The dark, mysterious FBI agent who strolled into "Twin Peaks" to discover who killed Lara Palmer strolled into Cache Valley nine years ago to play the romantic leads in three Old Lyric Repertory Company productions.
Kyle McLachlan, who plays agent Dale Cooper on "Twin Peaks," head the same impact on Cache Valley audiences that he's had on "Twin Peaks" fans."A lot of female audience members were very taken by him," said Gary Bird, a theater professor at Utah State University. "I had a lot of comments from women: `Gee, I fell in love with him,' `That guy is really attractive. Where did you find him?' The kinds of things a director hopes he's going to hear."
"He looked wonderful on sate, and he's got a hell of a lot of talent," said USU Professor Vosco Call.
Both men directed McLachlan in the Lyric's 1981 season.
Mclachlan and the rest of the "Twin Peaks" crowd will return Sunday at 8 p.m. on Ch. 4 for the two-hour season premiere of the series - a premiere that promises to answer the question "Who killed Laura Palmer?"
McLachlan came to Cache Valley in June, 1981, after finishing his sophomore year in the acting program at the University of Washington.
He left 11 weeks later with his first three lead roles typed on his resume. McLachlan played leads in "The Fantastiks," "Arsenic and Old Lace" and "She Stoops to Conquer" at the Lyric Theater that summer.
Those leads represented a change of direction for McLachlan. He had played character roles in several high school productions and some college productions. But never a lead role, Call remembered.
Other directors saw McLachlan as a character actor, but when Call saw McLachlan audition, he saw lead material.
"He has a certain charismatic charm," Call said. "You look for someone who can `take stage,' some who will attract some attention. Kyle did."
Three USU directors cast Kyle as the lead in their plays that summer.
Three lead roles to carry three nights a week for 11 weeks was a heavy task for a college sophomore still new to the world of theater.
"Kyle was a little nervous about whether he had the charisma to carr off there leading roles," Call said.
USU professors remember McLachlan as a serius, hard-working actor with a likeable low-key style and an impressive willingness to take direction.
"He was a very charming young man who was very easy to get along with," Bird said. "You find that the ones who don't work well with people. They get cast once, but they don't get recast. I think that is why Kyle is so successful. He's easy to work with and so a director is likely to say, `Let's work together again,' which is obiviously what happened with him and David Lynch."
"He's basically a fairly quiet, laid back fellow. He's not one to exhibit him exibit himself," Call said.
Mclachlan takes theater very seriously, which is what makes him so successful in "Twin Peaks," Call believes.
"John Wayne is always John Wayne. But Kyle McLachlan isn't like that. he has range. I think that's one of the reasons for his success. He can get subtleties of characterization and hit a lot of variatios on the scale of emotions."
Call doesn't particularly care for "Twin Peaks," but he watches it occasionally to see Kyle. "Kyle had a real sparkle in his eye. You could see wit there." The campy "Twin Peaks" gives Mclachlan a chance to display that humor. "I see a little more of that I-know-a-joke-you-don't in "Twin Peaks" than I saw in his films," Call said.
McLachlan's career took off after leaving Cache Valley. A year later, the sophomore who worried about wheater he could carry a lead in Cache Valley played Romeo at the nationally acclaimed oregon Shakespearian FEstival in Ashland, Ore., Call said. Immediately after that, he was cast as the lead in the movie version of "Dune."
He later played a lead in a David Lynch film, "Blue Velvet." That association with Lynch lead to the "Twin Peaks" role. Lynch is an executive producer and creator of the series.
McLachlan's lifestyle undoubtedly improved after leaving Cache Valle. It had nowhere to go but up.
Actors in the Lyric Company were paid $650 for 11 weeks of work in the summer of 1981, Call said. That averaged out to $59 a week from which food and rent had to be paid for.
Until all shows were running, the actors worked 12 hours a day seven days a week, Call said. Their first day off didn't come until a month into the season.
"We are talking about very difficult summer," Call said. To help keep the acotrs alive "we had a lot of company meals at director's homes and that kind of thing.'
Mclachlan is one of two Lyric alumni to achieve television acclaim. The other, Tony soper, had a starring role in the miniseries 'Evergreen.:" soper was also casti int he pilot for "L.A. Law."
"Tony didn't thing the show would als so he took another job. What a shame ," Call said.