.
“Portland is a river city and has a different kind of feeling than Seattle and the ‘Twin Peaks’ thing, which feels like more of a woodsy and outlying kind of place,” MacLachlan said. “Portland feels a little more urban and cutting edge in terms of cuisine and wine and all that kind of stuff.”
Comedy may not be a genre pop-culture connoisseurs associate with MacLachlan, the former “Twin Peaks” and “Desperate Housewives” star. The actor has theories on why he was cast on a sketch comedy like “Portlandia.”
“I bear an unusual resemblance to the real mayor of Portland, Sam Adams, and I think that was part of it,” he said. “I think the ‘Twin Peaks’ thing is also part of it. I think somehow I popped into Fred’s mind to do this.”
Armisen said the goal was for the mayor of Portlandia to display an infectious optimism.
“We wanted the mayor character to be pleasant but not in a sarcastic way,” Armisen added. “It’s not like we’re making fun of a politician who doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s just happy to be the mayor and doesn’t care what the results are.”
MacLachlan considers Los Angeles and New York his bicoastal homes, but he also makes it back to Washington state and the Walla Walla winery he’s owned since 2005, Pursued by Bear.
But the actor doesn’t spend much time thinking about what-could-have-been for his famous “Twin Peaks” character, FBI agent Dale Cooper, who was last seen possessed by the evil spirit Bob, laughing maniacally and saying, “How’s Annie?” repeatedly as blood dripped from his forehead after he head butted a mirror.
“When it finished, it sort of finished for me. The struggle had been that last season. The [ratings] numbers were dropping, the writers were writing what they thought were things that were interesting and I just kind of had thrown up my hands; it’s not working. So at that point I was done.”
He thinks an opportunity to explore Cooper’s dark side, which is where the “Twin Peaks” story appeared to be going, could have been worthwhile.
“Once they solved the murder mystery [of who killed Laura Palmer], the subsequent story was not as intriguing or as compelling — it would be hard to find one that could have been — however, I do think what they came up with, that last one for Cooper, would have been a storyline that quite possibly could have propelled it into a next season if it would have happened earlier in the second year,” MacLachlan said. “I look at it and say what a great opportunity as an actor to play Cooper and then to play the other side of him, the dark side of him. That battle, as an actor, would have just been unbelievable. But I haven’t gone beyond that in imagining what might have happened.”
Thanks to “Portlandia,” a bit of “Twin Peaks” lore lived on in this past summer’s one-hour “Brunch Village” special. It featured actress Catherine Coulson, who played the Log Lady on “Twin Peaks,” as the proprietor of a marionberry farm.
“We’ve wanted her on the show since season one,” said “Portlandia” star Carrie Brownstein. “She lives in Oregon so we thought it would be easy to get her and we’ve been trying for years, but she’s always doing the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland while we’re filming in the summer so her schedule conflicts with ours. But since we shot the extra scenes for ‘Brunch Village’ not during the summer we were able to finally work with her. We like to get anyone from ‘Twin Peaks.’ ”
For MacLachlan, “Portlandia” has been a bit of a throwback to “Peaks” days. “In a funny way, it’s returned me to my cult-TV roots,” he said, “and for that I’ve been very grateful.”
Freelance writer Rob Owen: RobOwenTV@gmail.com or on Facebook and Twitter as RobOwenTV.