IN CONVERSATION WITH KYLE MACLACHLAN
Kyle MacLachlan is a star because he can do one thing better than anybody else: play decent guys with time-shares in the netherworld. A native of Yakima, Washington, the ever restless MacLachlan is ambitiously expanding his storytelling prowess by producing his own roster of projects across film, TV and audio.
Some of your highly acclaimed TV roles include the sophisticated soap operas ‘Desperate Housewives’, ‘Sex & the City’ and the inspirational improv ‘Portlandia’. You went on to win the Golden Globe for Best Actor for your iconic performance as Dale Cooper in ‘Twin Peaks’, and were nominated for two Emmy Awards. What feelings does winning a Golden Globe and being nominated for an Emmy Award evoke in you as an actor?
Well, there’s so much luck involved in that. You have to have a great role in a great project that a lot of people see. There are performances that are never seen because they’re just not in shows that garner a lot of eyeballs. But it’s a wonderful feeling of acceptance and of recognition. The winning part, I think is somewhat haphazard. It’s a nice thing of course, to have happen, but it doesn’t define me that much. It’s sort of nice to be able to point to it and say “Yeah, I won a Golden Globe”, but I think it has more impact on the business side of things.
You know, if someone was trying to sell a project, they can point to that and say “Hey look, we have this value added”, because they have a Golden Globe or an Academy Award or an Emmy. But that doesn’t certainly guarantee that what you’re gonna see is gonna be great. That comes down to so many things and a big part of it is teamwork, where everybody works together in combination to make this great thing. And so if you are lucky enough to win something, it’s really more of a reflection of the entire process and all the people involved, everybody has contributed something to that moment. And people speak to that when they accept awards. They talk about the fact that it’s a group effort really.
“Yeah, I won a Golden Globe! It’s a nice thing of course, to have happen, but it doesn’t define me that much.”
“David could have hired a more famous, a more recognizable person, but he didn’t. He came back to me and that will always be a special moment in my life. And probably, just for that decision alone, he’s responsible for me having the career that I’ve had, because after ‘Dune’ there was not a lot of interest in me. So I’ll never forget that”
Kyle, throughout your rich career you‘ve worked with some of cinema’s most celebrated directors, including David Lynch, Oliver Stone, Steven Soderbergh, Alfonso Cuaron, Luca Guadagnino, Paul Verhoeven and John Frankenheimer. Which role and project left the biggest impression and impact on you?
I probably have to say David Lynch. I’ve done about four things with him, if you include ‘Dune’ and ‘Blue Velvet’. And then of course ‘Twin Peaks’, the first series and then the most recent series, and also ‘Fire Walk with Me’. I think it was the combination of working with him on ‘Dune’, which was my first film ever, and that he saw something in me, that was very special. We had a lovely time on this movie and then when it came out, it wasn’t very well received at the time. Nevertheless, he said “I want you to play Jeffrey in ‘Blue Velvet’”. And I didn’t really get at the time how amazing it was that he returned to me. It would have been much easier for him to have just gone with another actor, an actor that maybe hadn’t been associated with a movie that didn’t have the kind of success that ‘Dune’ did. He could have hired a more famous, a more recognizable person, but he didn’t. He came back to me and that will always be a special moment in my life.
And probably, just for that decision alone, he’s responsible for me having the career that I’ve had, because after ‘Dune’ there was not a lot of interest in me. So I’ll never forget that. The experience of filming ‘Blue Velvet’ was amazing in every way and the fact that he actually returned to me, was the thing that was the most impressive.
“I did a lot of research. I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book ‘No Ordinary Time’ about the Roosevelts. I watched the Ken Burns’ documentary, which was very helpful. There was a lot of voice recordings of him speaking and some footage of him giving speeches.”
In 2021, you portrayed President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the international Emmy Award winning limited series ‘Atlantic Crossing’. Can you tell us more of how you prepared for this role?
That was unexpected to be honest. The offer came in from the lovely Alexander Elk and his wife from Norway, and they said they’re interested in me for Franklin D. Roosevelt. That’s an honor, because the idea that you’re playing a historical figure like that, there’s a lot of pressure. And when I thought about it, I thought there’s actually a resemblance there and I’m of the age when it makes sense. But I knew nothing about what I was getting into and I had a really nice conversation with Alex and he seemed to be very thoughtful, very intelligent. He’d obviously been involved in a project for a long time. And I decided that I’m just gonna take a chance and go to work over there.
We shot in Prague and it was independently financed by Scandinavian countries, so it was really just kind of a leap of faith, but I prepared diligently. II did a lot of research. I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book ‘No Ordinary Time’ about the Roosevelts. I watched the Ken Burns’ documentary, which was very helpful. There was a lot of voice recordings of him speaking and some footage of him giving speeches. And then very little about when you saw him actually moving out of the wheelchair as people were not allowed to film him actually. I also spent a lot of time thinking about what had happened to him and how that might affect you mentally, emotionally, psychologically. And we researched the apparatus that he used in order to be able to stand upright, which was a very primitive and yet effective exoskeleton of these metal rods that could lock into place with a few kind of little movements.
I liked the way the story was told about him and that they sort of celebrated his charisma, his outgoing nature. He loved life, he loved people and he loved women in particular. He was smart, very animated, very passionate, a very emotional person trapped in this body, but he didn’t let it stop him. And I had a lot of fun with that.
We’re now being able to see you in the highly anticipated Peacock series ‘Joe vs Carole’, a dramatic depiction of the scandalous Tiger King saga. What can you share with us about this series and its story?
I had a question why are we going back to revisit this again, when we saw the show already. But when I read the script that Etan Frankel had written, I realized he’s really focusing on the people now and less about the sensationalism of the story. He’s focusing on what made them tick, who they are, why they were who we saw. Kind of an explanation to them and the backstory, which I thought was fascinating and I enjoyed it. The series came out in America and it didn’t get a lot of attention, but I think it was because people loved the sensational aspect of it, that they were sort of less interested in what really made these people tick and who they were.
I think that Etan did a beautiful job and I loved in particular the relationship between Howard and Carole. Carole was played by the wonderful Kate McKinnon, who just lights up the screen. I thought that their relationship was really interesting and special and kind of unexpected. And we were able to dig into that a little bit. I also thought that John Cameron Mitchell, who played Joe, did an amazing job. He’s such an extraordinary performer.
We shot in Brisbane, in Australia, but I think Orlando is where we were supposed to shoot. It kind of worked, but it was difficult, it was challenging. All the things that were involved at that time, the quarantine for a couple of weeks, the protocols that we had in Brisbane. But the people in Brisbane were extraordinary, the Australians were very welcoming.
Later this year, you’ll also co-star opposite Jon Hamm in the film ‘Confess, Fletch’, which is a reboot of the comedy classic ‘Fletch’. What can we, the viewers, expect from this reboot?
I’ll say that it’s less of reboot of ‘Fletch’ that Chevy Chase did, cause he’s obviously identified very strongly with the character and closer informed to the actual books, which I think there are roughly 13. Gregory McDonald, the author, wrote 13 Fletch books, all different stories. And the character of Fletch is gonna be closer to the way Jon interpreted him than what Chevy did. There’s a certain kind of awkwardness to Fletch, he’s a little bit goofy, but he’s highly intelligent and he walks the line between really knowing what he’s talking about or being clueless. At the end you realize that he’s actually highly intelligent and everything was kind of set up. And we, as the audience, were sort of played along with other characters that are in the movie. Greg Mottola directed it, he’s one of my favorite directors, and just did a really brilliant job. It’s a comedy, but not the kind of over the top, out of control comedy. It’s a little more sophisticated than that. And I think there’ll definitely be an audience for it.
You are ambitiously expanding your storytelling prowess by producing your own roster of projects across film, TV and audio. You are set to host a new podcast ‘Varnamtown’ about the little known story of Dale Varnam, the fearless ring leader of Pablo Escobar’s drug trafficking network in the North Carolina coastline. What made you decide to do a podcast about Escobar and his drug trafficking network?
It was a combination of things, the story found its way to me actually through my wife, who has a company with a guy named Nir Liberboim. It was from him and his connection with a woman named Lynn Betts, who was a successful woman that had a soap company, which she sold and moved to this little community. When she was down there, she started to meet people and in particular, this gentleman, Dale Varnam. Then she reached out to Nir and said “I think there’s an interesting story here”. And so we all flew down for a visit. This has been four or five years ago now to meet Lynn and Dale and hear a little bit of the story.
It was very compelling and kind of hard to quite understand what had happened there. It was literally a fishing village. There are 200 people in this community and many of them are related, so it’s a little bit of a strange place on the North Carolina coast. Anyway, a few years go by and then we sort of resurrect it and we decide we’re gonna go down and we’re gonna film this. We actually interviewed many of the people still alive, who were involved in this world at that time – seventies and eighties, drug trafficking, ships coming up from South America and offloading cocaine and marijuana with the help of the fishing fleet that was there in Varnamtown.
They have these shrimp trawlers and shrimping is what they do, which is a hard way to make a living. So they suddenly had this opportunity to make huge amounts of money in a very short period of time for very little work. And most people in the community said “Sure, we’ll do it”. And so they would go out and meet the motherships, bring the stuff back and offloaded onto trucks. Everyone had a huge payday and was like “This is great. I can feed my family. I can have some nice things now”.
We went down, spoke to everybody, got the story and heard a little bit about how it happened and who was involved. We’re constructing the podcast right now. We did a series of interviews for about five days and are going back to do a few more and then we will put together the podcast, assemble it and tell the story of Varnamtown. I found it fascinating. And it asks the question if you were in that situation, what would you do? Would you take the money or would you say “You know what, this is not something I wanna be involved in”.
“I’ve been in the garden ever since I was a kid. Growing up, it was part of our chores, for my brothers and I.”
Beyond acting, you are an accomplished vintner with your own boutique winery, ‘Pursued by Bear’, crafting highly acclaimed wines from your home state in Washington. What was behind your decision to start your own boutique winery?
Jacket, Pants – Ermenegildo Zegna, Shirt – Prada, Shoes – Bally, Socks – Falke, documented at Saral Burdette’s House
I was curious. I had dear friends who live in the Napa Valley, who are winemakers and I was interested in how they did it. When the opportunity came up for me to try that in my home state of Washington, and I met someone who I felt would be a good partner, a winemaker who actually had a winery, I thought this could be something different, fun to try. It didn’t seem like a whole lot of effort, an outlay money kind of thing, for the experience of making your own wine. So we started out in 2005 and I made roughly 300 cases of Cabernet. We made it at his facility, a winery called Dunham Cellars. I would pay a fee for the processing and everything. I brought French Oak barrels, he had the grapes from sources in the valley and we just made the wine. And I gave him a chance to come down, visit and be in the town. It is a town very similar and very close to my hometown, about two hours away. Eastern Washington is a dry part of the state, so it has very little rainfall. It’s agricultural predominantly and grapes do really well there.
So after a few years, suddenly I had this wine and I was so excited and I started to get more and more into it. And then a couple years after that, I made another wine, a Syrah. I made it the year my son was born, in 2008, and called it ‘Baby Bear’, cause it was for him. And then I just kept going and I kept getting more and more interested and it kept growing. And finally, about 10 years after I started, I dissolved the partnership and said that I’d like to take over control completely.
Now I have control of ‘Pursued by Bear’. I have a winemaker who I’ve been working with for about 15 years now. And I’m more involved than I ever have been. It started off as a fun little adventure, a way to go back home to spend some time with my dad, involve him and my brothers in the process, and it’s turned into this little business. So I’m having fun with it.
“… I was looking for something in sort of a theatrical reference, like downstage or upstage or something.”
The name of your winery is a brilliant homage to perhaps the most famous of all stage directions, “Exit, pursued by a bear”, of Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale’. Why particularly did you choose this name?
I was trying to find something that had a reference to what I call my day job as an actor, so I was looking for something in sort of a theatrical reference, like downstage or upstage or something. But so many of those were, believe it or not, actually already trademarked. So I had to keep looking and as I thought more about it, it just kind of popped into my head. This stage direction, I find it kind of crazy actually, that he was so specific about this. But a bear actually runs on stage, chases the actor off of the stage and then shortly thereafter, the next group of people that come on stage comment “Oh, that poor fella”. We saw him, the bear actually had a small meal, so it’s a little gruesome.
But I just thought about it and I said that this is such a crazy idea. It’s just about as unexpected as the idea of me making wine. And I like that. So I just went with it and I changed it slightly from ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’ to just ‘Pursued by Bear’. I thought it would be a little easier to put on the label and it stuck. And people remember it. Some even ask me if I was ever chased by a bear, it starts a conversation. As soon as I did the second wine, ‘Baby Bear, it was at that time I realized I’m stuck with bears now. So I’ll just keep coming up with wine that has bears in the label. So ‘Blushing Bear’ was the next one and that’s a rosé of course. And it just kind of goes like that, it’s more fun than anything else.
What connection do you see between acting and winemaking? In what ways would you say both are similar?
They’re very similar. I was talking to a friend about this recently and I was explaining it’s like when you work on a film or even a play, there’s a great deal of time that goes into the preparation. And there’s a lot of waiting. Particularly in a film, you film something and then you have to edit it, and you have a long time to wait before it actually comes out. And it’s similar with wine, there’s a three year process of harvesting and then time spent in barrel and time spent in a bottle before it actually comes to market. So a lot of work goes into something that’s going to be released a year and a half or down the road.
And if you’re doing a film, it’s also similar in that there’s a lot of people that are involved. So you’ve got the growers, the vineyard managers and my winemaker. And then you have barrels that you have to use and you have staff that is in the tasting room, in the barrel room, that’s watching over this. There’s a lot of things that have to happen to the wine in order for it to be good, and it’s sort of the same thing in film. You’ve got music you’ve got to add, you’ve got to edit it. You’ve got to do sound, you’ve got to time it so that the colors are right. All these things have to happen before you come out with something that is really special and that it’s also something that you share. So you share the film with an audience and you share wine with people who enjoy wine. So I think the pathway is similar. It’s a little shorter on a film, but it has the same kind of result ultimately, which is something that people enjoy and maybe makes them think a little bit and that they can mole over and relish. So to me, there’s a lot of similarities.
Would you call gardening as your new hobby?
Gosh, no. I’ve been in the garden ever since I was a kid. Growing up, it was part of our chores, for my brothers and I. As kids, we would help our dad, who was the main gardener, with the yard. We’d have to mow and edge, and then we would work weeding the gardens and we would help with planting and harvest. And he had a vegetable garden that we would tend over. We had apple trees and pear trees in my backyard that we would have to pick. There was a cannery that we would go with our parents, and we would can pears and cherries and peaches. So this is all a big part of my growing up years, being out in the garden in nature.
Which is kind of funny, cause it carried over into the wine business. But I also have a garden in Los Angeles that I’m very proud of. I have a lot of roses, which are not the best flowers to have during a drought. I like the idea of creating an environment, a space that people and myself can enjoy being in, and it’s peaceful and it’s creative. And I can lose myself for a day, just going around and tending to bushes and shrubs and trees and tomatoes and anything. Making a wall or building some steps or all of that stuff is really appealing to me. It really makes my mind just turn off and disappear.
“It really makes my mind just turn off and disappear”
As a father, how do you spend time with your son? Any particular activities?
My son, he’ll be 14 very soon. He’s already six feet tall and he enjoys basketball and volleyball. We spend time playing basketball together. I can still beat him, but not every time. And then sometimes, we go down to the beach in California to work on his volleyball. Beach volleyball is a great skill. And he also likes to surf. I’ve tried surfing, but I’m not so good. So I’ll go down with him and I’ll just sit on the sand and watch him surf and drink my coffee. California’s got some pretty good surfing. I love taking him there. We go and he puts on his plate, he’s got a playlist as we drive there, cause it takes about an hour to get there, and we share that time together.
I haven’t really gotten him out in the garden that much yet. And I don’t know if he’s got the bug, he doesn’t seem to be that interested, which is fine. That’s something that I love to do. We also watch movies together. And he loves to play Texas Hold Em, a poker game. During the pandemic, we did a lot of board game nights together as a family. He also loves all the ‘Star Wars’ stuff, so we would watch the ‘Mandalorian’ or ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ together.
“I think if you have been blessed in life, it’s one of those things where part of the necessity is that you in turn then sort of give that back and pass that on in whatever way you are comfortable and whatever process that you have.”
You are also a longtime supporter of organizations like God’s Love We Deliver, Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, UNICEF and the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Stand Up to Cancer program. Why is giving back so important to you? Which of these causes is the one that is dearest to you?
I think everyone gives in their own kind of way, and there are some people who are very much up front and very vocal and they’re raising awareness and kind of leading the fight. And I really applaud that. But it’s not really something that I do. I like to support in other ways. I find that ‘God’s Love We Deliver’ in particular is such a great organization, because it provides meals and food for people. I mean, it’s one of the most basic things that you can possibly have to people who aren’t able to get good food. And it’s fairly localized in the New York city area in the boroughs. An d the money goes right to feeding people.
There’s not a huge infrastructure, There’s a lot of volunteerism and they have a lot of financial support. So any money that you give, goes right to the cause, which I really like. They‘re also super nice people who believe in what they do. So much, that it’s really nice to be able to tap into that because it sort of motivates me when I see that. And I like that sensation. I think if you have been blessed in life, it’s one of those things where part of the necessity is that you in turn then sort of give that back and pass that on in whatever way you are comfortable and whatever process that you have. It is also a quality that is important for my wife and I to demonstrate to our son, that a part of who you are as a human being, is that you also look out for others in your own way.
“It is also a quality that is important for my wife and I to demonstrate to our son, that a part of who you are as a human being, is that you also look out for others in your own way.”
Interview by JANA LETONJA
Talent: Kyle MacLachlan
Creative direction & Idea: Ana Tess & Sasha Lytvyn
Art Direction, Location & Photography: Sasha Lytvyn, Make Magic Studios
Styling: Ana Tess
Styling Assistants: Rachelle Duperoux & Stephanie Wengerkiewicz
Grooming: Jenna Nelson
Production: Anna Pagava, Gogola Agency
Assistant Producer: Nick Bandurko
Casting: Timi Letonja
Special Thanks & Gratitude: Saral Burdette, Dave & Jay, Myrna, Annie Woods & Cassie Da Costa, Mariam & Sons, Jade & Marc Whitman, Katya Mukhina & Lilya Simonyan, Good Weather & Californian Sun Universe