Twin Peaks bombshell Sherilyn Fenn reflects on the disposable nature of Hollywood and why she jumped at the chance to rejoin the iconic TV series.
Just like devout fans of the show around the world, Twin Peaks star Sherilyn Fenn is on tenterhooks as she awaits each weekly instalment of the beloved television series, a cultural juggernaut that is now back on the air after 26 years.
Due to creator David Lynch’s refusal to share a single detail of its byzantine plot with critics, fans or even its stars, she filmed her scenes without any context, receiving only the script pages of scenes in which she appears. By the time you read this, Fenn may have made her first appearance on the rebooted series. Or maybe not. Either way, she is enjoying the ride and watching – but cringing, and with her hands over her eyes.
“I watch [the new episodes] by myself,” Fenn tells Stellar. “It feels like such a strange dream. And I’m always a bit nervous because I don’t know when I’m cut into it… and I don’t like seeing my own work!”
Well, good luck with that. She’s best known for her sensuous portrayal of town troublemaker Audrey Horne, which made the then 25-year-old Fenn a small-screen siren for the ages. But in a career spanning 30 years, Fenn has worked almost constantly – so trying to avoid glimpses of herself as she changes channels may be, well, unavoidable.
“It’s like hearing your own voice played back,” Fenn explains. “Ever since I was little, I thought I just sounded like a munchkin… it sounds so weird to me. I’m not able to be objective. I’d rather just work really hard. Some people will do a scene, then go back to watch it on the monitor, then they’ll come back and do it again.” She laughs. “That switching of the hats is something I’ve never been able to do. I’m not able to learn, let alone get any joy, from watching myself.”
AUDREY HORNE, WHO quickly became the most famous female character on Twin Peaks when the show first aired in the early 1990s, was a nubile schoolgirl with a knowing glint in her eyes. As embodied by Fenn, her signature retro bob, arched eyebrows, beauty mark, blood-red lips, form-fitting sweaters, knee-length tartan skirts and saddle shoes collided to create one hugely seductive whole. When Audrey tied a cherry stem into a knot with her tongue, a generation was held in thrall. (Dita Von Teese once revealed that Fenn’s December 1990 cover of Playboy was “the original inspiration for dying my hair from blonde to black”.)
As Fenn tells it, this legacy is the result of a happy accident. “Audrey wasn’t in the script. David wrote her for me. I was there like all of the other girls in my age range, auditioning to play either Shelly or Donna.
“I was considered [to be] a very inconsequential character, and a lot of what I wore was my own clothes. Look at the sweaters the other girls were wearing – they were really big. Then look at mine. They’re little and tight. Those were my sweaters! I still am not sure why or what happened, but it’s a gift.”
When Twin Peaks arrived, Fenn was best known for the 1985 comedy Just One Of The Guys and a leading role in 1988’s Two Moon Junction, a critically drubbed erotic thriller she disavowed for years. “I’ve come to peace with it,” she now reveals. “I was naïve about some things. My manager at the time said, ‘Now they can’t ignore you anymore.’ Well, great, what am I supposed to do with that?!”
Ignoring Fenn has never been easy for anybody – consider the fact that two of her first boyfriends were Prince and Johnny Depp. (When she posts throwback snaps of herself and Depp on social media, Fenn credits him as “my first love”.) She was born into a showbusiness family, the daughter of keyboard player Arlene Quatro and Leo Fenn, who managed rock acts such as Alice Cooper and The Pleasure Seekers, the first band of Arlene’s sister, singer Suzi Quatro. So a knack for performing is in her blood, though Fenn also credits her itinerant childhood for her interest in acting and the diligence with which she seeks out new opportunities.
“I want to keep working,” Fenn says, “because I have to support myself and my kids.” But she’s honest about the realities of showbiz for women at the age of 52. “I know there are less roles, but there are barely enough women directing in the first place,” she laments. “It’s Hollywood, and they’re going to cast 25- to 30-yearolds to play opposite 60-year-olds all day long. I wish there could be more balance.”
Does she worry about how the public may perceive her, and her alter ego Audrey, in 2017 now that she has a few wrinkles? Her answer is frank: “I don’t care. That’s not the best attitude, but as you get older, you see that clichés exist because they’re real. I’m happy where I am. I’d rather think about the other things this beautiful life has to offer.”
THERE ARE TWO noticeable gaps in Fenn’s career, each coinciding with the births of her sons: Myles is now 23 and Christian turns 10 in August. “We’re all living together again,” Fenn says, “so I get to spoil them each separately.”
Last year, Fenn wrote No Man’s Land, a children’s book about a boy who has autism. It was Christian’s diagnosis that spurred her on. “It was hard to take him slowly out into the world,” she says. “We received a lot of judgement. He was very much ‘my way or the highway’, and would have huge fits. But to think [all children] see and learn things the same way is a huge mistake. So there was a lot to learn, and a lot to continue to learn, just to keep him growing and protected.”
Fenn will visit Australia in July to attend Oz Comic-con Melbourne, where she’ll meet fans and appear at a dinner in her honour. But rather than see such events as neccessary evils, she seems to gain emotional nourishment from the experience. “The fans have gotten me through,” Fenn says. “I get to do these shows, meet them, pay my bills and be connected. When you’re only around people who direct or act or produce, they’re always judging you. They want something from you. You get around people who like your work and it’s a whole different vibe. They’re kind, they’re sweet, they share ideas.
“You’re disposable in a business like this, especially as a woman getting older. And then you learn some little character you played touched people’s hearts, and they tell you about it, and it touches you. Sometimes people come up and start crying, then I’m crying, and I don’t even know what’s going on!”
Laughing as she tries to explain her encounters with fans, she could be talking about the bizarre world of Twin Peaks itself. “It’s a trippy experience,” she says. “We’re all just broken people doing the best we can, you know?” Sherilyn Fenn will appear at Oz Comic-con Melbourne, which runs from July 1–2; ozcomiccon.com/melbourne.
“YOU’RE DISPOSABLE IN THIS BUSINESS, THEN YOU LEARN SOME LITTLE CHARACTER YOU PLAYED TOUCHED PEOPLE’S HEARTS”
SIREN’S CALL (clockwise from left) Sherilyn Fenn, 52, is reprising her iconic role as Audrey in the reboot of Twin Peaks; with Kyle Maclachlan in the original series; and her
Johnny Depp, who she met in 1985.