Off camera, Kyle MacLachlan seems about as wholesome and all-American as the cherry pie his FBI character loved on the 1990-’91 classic Twin Peaks. “I always go with the golden rule — treat people the way you want to be treated — and lead with kindness,” Kyle, 61, tells the latest issue of Closer, on newsstands now.
The actor is also a bit of an anomaly in Hollywood: He’s been married to TV producer Desiree Gruber, 53, for 18 years, and is a doting dad to their son, Callum, 12. “Desiree and I share a lot of the same values. We both always had confidence, [but] growing up, we were both kind of nerds,” he says with a laugh.
Yet Kyle’s starred in a lot of very cool projects, from his first films Dune and Blue Velvet to the hit show Sex and the City and his latest film Tesla, in which he plays Thomas Edison. His characters may often be as straight-laced as his Yakima, Washington, upbringing, but they’ve served him well, earning him a 1991 Golden Globe for Peaks and helping him maintain a 36 -year film career. As Kyle sees it, “I think there’s value in not being the cool kid.”
How’s life been for you these days, Kyle?
We’re on a national parks tour. We’ve visited 10, and I think it’s a wonderful thing to do as a family, particularly now. We can’t travel anywhere else, so why not see our country? There are silver linings in everything, and one is the family time we’ve been able to embrace. It’s nice my wife and I still get along after these months! [Laughs]
A lot of people know you from Twin Peaks. What was that experience like?
I don’t think any of the cast anticipated that it would be more than a two-hour movie. We were all excited that David Lynch was doing something on TV, like the inmates would take over the asylum! I felt connected to the character straight away. It was the talk of the town, and then as quickly as it came, it went. In the second season, we solved the mystery [of who killed Laura Palmer], and there wasn’t a compelling follow-up story.
Was it odd rebooting the show in 2017?
There was never a plan to resurrect it. The drumbeat for the revival started with fans who remembered Laura saying, “I’ll see you in 25 years.” It was really interesting to return to, because of the challenges of the three or four roles that I played.
Lynch cast you as the lead in the 1984 sci-fi film Dune when you were unknown.
Nothing could prepare me for that! I was working in Seattle in a play for $185 a week, preparing to go to New York and work in repertory theater. Then I met a casting agent searching for an unknown actor to play the role. She put me on tape and they flew me to L.A. I didn’t know what a screen test was, and I’d never been in front of a camera. I was so naive. But I knew [Frank Herbert’s] book so well, from when I was 15, that I almost had it memorized. So here I was at 23, playing someone I’d always fantasized I was. It was so, so strange.
What was it like to be on hits like Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives?
It was amazing, with smart people on both — the writing staff and the actresses. With Housewives, I so enjoyed working with Marcia Cross. She’s a Juilliard grad, I’m from a similar program at the University of Washington, so when the acting starts to heat up and you can really have fun with the other person, it was such a pleasure.
And then there was Showgirls, a notorious NC-17 bomb that gained a huge cult following. Any regrets?
[Laughs] Yeah, probably regrets, but there’s plenty of other stuff to balance it out. It’s entertaining. I don’t think it was necessarily meant to be in that particular way, but hey, people are enjoying themselves, so why not?
We hear you have a wine label?
I have a little brand called Pursued by Bear, and I make wine in Walla Walla, Washington with my winemaker. I started because it’s in my neighborhood, sort of, and I was missing my dad. I thought it would bring me back home and I could involve him a bit. Our first vintage was in 2005. He passed in 2011, but we had a good six years of hanging out and having fun.
That’s nice. You just finished the series Carol’s Second Act, and now you’re back to prestige indie films with the biopic Tesla. What inspired you to play Thomas Edison?
I was thrilled to play Edison. He’s such a fascinating character, such a powerful and influential person still. [Director] Michael Almereyda wanted to do a film about Nikola Tesla for a long time, and in some ways, I feel he was just waiting for Ethan [Hawke] and I to be old enough to play these roles! [Laughs] We worked with him on [the film] Hamlet in 2000.
Is that around the time you met Desiree?
It’s been, gosh, since April of ‘99. We met at a chiropractor’s office in L.A. I had injured my back and was going through traction therapy. We chatted a bit, but I was probably too shy to get her number. That evening, we both happened to be at the Talk magazine launch party. I was like, whoa! We had an appointment the following Monday at the same time at the chiropractor, so it seemed like the universe kept putting us in each other’s face, and I think I was mature enough to listen. [Laughs] She lived in New York, but I got the Sex and the City role that brought me there, so we were helped along.
You’ve been married since 2002. What’s your secret?
We’re very patient and respectful with each other — she’s probably much more patient than I am. She’s also incredibly smart and wise, and very pragmatic.
How has fatherhood changed you?
You don’t realize when that little being is born, it’s like a door that suddenly opens, and you have this chamber in your heart capable of a love that you didn’t know existed. I love my son more than anything. It’s bigger than I could have imagined.
What are your biggest life lessons?
Try to understand where the other person is coming from. Until you walk in their shoes, you don’t know their experience, so don’t be quick to judge. I try to live by those.
Find this story and more in the latest issue of Closer, on newsstands now!
Reporting by Diana Cooper