We Talked to Sherilyn Fenn About Playing Audrey Horne from 'Twin Peaks'
"When my brothers saw the show, they said I was just like her, such a little brat."
Illustration: Owain Anderson
In the second season of Twin Peaks, Audrey Horne attempts to strangle minor sleaze character Emory Battis with the cord of a vacuum cleaner. Gasping for breath, Battis calls her "insane," and Horne just laughs. "I'm insane? I'm Audrey Horne, and I get what I want."
Audrey, who finally returned to the show this week, is the daughter of morally bankrupt and financially wealthy Benjamin Horne. She might still be a teenager in the original Twin Peaks series, but she is already confident and emotionally complex. She is Veruca Salt with a beauty mark. Her eyebrows are shaped into deathly high arches because having a raised eyebrow is her default setting. With saddle shoes and a thick dark bob, she sways precociously through the first few episodes. There's the moment when she stabs a pencil through a styrofoam cup, pulling it out and letting the liquid run everywhere, just to be obstinate. She also tells a room of her father's potential clients—while slinking like a brat along the wall—that her friend Laura has just been murdered. Everything Audrey Horne does is magnetic.
"When my brothers saw the show, they said I was just like her, such a little brat."—Sherilyn Fenn
Sherilyn Fenn, the actor who plays her, still loves the character as much as Twin Peaks fans. She credits Audrey's success to putting so much of herself into the character, although she was 24 at the time of getting the role and Audrey was just 17. "David [Lynch] wrote the role for me after we met," she said. "I was having issues with my own father and men in general. I was absolutely wanting to be in love. I was learning my own power as a woman in her early 20s, which you can see in Audrey. When my brothers saw the show, they said I was just like her, such a little brat."
Audrey's sexual strength comes off as seeming worldly, coquettish, and innocent all at the same time. This contradiction is reflected in her fashion choices—she always wore lipstick and tight womanly sweaters but paired with schoolgirl style skirts, socks, and shoes. Fenn says the saddle shoes were a specific request of Lynch's, and her pink sweater was instructed to be bunched "tighter and tighter until it pretty much broke." Every straight guy you've ever dated probably had a crush on Audrey Horne, and every girl has wanted her hair. But Fenn insists this wasn't forced on her part. "I remember Roy [London, her acting teacher] used to joke 'Did we ever work on sexy Sherilyn?' and I said 'Of course not.' Later on in the show some of the other girls started doing what they thought I was doing, but I was never trying to be sexy. There's nothing less sexy than trying to be sexy. Sexy is an intangible thing—it's authentic, someone who's joyful, whose heart is open."
"Audrey wasn't another bad girl. Her threat was not overt; it was wanting what she wanted."—Fenn
That may be the case, but it's undeniable that Audrey had a sensual energy different to that of the average Twin Peaks 17-year-old. She knows how to tie a cherry stem with her tongue. When she's at the RR Diner after meeting Agent Dale Cooper for the first time, she seems transcendental. "Do you like coffee?" she asks, running her finger around the rim of the cup. "I love this music. Isn't it too dreamy?" she adds, getting up to dance in the middle of the diner, while Donna can only look on awkwardly.
"But Audrey wasn't another bad girl," Fenn points out. "She wasn't doing cocaine every weekend. I'm glad she was demure in some way. She was a virgin when we meet her so her threat was not overt; it was wanting what she wanted. It was: 'Oh my God! I'm nearly out from under my father's wing, and I'm going to have a beautiful life. I'm going to make it happen.'"
Instead, the bad girl of Twin Peaks was dead Laura Palmer. She acted as a mirror for the girl Audrey could have been—doing drugs, sleeping with numerous men, going off the proverbial rails. Fenn agrees with this, calling the pair "equally haunted and equally lonely."
"It's important to have some people who stay toward light; not everybody has to go toward dark." she says. "In a weird way, Audrey was a part of that, and I'm pleased."
"Dale was so different from Ben, and he did everything the right way and by the book. He's an honorable man and the polar opposite of her daddy."—Fenn
Some of that influence came from her infatuation with older men such as Agent Dale Cooper. Fenn says that the relationship was never planned by Lynch, and that Audrey was supposed to be going off with someone else's character. But the second Fenn as Audrey saw him, it was fate. "I never really crushed on Kyle MacLachlan [the actor who plays Agent Dale Cooper], but when Audrey spotted Cooper, it was all over, it was done. When I see him now, I still get giggly for Audrey. He is her one true love, absolutely." This forced Audrey to show bravery and pragmatism that none of the other characters in the show possess, such as when she selflessly goes undercover as a sex worker at One Eyed Jacks. Her character experiences the biggest growth of them all, losing the insolence that makes her great but replacing it with imaginative grit. "I think that's the way that love always matures us," says Fenn. "She was going to get it together because Cooper was an older man; she had to let go of childish things. Audrey was being bold for high school girls. She was putting herself in mortal danger for the man she thought she was in love with. To me, that really spoke to how desperate she was to get away from her family."
In particular, Audrey wanted to get away from her father. Everything about her attachment to Cooper screams daddy issues. You can see it in the way she switches from talking about her dad to Cooper within a sentence. Who can blame her? Ben Horne had an affair with Laura, a girl the same age as Audrey.
"Dale was so different from Ben, and he did everything the right way and by the book. He's an honorable man and the polar opposite of her daddy," says Fenn. "We walk through life trying to heal these relationships, don't we? I've seen it in people around me—if somebody's like our father or the opposite of him, we heal something. It's not a weird desire to sleep with your father; it's just a desire to heal things whether conscious or unconscious."
After weeks of new Twin Peaks episodes with Audrey nowhere to be seen, she's finally back, but where does Fenn think she'll be as the new season develops? "When we left her, she was full blown trying to escape, you know?" Fenn says. "It's always in her, this abandonment and this need to abandon; this feeling of I gotta get out of here, there's got to be better, there's got to be better than this. Maybe she's still searching. I think we search for ourselves until we take our final breath, in a lot of different ways. I hope she finds it."
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