Ray Wise is best known for his roles on the television series Twin Peaks, 24, and Reaper, and I recently got the chance to chat with the character actor about his new role as Buck Marshall on the upcoming web series Farmed and Dangerous, created for Chipotle and premiering February 17th on Hulu. (There are also massive SPOILERS for Twin Peaks towards the end of this interview, so, for all of you out there just now discovering this show on Netflix, you might want to skip the last few questions.) We also talk about his hopes for a revival of Reaper somewhere down the line.
Nerdist: So your latest project is a web series called Farmed and Dangerous, which is a series created by Chipotle. Can you describe a little bit what the show is, and what drew you to it?
Ray Wise: What drew me to it? Well, let’s see, my representation, my agents told me that these people were interested in me playing a character called Buck Marshall in this show called Farmed and Dangerous, which they said was a four part series, a TV show that would be on the web, and they sent me the script and I looked at at, I really liked it, I liked the humor in it. I realized it was a satire all about food production here in the United States, and although it was sponsored by Chipotle, it wasn’t simply an advertisement for Chipotle, or just promoting Chipotle, and that it was really just a TV show that would exist on its own merits. I liked the character of Buck Marshall a lot, and I researched the director and found him to be an interesting fellow, and I liked the work that he’d done in that past, and so I went for it. And not knowing really how important it would become, it seems.
N: Yeah, it’s definitely getting a lot of advance buzz, because although it’s sponsored by Chipotle, it’s not really a commercial for their product, it’s a show without their label on it…
RW: Right. It’s done without being obvious. Yeah, there are no Chipotle napkins all over our sets or things like that. It’s a very subtle sponsorship, and its a brave one, I think, for a company like Chipotle to go out on a limb like this, and produce something like this without it being an outright advertisement for their product. It’s actually a quality web series, a television series really, one that just happens to be on Hulu. The creative team on the show was a good one, certainly as good as any I’ve done for a major network, and we had a good time making it. So I couldn’t feel more satisfied or better about the project. And I hope it could possibly go on and continue, maybe even get a second season, I really hope we do.
N: Another project that you did recently was starring in the music video for the Beach House song Wishes. It was released last year and it’s had over a million views. How did that come about, through your connection with Eric Wareheim (of Adult Swim’s Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!)?
RW: Yeah, it’s strictly my connection to Eric. Eric was a big fan of Twin Peaks, and of course I did the Tim and Eric show once or twice, and then I did their movie, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, and you know it all came from that connection… and Eric was going to do this music video for Beach House, and he was the one that came to me with this concept of the video, of me playing this coach for this futuristic sports team, and he was the one who came to me with the whole thing and asked me if I would do it. I really always enjoyed working with Eric and I immediately said yes, without even knowing how he was gonna pull it off! And it worked out really great in the end.
N: Looking at your IMDB page, you are approaching almost 200 listed projects in your career. You have a simply huge resume. You’ve mentioned before you’ve had so many roles you don’t even remember some of them at this point.
RW: I’ve done somewhere like 90 movies, then I’ve been a regular on series, a recurring character on a whole bunch of other series, then one-time guest starred on like 85 or 90 series, then done like 85 plays professionally, won the Obie Award, that’s the off-Broadway Tony, back in 1983, for a play by Sam Shepard called The Tooth of Crime, and yeah…I’ve been all over the map. And some of the stuff you’ve gotta jog my memory so I even remember what it was I did! (laughs)
N: Obviously there is some roles that you’re really well known for, obviously Twin Peaks and most recently Reaper, and then your roles in Robocop and Swamp Thing, I imagine you get asked about those all the time. But is there a role of the nearly two hundred you’ve taken on that you are particularly proud of that you wish had more recognition?
RW: Well, I know a movie that really loved that I made was called The Journey of Natty Gann, which I made in 1983 but came out in ’85, from Walt Disney Pictures, and that was a favorite role of mine, and it didn’t perform at the box office. But that has since become a staple on the Disney Channel and the DVD was really popular, and I still get people 28, 29, 30-ish, who watched that movie as a kid growing up and it made quite an impression on them. And then of course Robocop, and Swamp Thing that I did with Wes Craven and Adrienne Barbeau and Louis Jordan, that one gets played like at least once a year out in L.A.
N: Oh yeah… nerds won’t ever forget those! Especially Robocop!
RW: But you know, I really loved playing the Devil on Reaper. I really wish Reaper had stayed on the air for a few more years. I mean we had a whole slew of storylines ready to go, and it would have been so much fun, not just for us but for the audience, and it was such a shame that it didn’t continue, and I really believe that if we had been on another network, we would have stayed on the air. Our ratings would have been significantly better than they were if we’d been on another network. Not enough Gossip Girls on our show I guess.
N: Well, teenagers are the CW’s target demographic. It’s what they care about the most. Teenage girls.
RW: Yeah, and I mean, that’s their demographic, and I’m not faulting them. But I didn’t think they should have pulled the plug, but that was their decision.
N: Has there even been talk of Reaper coming back, maybe the same way Veronica Mars has, via a kickstarter campaign or something similar? I know there is a tremendous fan base for that show who would love to see it come back.
RW: Yeah, I would love for that to happen. There has been talk about it, yeah…but that’s all there has been, just talk. No one has made a significant first move to make that happen yet. But I would sure be on board if someone decided to do that… and who knows? I don’t think it’s a dead issue. And I think our creators, would be open to a return to Reaper, and writing again, and I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility. It had a loyal following. And it was a shame that they cut it off when they did. We had finished 32 episodes, and we were really just getting in gear. And then they pulled the plug.
N: Another popular show you’re a part of on a recurring basis is Mad Men on AMC. Are you set to come back for this upcoming final season?
RW: Actually, I don’t know really… when does the season start? No, It doesn’t seem so… I don’t think my character is going to be utilized anymore, although I wish that that would have happened, I think they could have utilized my character (Ed Baxter, father of Ken Cosgrove’s fiancee) a little bit more, he was the Chief Financial officer of Dow Corning, and I think that they could have had a storyline there, and I guess they chose not. I don’t know that I’ll be on any more or not.
N: The Mad Men production team seems to be a fan of all things Twin Peaks; not only have you guest-starred, but so has Madchen Amick, and also Twin Peaks directors Tim Hunter and Lesli Linka Glatter have directed episodes of Mad Men.
RW: Yeah, well, I think (Mad Men creator) Matt Weiner was a fan of Twin Peaks, as were a lot of people in the business, and there has always been a lot of curiosity towards anyone who was associated with Twin Peaks, and what we accomplished with that series, and there’s always been a great curiosity with certain creators to work with anyone involved with the show.
N: So for my last real question… this is a pretty esoteric question in relation to Twin Peaks, and maybe only three people in the world could answer it; Twin Peaks creators David Lynch and Mark Frost… and you. I really love your performance as Leland Palmer in not only the series, but also Fire Walk With Me. I’ve always had a theory, because of the way you played Leland Palmer, not just as a victimizer, but also as a victim himself. Was Leland also molested as a child, in the same way that he molested (and later murdered) his daughter Laura? I’ve always felt you gave Leland a certain amount of sympathy, despite the horrible things he does, and I wondered if it was because you saw him as a victim as well.
RW: Well, if that’s your feeling you took away from it, then that’s your feeling, then no one can argue it. I’m not going to say you’re wrong. It was never specifically in my mind that he’d also been abused as a child, I always sort of went with the supernatural aspect of it, of being possessed by some evil that could not be easily defined (in this case, the demonic entity BOB) something that had a basis in his past, in his past reality. I sort of took it to more of a surreal level.
N: Part of the reason I’ve always thought this was because in Leland’s death scene (in episode 17 of the series) once BOB vacates Leland’s body and he remembers everything he’d done, he mentions BOB coming to him as a child, and I wondered if this was a metaphor for maybe his own abuse, something he would then do to his daughter. You know, the idea that perpetrators of incest were once victims themselves.
RW: Oh, when he mentions that he (BOB) came to visit me as a child? Yeah, momentarily, when it came time to do that scene, that was a momentary thing, the talking about his childhood. But it was never a fixed thing in my mind throughout the whole show. That was the thing about playing Leland on Twin Peaks. I never knew what would happen from week to week… we took on the series one show at a time and one day at a time, and it was just something special. And whatever you get out of it is what you get out of it.
N: Recently you made Twin Peaks fans pretty excited when you mentioned having shot something with David Lynch for the upcoming Twin Peaks Blu-rays. I don’t want you to reveal anything specific, but do Twin Peaks fans have something to look forward to in 2014?
RW: Well, I think I can say I shot a little something with David (Lynch), something of a sit-down with Grace Zabriskie and Sheryl Lee. And there will be other surprises.