When Showtime began announcing who would be starring in its Twin Peaks revival, which just kicked off this past Sunday, the list of actors spanned more than 200 names. There were tons of new faces, including Michael Cera, Ashley Judd, and Amanda Seyfried, but missing among them were series regulars like Michael Anderson, Heather Graham, Eric Da Re, Chris Mulkey, Piper Laurie, and, in a turn that allowed every fan to breathe a long, grateful sigh of joy, Joan Chen, who played mill heiress and narrative contrivance Josie Packard. No offense to Chen, who’s a fine actress, but Josie’s story lines were consistently the most soapy aspects of the original series, though the impenetrability of her demise—being bizarrely banished to the wood of The Great Northern—remains some of the best and most enduring weirdness to come out of the show.
Anonymous sources later revealed that Chen (and Laurie) weren’t included as director David Lynch simply “couldn’t find something for her or Piper Laurie that would make sense.” Those same sources also said Chen was “not upset about it.” That didn’t stop her, however, from reaching out to Lynch in a way that was sure to grab his attention. The Hollywood Reporter has obtained a letter to Lynch that Chen wrote entirely in character as Josie. You can read the whole thing at THR. It’s a trip.
As Chen told THR via email: “I was wandering in the aisles of American Apparel, waiting for my daughter to get done in the fitting room, when a young shop girl approached me and asked, ‘Are you Josie in Twin Peaks?’ I was quite shocked that she had seen Twin Peaks and could actually recognize me with my unadorned face decades after I appeared in the show. That was around the time when Twin Peaks was set to be revived. I thought it would be fun to write David as Josie’s spirit. I was sure that it would bring a smile to his face.”
“I write to you from the wooden drawer knob in which I have been trapped for the past two decades,” she writes, before saying that “the possibilities of who I shall become are as infinite as your fecund imagination.”
Here she seems to be referring to the numerous rumors of Josie’s continued journey on the show, which have floated throughout the internet for years now. It’s a smart move on Chen’s part to appeal to Lynch via these whispers, the likes of which feel very in step with the show’s current bizarro direction. See, Josie’s fate was supposed to steer viewers toward another bit of mythology Lynch and his writers hoped to cultivate, but never quite had the chance to.
First, there’s the fact that Josie was supposed to appear in the Black Lodge during the series’ finale. This was initially shared by Frank Silva, who played demonic spirit Bob, at a Twin Peaks Fest in 1993, and was later confirmed by Ben Horne actor Richard Beymer, who shared photos he took on set of Josie’s body double.
“Oftentimes, I think of Judy, my twin sister,” she continues before mentioning her being invading “Judy’s body like a parasite.” As fans of Fire Walk With Me know, Judy is a mysterious character referenced by David Bowie’s Phillip Jeffries. Later, a monkey says the name directly into the camera. No one knew quite what to make of it, but an interview with Fire Walk With Me co-writer Robert Engels in the Twin Peaks fanzine Wrapped In Plastic reveals that Chen is right in tying her fate to that of Judy’s.
Here’s an excerpt of the interview courtesy of the Twin Peaks Archive.
John Thorne: “Jeffries mentions the name ‘Judy’. Later in the film, there is a close-up of a monkey’s face, and it says ‘Judy’. Did you know who Judy was when you were writing the screenplay?”
Robert Engels: “Judy - the name is [from] my sister-in-law. I think that is where it came from. The Thing behind Judy has to do with where David Bowie came from…”
Craig Miller: “We know that he was originally in Buenos Aires”
Robert Engels: Yes, exactly. He was down there, and that’s where Judy is. I think Joan Chen [Josie] is there, and I think Windom Earle is there. It is this idea that there are these portals around the world, and Phillip Jeffries had one hell of a trip to Buenos Aires and back! He really doesn’t want to talk about Judy because that reminds him of whatever happened to him. It’s really as simple as that. There was a thing that was going to happen with Josie and Windom and Judy. In our original planning of the prequel, there is a whole other section about all this. A whole other set of mythology that was going to be around Judy and Josie and where Windom Earle ended up.”
John Thorne: I did read an early draft of the script that has a line about Judy’s sister. Was that supposed to be Josie?
Robert Engels: Yes. Yes, I think that is true.
Wrapped In Plastic’s Thorne also spoke more of that early draft he read in a piece called “Judy, Judy, Judy.” Again courtesy of the Twin Peaks Archive, here’s what he had to say:
In an early draft (dated July 3rd, 1991) Phillip Jeffries first appears in a Buenos Aires hotel where the head clerk hands him a note from a “young lady.” Soon after, Jeffries appears in Cole’s office in Philadelphia where he tells the assembled agents he’s “not gonna talk about Judy.” Jeffries says, “I want to tell you everything, but I don’t have a lot to go on. But I’ll tell you one thing: Judy is positive about this.” Then Jeffries drops a fascinating detail: “Her sister’s there, too. At least part of her.”
This early draft of the script provides strong evidence that Judy was a living person whose note to Jeffries compelled him to go to Philadelphia to tell Cole, “everything.” (After all, “Judy is positive about this.”) This script also introduces a second mysterious person to identify – Judy’s sister. It is possible that this sister may be Josie Packard who “died” in the TV series but whose spirit seemed to live on in the walls (and drawers) of the Great Northern hotel.
Whether or not we find out whatever exactly is in Buenos Aires is still up in the air, but we know that Chen’s Josie won’t be there. Neither will Windom Earle, it appears, as actor Kenneth Welsh isn’t currently listed among the new season’s cast. You can read Chen’s entire appeal to Lynch here.