A friendly, easy-going and knowledgable man, Gary Bullock (b. 1941) is vividly different from his character, Sheriff Cable, in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. Bullock was born in Tennessee, and he has been a part of many films and television shows, including Species (1995), Ally McBeal (Fox, 1997-2002), RoboCop 2 and 3 (1990 and 1993) and The Shield (FX, 2002-2008). In recent years, Bullock has turned his attention to the written craft, making science fiction and fantasy novels. One such example is Elsewhen (2012), a book that seemingly alludes to a novella (from 1941) by the renowned science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein. I asked Bullock a few questions about Fire Walk with Me, his character, Sheriff Cable, and Twin Peaks in general, and his answers were frank, funny and greatly insightful.
AH: How did you get the part as Sheriff Cable on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and could you describe the casting process?
GB: Johanna Ray cast Fire Walk with Me. My agent got me the audition. I didn’t actually read from the script, but had read it, so I knew what the character was like. David and I just talked about it for a few minutes, and that was that. I told him that Cable was a familiar type — a redneck sort of full of himself lawman. That was unusual to start with. Most of the time you are asked to read a piece from the script. If I were a director, one of the first things I would want to know is — can I work with this person, or is he going to be a pain in the butt?
I also love the David Lynch character, hard of hearing, but shouts his lines. The David Bowie conundrum escaped me. And Desmond’s disappearance. And how weird is the Blue Rose bit?
AH: Sheriff Cable, too me, is almost the opposite of Sheriff Truman. In the same way, the waitress at Hap’s Diner is markedly different from Norma Jennings in the series, and Chester Desmond (CD) is more rough and hardboiled than Dale Cooper (DC). Is Fire Walk with Me supposed to be a dark mirror version of Twin Peaks, and have you ever thought of Sheriff Cable as a mirror version of Sheriff Truman?
GB: It would make sense. But I don’t know that David intended it. The whole Deer Meadow setting is like a mirror image of Twin Peaks, yet Twin Peaks itself is nice on the surface, but horrifying underneath.
Sandy, the waitress, is certainly the opposite of Peggy Lipton. That sounds like something I would think of. As a writer, which I also am.
AH: There is a wonderful scene in Fire Walk with Me where Sheriff Cable makes fun of Chester Desmond, who is searching for Teresa Bank’s ring. “I’ve got a phone here. That’s got a little ring,” he says, followed by the hysterical laughter of his secretary. How would you describe the humor and tone of the film (as opposed to the TV-series)?
GB: The strange thing about Cable is the bending steel bit. I mean, I’m no strong man with lots of bulk, so the idea that I could bend a steel rebar is ludicrous.I have always loved the humor inherent in the series. And my favorite line is the phone with a little ring. Yes, the movie is darker and stranger than the series, yet there are moments of sheer odd humor, like the scene at the beginning where Desmond has a school bus of screaming kids pulled over. Seems like a comment on the FBI. Or the practical joke Desmond pulls in the diner to get Kiefer to spill his coffee.
But the whole atmosphere of the movie is oppressively strange at times.
AH: Why do you think that many people (including critics and fans) didn’t like Fire Walk with Me, and why do you think that the ratings of Twin Peaks dropped during the second season?
GB: I haven’t a clue about the ratings. Maybe people got tired of trying to figure out what the heck was going on, although they certainly stuck with Lost all the way. Maybe it’s the investment of the audience in the characters of the story, so very rich in Lost, maybe less so in Twin Peaks. If you are a Twin Peaks fan, of course, that is a different story.
In my mind, if the audience doesn’t fall in love with your characters, even if they are not so nice people, you have lost the battle.
AH: Could you describe how it was to work with David Lynch?
GB: A unique experience. Most of the time, when working on a film or TV, you are always conscious of time — the feeling of being rushed. Not so with David, he said to slow down. “When it feels almost uncomfortably slow, that’s about right.” If you remember the music, which I’m sure he always had going in his head, it has a slow heartbeat quality to it. The pace of action and dialogue was always so relaxed, with the darkness underneath it all. It was perfect. Working with David was certainly a pleasure. He never asked me to change a reading of a line, just slow down. I think he wanted to see what you would bring to the scene, and that is what any actor would love.
AH: Which effect, if any, did Fire Walk with Me have on your career?
Fire Walk with Me gave me a taste of celebrity when I was invited to the Twin Peaks Festival in Snohomish a few years ago. I am still amazed at the devoted fan following it has. I don’t think my career after that was particularly affected one way or another. It was my first big job when we moved to LA, and I will always remember it fondly.
AH: What do you think about the upcoming third season, and what difference does it make, in your estimation, that the show is being revived on a premium cable network like Showtime, not a broadcast channel like ABC? Is it likely that you will be a part of it?
GB: I look forward to seeing how it picks up after 25 years, as promised by Laura Palmer. A lot of changes have taken place in TV in 25 years, so I think it hardly matters whether it appears on cable or broadcast. I think it highly unlikely I will have any part in it. I certainly haven’t been contacted. But that’s OK, Sheriff Cable retired after having his butt kicked by Desmond, and now records audiobooks and writes romance novels in the mountains of North Carolina. He’s a different guy. You might even like him.
A trailer from The Missing Pieces in which we actually see a shot of Sheriff Cable bending steel, something which is only shown in the form of a photograph in Fire Walk with Me: