David Patrick Kelly has starred as the bad guy in all your favorite genre flicks—T-Bird in The Crow, Charlie the Cleaner in John Wick, gang leader Luther in The Warriors and the ill-fated Sully in Commando. But with a prolific career spanning five decades, Kelly is the polar opposite of the motor-mouthed antagonists he often portrays. Genial and hypnotic, he speaks with a wizened drawl about the flickering humanity behind his most recent role, the newly-addicted-to-pot-edibles Jerry Horne in Showtime’s masterful revival of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
High Times: It’s been 25 years since you last played Jerry Horne. How did you prepare to jump back into Lynch’s world?
David Patrick Kelly: When I first did Wild at Heart for David, I sensed this kind of bifurcation in his works. This kind of striaght-laced-’50s-then-goes-to-hell-in-the-’60s vibe. So I wanted to fold that into Jerry. While I was first working on the role, I was studying Atlas Shrugged. I thought that Jerry Horne and the Horne brothers were fully imbued with Ayn Rand’s “Greed Is Good” philosophy.
HT: So, does Jerry Horne read Ayn Rand?
DPK: Jerry probably reads How to Succeed in Business and things like that. He’s not on the intellectual tip, or looking for any kind of philosophical justification for what he does. It’s just about success in the world, in business deals, in his romantic conquests.
HT: What’s Jerry’s imperative now, more than two decades later?
DPK: That’s interesting because it connects back to your previous question. Because now in his sort of chemically induced enlightenment, he’s achieved a certain kind of enlightenment for himself. There’s a kind of humility now. There’s something really evolving. Shakespeare talked about “the whirligig of time,” and how time can play on you. And I think that’s causing a breakthrough for Jerry.
HT: Do you think the catalyst for this is the weed? He was not a weed smoker in the first two seasons, and since he’s found psychologically a way to let go, do you think the involvement of this substance has changed his psyche?
DPK: Well, I’m not suggesting that he couldn’t have gotten there in a different way. But I am also a person who’s come through the history of the ’60s, and firsthand seeing the changes in artists like Bob Dylan and the Beatles that happened that were chemically induced—who is to say? We all know the things that we like and we don’t like about different substances, and things which induce altered states. But who is to say if that’s not something you can achieve by yourself?
HT: Did you do any “research” to prepare for Jerry’s pot-brownie monologues?
DPK: Personally, for many years now, since the ’70s, I’m high on existential epiphanies. That’s what gets me going. And that alone has helped me create all the characters I’ve been blessed to be able to play.
HT: Do you know how this season ends? Or are you up-to-date with the rest of the viewership?
DPK: They only gave us little pieces of the script. I think that’s a blessing, because I get to enjoy it just like you do. [Laughs] And I was just stunned by episode eight. But every single one of them. From the very first one.
HT: It’s a pretty damn great season.
DPK: It’s because David is in charge of the whole thing. Every scene is curated. Everything is taken care of. All the details. Because he’s a painter, he gets to recycle his materials. And he has that intense timing. I think the directors would be way too nervous to keep nothing but a door in the frame for as long as he does. He’s just going for broke. And it’s stunningly good, in my own opinion.
The 18-episode third season of Twin Peaks is available on Showtime.