As insightful and intelligent as she is beautiful, Connie Woods is an American actress and former model. She was cast as “The New Girl” at One-Eyed Jack’s in Twin Peaks, and she has starred in many other films and television productions. She had a small role in the semi-erotic sitcom Dream On (HBO, 1990-1996), she played one of Elvis’ lovers in the TV movie Elvis and Me (1988), and she played a small part in two different films featuring Sylvester Stallone: Rocky IV (1985) and Over the Top (1987). I talked with Woods about Twin Peaks and David Lynch, and, given that her grandfather is from the same Danish town as me, we talked about her Scandinavian heritage – and the Scandinavian elements in Twin Peaks.
AH: How did you get the role as ‘The New Girl’, and could you describe the casting process?
CW: Initially, my agent called me and said, “Connie, I never do this. I would never send you out on a job that does not have any lines, BUT this new show is casting and it’s DAVID LYNCH! You never know where this could lead, Connie. I think you should go on this casting.” Little did he know at the time that The Elephant Man was my all-time favorite film and of course I would want to go on the casting! What else would I be doing that day? And if I got the job, what could be better than being on the set with, oh my goodness, David Lynch.
I went on the first audition at Propaganda films and many other girls that I knew were there. Soon after that my agent told me I was booked and that I needed to go in for a fitting, or two. I’m not sure if you have seen my wardrobe for Twin Peaks, but it was very detailed and fit like a glove. I still have the Polaroid for continuity, taken by Sara Markowitz, the costume designer.
On the first day of filming we were at a house on the outskirts of Los Angeles, and each of us were put into our wardrobe and then sent back to a room where they kept us sequestered from everything else that was going on. Our corsets were tight, and they didn’t want any creases and definitely didn’t want any damage to the cards on our outfits. We took turns pacing, or laying back very slowly on the chairs in the room. No bending was even possible and none of us had any idea what was going on, we just thought we were saloon girls. “Maybe a time piece, or something?” We had no clue!
Sometime in the afternoon, they called us outside. We were told to line up and just stand around, but we weren’t sure why or what to do. The producers, assistants and Mr. David Lynch were all huddled in the corner looking at us and talking amongst themselves. Oh man, talk about nervous! I sure was.
David Lynch came up and walked around each of us, next to us, looking at us, not saying anything…..Suddenly, he just looked at me and said “You” and turned away, looked at his staff and said “Her” and he walked back inside. I didn’t hear much else, and we didn’t know what this meant, but I can tell you that it was very awkward the rest of the day and night in that little room with the rest of the girls. None of them had much to say to me after that. I was excited, and didn’t know why, but I had no one to share it with in that little room. Talk about awkward
That’s how it happened! I was picked to play the New Girl at One-Eyed Jack’s by David Lynch, himself, the director of my favorite movie and now my favorite television show of all time. I still get a huge smile each time I relive that moment!
Frame pair: A private polaroid of Connie Woods, taken on the set of Twin Peaks, and a classic scene with Ben Horne and “The New Girl” from the actual series.
AH: You were in three episodes, directed by David Lynch, Lesli Linka Glatter and Caleb Deschanel. How would your describe their respective approaches and directing styles?
CW: David Lynch was very specific about the way he wanted me to move and react, right down to my eye movement. He spent time going over it with me from start to finish until I appeared exactly the way he had envisioned that scene.
Caleb Deschanel is one of the top cinematographers. He brought a really good eye to the look and the feel of the show. He was interesting and very smart.
Lesli Linka Glatter was very professional (I was in the scene where we tie up Audrey and video tape her after she is drugged), and now that she has such a great career and is directing Homeland, it’s so nice to be able to say that I was fortunate enough to work with her!
AH: Why do you think that the ratings of Twin Peaks dropped during the second season, and why do you think that many critics and fans didn’t like Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me?
CW: I think it’s because they revealed the killer. David Lynch was forced to reveal the killer and was not really involved until later, when Gordon Cole came back and was involved in the show. I think that the two creators of the series were not as involved in the second half of the second season until the last five episodes. While the writers were amazing, the original creators weren’t readily available, and those brilliant writers couldn’t follow the original plan. That’s Hollywood for you – suits not respecting creatives – and look what it got them! I think it’s crucial to respect an artist’s creative vision.
To answer the other part of this question: It’s hard for my friends and I to believe that people didn’t like Fire Walk with Me, but I’ll venture a guess: First of all, there might have been a backlash after the extreme popularity of the show – that human need to have backlash. Secondly, the film had a darker tone as compared to the series. The film delves into Laura Palmer’s torment by her killer, and of course the film would be darker, as it tackles the topic and gives it the darkness it deserves. At the beginning of the film as the pipe smashes the TV, you are being told symbolically by David Lynch that this is NOT TV. And yet, people still expected the same vibe and feel of the show.
AH: Could you tell me a few words on your Danish heritage, and how you came into acting?
CW: My grandfather is from Odense [a city in Denmark with approximately 200,000 inhabitants], and when he was younger he worked as a baker’s apprentice there. When he was 18, he made his way to America to start a new chapter in his life. Eventually, he went back to get his mother, and his grandmother and brought them over to America, too.
I decided very early on that I wanted to work in front of the camera. I was in my first fashion show when I was four or five years old. I used to write plays and perform in front of my family and the neighbors. I’m also entrepreneurial, so naturally they all paid for tickets. I started my dance training at the age of 11 and my theatrical training at the age of 14. After graduating from high school, it was very difficult to leave “My Lake”, Lake Tahoe, to pursue a career in film and television, but as you can imagine, there weren’t many auditions taking place up there in my neck of the woods. It has been an odd and bumpy road, but I have come full-circle as a human being and as an artist. I’m still that girl from Tahoe in my heart, mind and my actions. I live in L.A., but I try not to be anything like the stereotypical L.A. person that I’m sure you’ve heard about.
AH: In Denmark Twin Peaks is (still) hugely popular, and some people have pointed to a sort of Scandinavian sensibility or affinity in Twin Peaks. Harley Peyton talks about a ‘Scandinavian touch’, and the production designer Richard Hoover has said that Twin Peaks is more Scandinavian than American”. Does that make sense, and can you see the connection between Twin Peaks and a certain Scandinavian sensibility?
CW: I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “Scandinavian sensibility”, however, I can mention some Scandinavian connections. Three of the writers (Mark Frost, Robert Engels and Scott Frost) and Richard Hoover all come from Minnesota which has a strong Scandinavian culture and populous. There’s the group of Scandinavians doing business with Ben Horne, and later the group of Norwegians are replaced by Icelanders. Jerry Horne falls in love with Heba, an Icelandic woman (Heba was played by Mary Stavin and her character was named after Heba Thorisdottir, the Scandinavian girlfriend of producer Gregg Fienberg). It’s only my opinion that they found the culture interesting, refreshing and intriguing.
Here’s a great quote by Jerry Horne on Heba: “I’ve had more serious fun in the last two days with these Nordic animals, and Ben, I’m in LOVE! Her name is Heba, she’s a giant ice queen with a smile like sunrise on ice flow. You can go blind looking at this girl.”
AH: Which role has Twin Peaks had for you personally and career-wise?
CW: As I mentioned, I was already in awe of David Lynch for creating The Elephant Man. I have always felt lucky and blessed for having the opportunity to work with him. Regardless of any other work I have done, or any entrepreneurial venture I have been involved in, Twin Peaks holds the most intrigue for other people that I encounter. I’m so proud to have been a part of the show. I was so shy and nervous around David Lynch. I was just hoping I would be “good enough,” and I was just sweating bullets. Career-wise? Well, everyone knows about Twin Peaks, and I have met so many smart people from around the world because of it. I took my daughter on an audition when she was four, and while we were in the waiting room I noticed all of the head shots on the walls. When the casting person came in, I said, “I worked with him not too long ago…. Oh, I worked with her, too.” There were several cast members from Twin Peaks on their wall. The other casting person walked in about this time (they were twins, by the way) and almost in unison they said, “You were the New Girl at One-Eyed Jack’s, weren’t you?” They went on to tell me that they had a goal to work with every single actor from the series because they loved it so much. They cast my daughter, and she got to play the young lead in that film. Billy Zane was the star. So, I guess it has affected both of us in a very positive way. I get more letters and e-mails from Twin Peaks fans than for any other work I have ever done.
AH: Why do you think that Twin Peaks has been – and still is – such a popular or cult-like phenomenon?
CW: Because the fans are smart, curious and have a quirky side to them. The music helped a lot, too. And let’s not forget the excellent character development.
AH: What do you think of the sudden revival of Twin Peaks, and why do you think that Twin Peaks is being continued by David Lynch and Mark Frost (on Showtime)?’
OH, I was so floored and so excited when I heard the news. I think it’s fabulous! Why do I think it’s being rebooted by David Lynch and Mark Frost? David Lynch has always had an affection for Twin Peaks. In David Lynch and Mark Frost’s minds Twin Peaks has still been going on, we just haven’t been seeing it. I think he had said that the ending was not the ending, just the end of the season. The combination of his love of that work coupled with the love from the fans undoubtedly contributed to the revival.
AH: Do you think that Twin Peaks has had an impact on modern television drama, and, if so, how can we see the influence of Twin Peaks?
CW: Twin Peaks made it okay to have offbeat characters and plot lines. It made it okay to continue a story for a long period of time without resolving a mystery in 44 minutes. It started a trend of shows that aspired for more and didn’t underestimate the audience. I believe it was the first American television show that was surrealist art on primetime television.
David Lynch has said that “Cable TV is the new arthouse,” and David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, said his show was Twin Peaks in the New Jersey Meadowlands. The X-Files seemed to be influenced by Twin Peaks, so did True Detective in mood and context. Northern Exposure early on and The Killing seem very influenced by it. They aren’t the same, but definitely seem to be influenced by it.
A strong scene from Coonie Woods’ favorite David Lynch film, The Elephant Man (1980):