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Twin Peaks Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

It was a damn fine day on April 8, 1990 when David Lynch and Mark Frost's supernatural surrealist noir Twin Peaks premiered and changed the television landscape forever. Following FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachlan) and his assistant Diane (originally a tape recorder, now Laura Dern) into the wild northwest as he investigates the shocking murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), whose death begins peeling back not just her myriad secrets, but also those of the sleepy town of Twin Peaks. 

For a pair of wild seasons airing on TV for from 1990 to 1991, and then a 25 year later real-time revival in 2017 (which many refer to simply as "The Return," but come on, it's Season 3), Twin Peaks tested the boundaries of primetime storytelling with its quirky characters, odd but now-iconic dialogue, enigmatic events, many in service of unspooling the horrifying events that led to Laura's death. There might always be music in the air in Twin Peaks, but in the decades since its premiere, several members of the band are no longer with us. Diane, here are the Twin Peaks actors you may not know passed away. 

Warren Frost (Doc Hayward)

Underneath the idyllic veneer of Twin Peaks and its lush environment teems an entire world of nefarious people cooking up horrible new ways to hurt themselves and each other. But Doc Hayward wasn't one of them, even though from time to time he might have to put to words the details of these criminal actions, like when describing exactly what happened to Laura in the hours before her murder. 

Played by Warren Frost, Doc Hayward is a kindly patriarch whose living room is often a refuge for his daughters Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle), Gersten (Alicia Witt), and Harriet (Jessica Wallenfels) to make music and dance. His marriage to Eileen (Mary Jo Deschanel) has dissolved by the third season, fallout from the discovery that Donna might actually be local businessman and lech Benjamin Horne's (Richard Beymer) child courtesy of a wandering wife. Warren Frost, real-life father to Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost, died in February 2017 at the age of 91 after "a long illness." Even though Frost had retired from acting in 2000, he returned for a brief but meaningful on-screen appearance in Twin Peaks' third season.

Peggy Lipton (Norma Jennings)

As the owner of one of Twin Peaks' most beloved eateries, Norma Jennings also ends up being one of the shining lights in the strange darkness that shapes Twin Peaks. Played by legendary Mod Squad star (and Rashida Jones' mom) Peggy Lipton, Norma is a calm voice of reason and purveyor of exquisite pies in the wake of Laura Palmer's death and the unraveling of the town itself as its secrets are exposed one by one. Not that Norma doesn't have secrets of her own. 

Her suppressed love affair with Ed Hurley (Everett McGill) brings worlds of subtext to each order of breakfast and coffee as their long glances speak things only Ed and Norma understand — that is, until Agent Cooper's keen perception noticed. 

Thankfully, in Twin Peaks' third season, Norma and Ed were blessed with one of the few happy endings available in town — with Ed whispering "marry me?" as Otis Redding played on the soundtrack. That powerful scene, and her ageless beauty, made it all the more surprising when Lipton passed away in May 2019 after a struggle with cancer at the age of 72. Her appearance in Twin Peaks, appropriately enough, was her final performance.

Jack Nance (Pete Martell)

On February 24, 1989 local mill co-owner Pete Martell went down to the water for his regular gone fishin' session when he discovered a body on the shore, wrapped in plastic. 

Played by Jack Nance, who brought a strange naïveté to the role, Pete Martell was a doddering, forgetful, sometimes foolish local yokel. He was known to leave fish in the coffee percolator, much to the chagrin of his ill-tempered wife Catherine (Piper Laurie) who rarely hid disdain for her simpering partner. Pete also found himself caught between Catherine and their sister-in-law Josie Packard (Joan Chen), whose late husband had left her the lucrative mill as Catherine plotted to get it back under her control. 

Jack Nance was a longtime Lynch favorite, having starred in Eraserhead and Blue Velvet (Lynch even lobbied to have him play John Merrick in The Elephant Man) before Pete became his signature role. 

Much like his movies, Nance died in surreal fashion. His death by subdural hematoma in December of 1997 was ruled a homicide after he got into a drunken brawl with a group of strangers in a strip mall parking lot. He was only 53 years old. Old footage from the original pilot was used for Nance's posthumous appearance in Twin Peaks' third season.

Don Davis (Major Garland Briggs)

Things have always been weird in Twin Peaks, but with Major Garland Briggs, reality only got exponentially weirder.

Originally a pretty straightforward authority figure for son Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) to rebel against, Major Briggs eventually became the epicenter of alien activity in Twin Peaks, pulling the show into supernatural territory. The somber-faced military man mysteriously disappeared, leading to theories he was abducted by extraterrestrials or whatever entity runs the Black Lodge in the Twin Peaks woods. But before he vanished for good, he shared a beautiful vision of his son being successful and happy, which might have helped heal their troubles. It was one of the most beautiful scenes in the original Twin Peaks series, even if it does have much competition.

Since actor Don Davis passed away in June of 2008, by Twin Peaks' third season his work was more of a virtual reality. But it seems likely that he would have smiled at the notion that his straightlaced character eventually became a space-traveling spirit guide. Don Davis died unexpectedly at 65 of a heart attack, but we like to imagine that Major Briggs' ethereal energy is still wandering the world and revisiting Twin Peaks, no matter what year it is.

Catherine Coulson (Margaret Lanterman/The Log Lady)

In a town filled with eccentric characters, Margaret Lanterman (aka The Log Lady) might have arguably been the most beloved. If not, she certainly is among the most quoted.

Episode after episode, whenever Margaret uttered the words, "My log has something to tell you," viewers knew it would start Twin Peaks down another bizarre path. She seemed crazy, she seemed to only peripherally care about what was going on in town, but there was a unique sweetness that permeated her every scene.

While we never fully found out what drove the magic of Margaret's log, we did learn that she disappeared along with two other children when on a school trip once upon a time, and none were ever the same after. It was Margaret who offered Dale Cooper hints of what happened in the woods long before the evidence proved it, and Margaret was often seen mourning for an increasingly violent world that only made her retreat more from it. Catherine Coulson filmed Margaret's final, achingly powerful, scenes in Twin Peaks' third season before passing away in September of 2015, just after they aired. 

Married to Jack Nance from 1968 to 1976, Coulson was similarly a longtime Lynch loyalist who helped make Eraserhead — on the set of which he reportedly told her he'd had a vision of her holding a log and intended to write a character around it. It very well may have been the conception of Twin Peaks, and appropriately enough it came in a vision inspired by the Log Lady.

Frank Silva (BOB)

Scraggly grey-haired set dresser Frank Silva changed television history by chance. While David Lynch and Mark Frost always intended to reveal Laura Palmer's father Leland as the person who was sexually abusing her since she was a child and eventually murdered her, Twin Peaks also offers an alternate perception of Leland as BOB played by Silva, the creepy wild-faced stalker who has haunted fans of the show for decades now but first ended up on screen in a mirror reflection behind a grieving Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) by accident. Lynch loved this error and changed the plot on the spot, writing Frank Silva into the story then and there. 

Eventually the storytellers reveal that BOB is a demon spirit possessing Leland Palmer, forcing him to commit the atrocious crimes against his daughter (and eventually her doppelganger cousin Maddy) without his knowledge. Frank Silva actually died all the way back in 1995 of AIDS-related complications, which means he never knew just what a cultural footprint he left on American television or the millions of fans who still faithfully watch the show, even though he continues to terrify us.

Miguel Ferrer (Agent Albert Rosenfield)

Because Doc Hayward doubled as the medical examiner and his daughter Donna was best friends with Laura Palmer, Doc Hayward was unable to perform the autopsy on Laura's body himself. Agent Cooper called for reinforcements in Agent Albert Rosenfield, a terse but competent agent whose no-nonsense style immediately clashed with the more easygoing ways of the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department. Played by character actor legend Miguel Ferrer, Albert was tough, but allowed himself softer moments from time to time, like when he tried to make nice with Sheriff Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) by telling Harry he loved him.

While Albert's methods are certainly by-the-book, he does make exceptions for his outside-the-box colleagues Cooper and Gordon Cole (Lynch) whose thinking often veered into the realm of the bizarre. Miguel Ferrer returned to reprise his snarky role as Agent Rosenfield in Twin Peaks' third season before his death in January 2017 of throat cancer at the age of 61.

John Boylan and Tony Jay (Mayor Dwayne Milford and Dougie Milford)

"Is this thing on?!" are the first words we hear from Mayor Dwayne Milford in Twin Peaks' first episode. They are also the second, third, fourth, and several more as we listen to the inept Mayor fail to get control of the town hall meeting regarding Laura Palmer's tragic death. It takes Margaret Lanterman switching the lights on and off to finally get the crowd to settle down. 

While Mayor Milford pops in and out of the show for its two seasons, it's not until the end of the second that he becomes a plot point, after his brother and Twin Peaks Gazette owner Dougie married a very young woman named Lana Budding (Robyn Lively), only for him to drop dead of a heart attack on his wedding night. Blaming Lana, Mayor Milford tried to kill Lana until the moment they fell in love and planned to get married. Sometimes, it's easy to forget that Twin Peaks has some seriously funny moments. 

Mayor Milford actor John Boylan passed away in November of 1994 of unnamed causes at the age of 82 and long before Twin Peaks became the cult classic it is now. Dougie actor Tony Jay has also passed away. Jay died in August 2006 after lung cancer complications at 73, but unlike his television brother, he did actually get to see Twin Peaks become a social and cultural phenomenon before his passing.

Dan O'Herlihy (Andrew Packard)

From the very start of Twin Peaks we know that Catherine Martell is absolutely up to no good, whether its her affair with Ben Horne or her machinations to take over the mill her brother Andrew left to Josie. But it's not until deep into the second season that the double crossings turn into triple and quadruple crossings as long-dead Andrew is revealed to have faked his death in order to protect himself from the villainous Thomas Eckhardt (David Warner) who did actually try to kill Andrew. 

While this might have been one of the more convoluted Twin Peaks' subplots, keep in mind that this was a show that loved playing with the trappings of a soap opera. As folks in this particular web of deceit started dropping dead, the repercussions were huge for others including Sheriff Truman, who had been involved in his own torrid affair with Josie. Andrew Packard actor Dan O'Herlihy, a screen and stage legend of his own right, passed away in February of 2005 of undisclosed issues at the age of 85.

Michael Parks (Jean Renault)

One of the main organized crime families in Twin Peaks, aside from the Hornes, is the pack of Renault brothers, led by Jean. These brothers were heavily involved in both drug and human trafficking through Twin Peaks, and Jaques played a huge role in the events leading up to Laura Palmer's murder. As the plot got more convoluted by the end of the second season, Jean Renault emerged as a key figure in several different narrative threads until Agent Dale Cooper shot him and his goons, removing the Renaults from the story altogether, at least until Jean-Michel Renault's (Walter Olkewicz) brief return in the Twin Peaks revival. 

Played by prolific character actor Michael Parks (known for his turns in Kill Bill, From Dusk Till Dawn, Red State, and many more) Jean Renault had that special kind of controlled creepy that was Parks' acting signature. Parks passed away in May 2017 of unreported causes at the age of 77.

Frances Bay (Mrs. Tremond)

Some of the most fascinating characters appearing in Twin Peaks are those whose supernatural presence defied logic and reason, even as they became vital pieces of the puzzle. Mrs. Tremond was an extremely complicated resident of Twin Peaks as she was one of the first Meals on Wheels customers Laura had after setting up the program with Norma. Mrs. Tremond also was present in one of the strangest moments the series captured on film: When Donna brings her creamed corn and she absolutely freaked out as the cream corn disappeared from her plate and re-appeared in her nephew's hands. Garmonbozia!

When Donna relayed this story to Agent Cooper and they returned to the house, another woman was there calling herself Mrs. Tremond, and there was no sign of the grandson. Super spooky. 

Her role deepened hugely (and terrifyingly) in the Twin Peaks movie prequel Fire Walk With Me. Mrs. Tremond actress Frances Bay, who began her career at 60 and had notable roles in shows like Seinfeld and films like Happy Gilmore, passed away from illness complications at the age of 92. 

Harry Dean Stanton (Carl Rodd)

As the manager and co-owner of the Fat Trout Trailer Park, Carl Rodd's involvement in the Twin Peaks universe actually began in the movie prequel Fire Walk With Me, where we learned that BOB's first victim Teresa Banks had lived there for a time.

A hardworking, decent fellow who had a difficult life but did his best to do good with what he had, Carl evolved into a standout character in Twin Peaks. This gave the legendary Harry Dean Stanton some moments to truly shine in the third season, including a heartbreaking scene revolving around the death of a small child.

After decades of appearing in everything from Cool Hand Luke to Paris, Texas to The AvengersStanton died in September of 2017 of natural causes at the age of 91, a long time to have gifted the world with so many remarkable performances, including one of his last as Carl Rodd in Twin Peaks.

Robert Forster (Sheriff Frank Truman)

When Sheriff Harry Truman actor Michael Ontkean decided not to come out of retirement for Twin Peaks third season, David Lynch rectified the situation by creating a brother for Harry named Frank. He was played by Robert Forster, a stoic star whose presence had made its mark in everything from Medium Cool to The Black Hole before Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown brought him back for a celebratory final lap through Hollywood.

In the story, Harry had left town for cancer treatment and Frank agreed to be interim sheriff for two years before passing the baton onto Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse). Frank was calm and observant, and we found out that he and his wife had suffered a terrible trauma that put a huge strain on their relationship and frequently spilled over into Frank's work. 

One of Forster's best moments in the third season was his befuddled amusement at meeting Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Andy's (Harry Goaz) pretentious son Wally Brando (Michael Cera), a new classic moment of Twin Peaks. Much-beloved Robert Forster died in October 2019 after a short struggle with brain cancer at the age of 78, making Twin Peaks' third season one of his final on-screen performances. 

Clark Middleton (Charlie)

In many ways Twin Peaks' third season was worlds more enigmatic than seasons one and two thanks to each episode being written and directed by Lynch himself, and it is characters like Clark Middleton's mysterious Charlie who adds to these new truths about the show.

When we first met Charlie it was also the first time we saw the iconic Audrey Horne again 25 years later, and she wasn't at all like we remembered her. Hysterically berating her "milquetoast" husband Charlie, the two of them kept trying to leave the house, then wouldn't, talking in circles that led fans to believe Audrey was trapped in some sort of purgatory. 

Did any of this actually happen? Later in the season we got a flash of Audrey in what may have been a mental health ward, reinforcing the possibility that Middleton's Charlie never even existed. Wow BOB wow. Tragically, Clark Middleton passed away in October of 2020 of West Nile Virus at the age of 63.

Linda Porter (Lady Slot-Addict)


Since its inception, Twin Peaks was always a story about doubles and dopplegangers, mirror images of its characters that have driven the plot in major ways, from Laura Palmer's identical cousin Maddy (also played by Sheryl Lee) to the multiple Dale Coopers we find by the time the third season gets rolling. One theory posed by Twin Peaks' third season is that these doubles share souls even as they have separate physical shells that link them by appearance. One version of Dale Cooper famously emerged into the body of Dougie Jones in Las Vegas, and the confused tulpa found himself lost in a casino where he began playing slots and winning big. 

While there, Dougie met a somewhat surly woman who came to call him "Mr. Jackpots." Although credited only as Lady Slot-Addict, she had a sweet connection with Kyle MacLachlan's near-mute simpleton, and when we saw her again toward the end of Season 3 she had used her winnings to turn her life around in one of Twin Peaks' rare happy endings. Character acting legend Linda Porter passed away in September 2019 after a long fight against cancer.

Brent Briscoe (Det Macklay)

It's almost easy to forget that amid all the doppelgangers and surrealism and quirky oddities that makes up Twin Peaks' world, the show is fundamentally a crime story. In Season 3, one of the new crimes being investigated by Detective Dave Macklay and his fellow officers is that of the mysterious death of Ruth Davenport, which leads Macklay to his old high school friend and now-principal Bill Hastings (Matthew Lillard). 

Both Lillard and Macklay actor Brent Briscoe gave tour-de-force performances in an interrogation scene Lillard would later call the "hardest scene I've ever shot."

Macklay also had the dubious honor of being present for one of Twin Peaks most gruesome moments, and that's really saying something: when Bill Hastings' head explodes in the car as they are investigating the site where Ruth Davenport may have been killed, it's a gnarly jump-scare that Peaks fans will never forget.

Sadly, Brent Briscoe died unexpectedly in October of 2017 after an accidental fall that led to internal bleeding and heart problems. He was only 56 years old. Along with all the actors listed above, we're thankful for the entertaining moments they gave us.