The world was introduced to the luminous and beautiful Sheryl Lee as a body, “Dead… wrapped in plastic.” Yes, who killed Laura Palmer was on nearly everybody’s lips when David Lynch and Mark Frost’s groundbreaking series “Twin Peaks” aired back in 1990. While the series helped ignite a few careers, audiences couldn’t help but be drawn to the tragic character that led to a cultural phenomenon. Laura was a wild child who had a secret. She frequently used cocaine, hung out with some questionable men named Jacques and had a deadly admirer/stalker named Bob. Yet it was the effervescent Ms. Lee and her undeniably infectious laugh that helped make this character a pop icon.
Thankfully within the series Lee made an equally strong impression as Laura’s brunette cousin Maddy Ferguson. The actress was able to once again charm the hell out of audiences and was featured in what is arguably one of the most disturbing scenes ever aired on television. Considering that this was on CBS - a station known for playing it safe – this particular scene with Ray Wise sent more than a few chills up my spine. If you’ve never seen it, you are missing out on one really f*cking scary bit of television history. However, after the question of who killed Laura was revealed, the series was untimely cancelled and Laura’s story had finally been complete… or had it?
While Ms. Lee found work outside of this small coffee and pie loving town including a couple of episodes of the erotically charged “Red Shoe Diaries” plus a TV movie called “Love, Lies and Murder.” As well she even showed up as the “The Good Witch” in David Lynch’s brilliantly colorful WILD AT HEART with Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern. Happily her fans were about to get a whole lot more insight on the small town sweetheart thanks to Lynch’s brilliantly bizarre TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME in 1992. While the series itself was wild and weird, it was tame in comparison to the feature film. Artful and strange, Lee gave one hell of a performance as Laura Palmer only a few days before her violent demise in this cinematic prequel to the series.
Over the next few years the striking blonde beauty appeared in a number of smaller features including the 1994 Beatles inspired drama BACKBEAT (1994) as well as another sexually charged flick BLISS (1997) opposite Craig Sheffer. Yet it was in the John Carpenter directed VAMPIRES (1998) where she once again faced some maniacal madmen, although this time they were the undead kind as opposed to the supernaturally possessive ones. While the critics weren’t too kind to the film, it has since garnered somewhat of a cult following thanks to some scene-chewing from James Woods as well as the film’s baddie Valek, played by Thomas Ian Griffith. Personally this horror-western wasn’t on target the first time out, but after a few years have passed I’ve grown kind of fond of this bloody little flick. And Sheryl Lee is absolutely scrumptious here.
During the 90’s and well into the new millennium, Lee remained pretty busy. The actress had appeared in the short lived series “L.A. Doctors” from 1998-1999 as well as a 9 episode arch on the series “One Tree Hill” as Ellie Harp from 2005-2006. She also starred in the mini-series “Kingpin” which debuted on NBC in 2003. While they were hoping to create a weekly series around it, the low ratings didn’t help and thus, it wasn’t meant to be. In 2007, she took over the role of Andrea Darling originally played in the pilot by Brooke Smith on the ABC series “Dirty Sexy Money.” While the series seemed like it might be a success, the WGA writer’s strike certainly didn’t do it any favors – of course neither did the dwindling ratings.
After all these years, “Twin Peaks” still inspired some serious love from its fans. One of which happened to be James Roday, star of the hit USA Network series “Psych.” The actor is also one of that show’s producers and he often experiments with some very quirky and pop culturally influenced episodes. So much so that in 2010, the wonderfully clever ‘Duel Spires’ premiered - an episode Roday co-wrote - and was a bit of a mini-reunion for a few “Twin Peaks” cast members. With Dana Ashbrook, Ray Wise, Robyn Lively, Lenny von Dohlen, Sherilyn Fenn and the “Log Lady” herself Catherine E. Coulson inspiring nostalgia goodness, Lee joined the cast as well as a very different type of character, Dr. Donna Gooden. If you are a “Twin Peaks” fan and you have yet to see this particular episode, it is a wonderfully witty homage and is not to be missed.
NOW: Sheryl Lee’s Laura Palmer may only be a distant memory to some, yet it’s is a lasting one. For television audiences, Lee has become much more than a pretty prom picture featured at the end credits of a cult hit. Over the past few years the actress appeared in the critically acclaimed Academy Award nominated WINTER’S BONE in 2010. She lent her incredibly sexy voice to the popular video game Bio-Shock 2 in 2010. She also appeared in the Anchor Bay Films feature TEXAS KILLING FIELDS alongside an impressive group of actors including Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jessica Chastain and Chloe Grace Moretz.
According to her Wikipedia page, the actress is very involved as an environmental activist. The silver screen beauty is also married to Jesse Diamond (singer/songwriter Neil Diamond’s son). The two have a son named Elijah. Lucky for us she is still working and can next be seen in the new film from Gregg Araki (THE DOOM GENERATION, MYSTERIOUS SKIN) entitled WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD based on the novel by Laura Kasischke. We should be hearing a little bit about this Indie flick considering the soon to be massive Shailene Woodley stars along with Eva Green, Christopher Meloni and Shiloh Fernandez (from this year’s EVIL DEAD remake). After that, according to IMDB she is set to star in THE REDEEMER, a psychological thriller.
Sheryl Lee is an absolute beauty that of course will forever be remembered as the troubled Laura Palmer. Thankfully, she has proven throughout her career that she is much more than a missing diary with ripped out pages. I’m very much looking forward to WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD and yes, possibly re-watching my copy of Twin Peaks: The Complete Series (The Definitive Gold Edition) right after I finish writing this article.