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‘It was a gnarly ride’: Australian Eamon Farren on his surprise Twin Peaks role

As one of the most memorable new cast members in one of the most acclaimed television series of the year, Australian actor Eamon Farren has good reason to sound as excited as he does down the line from Los Angeles.

Last week, critic Matt Zoller Seitz claimed Twin Peaks: The Return – which is only eight episodes into its 18-part season – as the best TV series of 2017, “even if the ten remaining episodes of this show consisted of a black screen with a timecode at the bottom”. And no new character in the show has generated as much discussion as Farren’s Richard Horne, who quickly became one of the most powerful embodiments of evil in the show’s history. It’s certainly a long way from his last on-screen outing, as a French lounge singer in Australian indie film Girl Asleep.

“In December 2015 I was doing a play at the Sydney Theatre Company with Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh called The Present,” Farren says. “I’d just finished a matinee show, I went outside, and there was a message on my phone from my agent saying that David [Lynch, director] had got in touch, and if I wanted to do it there was a role in the new Twin Peaks for me. And I was like, ‘Uhhh … I think yes, we will do that!’”

Farren never asked why he was cast in the series, he says. “But I did a film with [Lynch’s] daughter Jennifer called Chained, and I assume that he saw that.”

As fans of the show know, Lynch is reticent to provide easy answers. “Later, I had a quick chat with David, and he said, ‘Do you have any questions?’ and I said, ‘I have a million questions. First of all, can you tell me who I’m playing?’ He said, ‘No buddy. Just jump on a plane and come to this forest and make a cool thing with some cool people.’”

With secrecy surrounding the project from the very beginning, Farren was unable to share this news with anyone else for 18 months, until Lynch released the 217-long cast list.

Farren had little conversation about his character with Lynch or the show’s co-writer Mark Frost – and to this day has no idea which episodes he will be appearing in until they air. Richard Horne was written as a throwback to 50s noir, with no discussions about backstory or motivation. The tight timeframe meant Farren’s research was limited to binge-watching the first two seasons before arriving on set.

“It was a pretty gnarly ride,” he laughs. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I closed the show on a Saturday night and arrived in Seattle on the next Sunday and we started shooting. I went into it really super-fresh and that was the perfect way to do it.”

It’s no exaggeration to say Farren’s character, Richard Horne, has been blessed with one of the most chilling introductions in TV history. Within hours of his first scene being aired, his transition from ice-cool rebel to menacing sexual predator and later to an out-of-his-depth drug dealer was being likened to another of Lynch’s most terrifying creations: Dennis Hopper’s iconic Frank Booth in Blue Velvet.

“In my first episode there was some pretty horrific stuff,” says Farren. “In the second ep, yeah he gets thrown into a whole different context. I think that’s the beauty of what Lynch does with character: he really lets you have a bit of carrot, and then he subverts the whole thing. That’s why his characters endure – because they pivot, they’re surprising, they’re like humans. That’s what’s fun to play about those people.”

“David creates a really great culture on set,” Farren says. “Everyone really wants to be there, and there is this sense of shared ownership. The difference between David and a lot of other artistic people is that he’s completely attuned to his vision, and because he’s so committed he can welcome everyone into the making process. As an actor, to walk in there and feel that kind of trust from him, but also have the trust in him that he knows absolutely where everything is going, that’s a really cool experience.”

Farren is unable to share what little he knows about the future of the series, and is reluctant to offer theories about his character or the show. “I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole. I just sit down on Sunday night and I wonder if I’ll be in this episode – that’s just the selfish actor,” he says, laughing.

“But then I start watching it and I get absorbed by this crazy, beautiful artistic piece of art. I love it. I like the fact that David crafts something, gives you little slices and then says, ‘You have to experience this, but also engage with it as opposed to letting it wash over you.’”