When Kristin Davis heard that Kyle MacLachlan would be playing her character Charlotte’s fiance on HBO’s saucy sitcom Sex and the City, she was a little nervous. ”I had a dark image of him from all the David Lynch stuff,” Davis says of her costar, best known for his roles in Lynch’s bizarre Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. ”But the character he plays [on Sex] is not dark — it’s much more like Kyle than like his persona.”
Charlotte can rest easy: MacLachlan portrays Dr. Trey McDougal, an Upper East Side-bred, Ivy League-educated heart surgeon who sweeps Davis’ doe-eyed socialite clean off her feet. ”It’s a very white knight kind of thing,” says the 41-year-old actor. Agrees Davis, ”He’s Prince Charming — the way we meet is out of a fairy book.” Whether there’s a happy ending remains to be seen; MacLachlan, who joins the show July 23, initially signed for 10 episodes but says that his run may be extended.
The bigger question is, what’s an actor who’s no stranger to gory strangeness doing on such a girly show? ”The story line the producers presented to me was interesting, a little different than the one-off the guys usually have,” he says over breakfast at a Greenwich Village greasy spoon. ”It also brought me here, and I love living in New York City, primarily because my girlfriend [publicist Desiree Gruber] is here.” Yup, he sure sounds like Prince Charming.
MacLachlan’s career began like a fairy tale — a grim one. The Yakima, Wash., native won a nationwide talent search (beating out Val Kilmer, with whom he’d later appear in The Doors, and Tom Cruise) to play the lead in Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of the sci-fi novel Dune. It was an intergalactic flop. ”I was so strongly identified with a huge failure,” he says. ”I had to start all over again.” After two years of unemployment, Lynch hired him to star in Blue Velvet, and the Oscar-nominated freak show put MacLachlan back on the Hollywood map.
The director tapped MacLachlan again for 1990’s Twin Peaks, casting him as Dale Cooper, an FBI agent who consumed copious amounts of coffee and pie. ”I rather enjoyed that,” he remembers, although he confesses, ”when you’re filming, you don’t really eat that much — you push the food around a lot.” The ABC curio’s quick flameout didn’t shock MacLachlan: During the show’s uneven second season, he says he ”began to feel frustrated with the direction — or the nondirection of it. I was ready to move on.”
MacLachlan’s post-Peaks resume has had its share of peaks (costarring with Samuel L. Jackson in HBO’s acclaimed Attica drama Against the Wall) and valleys (one word: Showgirls). ”It will be remembered,” MacLachlan figures wryly of the box office bust. ”Maybe not necessarily for the reasons it should have been, but it definitely provides a lot of entertainment.”
MacLachlan recently redeemed his big-screen career with a pair of avant-garde indies, playing a foppish Hollywood agent in Mike Figgis’ improv experiment Time Code and the stepfather of Ethan Hawke’s titular prince in Hamlet. The films have earned MacLachlan some of his best reviews in years, and, he says, ”They’ve provided me with a platform to reintroduce myself to Hollywood at a different place.”
MacLachlan is hoping Sex will raise his profile even higher. ”I’ve always been in people’s consciousness, but I’ve never really been in the forefront,” he says. ”Now that’s beginning to change.” He’s even mulling the possibility of starring in another TV series (at one point, he considered joining John Goodman in his upcoming Fox sitcom). ”There are so few that are worthwhile, but I’m hoping there’ll be that interesting one,” he says. ”Maybe even on HBO.” Agent Dale Cooper, meet Tony Soprano…