Twin Peaks Actor Takes on the Immortal Question: Is James Hurley Cool?

Image Credit: Lynch/Frost Productions
Image Credit: Lynch/Frost Productions

James Marshall, who plays wannabe bad boy James Hurley on Twin Peaks, finally had a chance to share his opinion on a debate that has consumed the show’s fandom for decades. Is Laura Palmer’s former beau cool?


James Hurley is one of the first people we meet on Twin Peaks. He’s got a leather jacket, a motorcycle, and he wants you to think he has a bad attitude. But in reality, as we quickly learn, James is a big ol’ softie, the good boy to Bobby Brigg’s (Dana Ashbrook) criminality, just a mess of tears, big feelings, and falsetto love ballads. He was central to the plot as the story of Twin Peaks began, but as the show drifted further away from the murder of Laura Palmer, James became increasingly irrelevant. By the middle of season two, he gets himself involved in some kind of confusing noir plot about a middle aged woman that I don’t remember nor understand.

And yet, through all of this, the show plays James entirely seriously. David Lynch clearly has a powerful love for his James Dean archetype. On the second episode of Twin Peaks: The Return, returning character Shelly (Mädchen Amick) says the unthinkable: “James is cool. James was always cool.”

Was he, though? Was he really, Shelly? James’s very existence feels a little like a practical joke being played on the audience by David Lynch, a surreal subversion of coolness itself. What if we were wrong? What if he was always cool?

Talking to Vulture, James Marshall finally had a chance to answer the question himself. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think of myself that way or the character that way, thinking of yourself as tough. The tough guy. That’s other people’s opinions.”

There you have it, folks. Not even James’ actor will defend his coolness.

He then went on to shed some interesting light on the troubled production of the original run of Twin Peaks, which famously went a bit off the rails after both Mark Frost and David Lynch stepped back from day-to-day involvement in the series during season two.


“I didn’t have the strength at the time as an actor to hold my own, so the character kind of went funny,” he said. “Initially, these directors and writers stayed true to what the character was, but it still wasn’t handled right. It just wasn’t handled the way David would’ve handled it.”

So, maybe James isn’t as cool as he should’ve been. But it’s not his fault. At least he’ll always have Shelly on his side.



io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.


What about Wally though?