What's Special Agent Dale Cooper up to these days? He's delivering knee-slapping one liners on primetime TV.
"Twin Peaks" fans may not believe it, but Kyle MacLachlan has proven his comedic chops on the new CBS series "Carol's Second Act." MacLachlan shot to fame in the early 1990s as Cooper, a handsome FBI agent determined to solve the murder of high school student Laura Palmer. He landed a few more iconic roles on "Desperate Housewives," "Sex and the City," and even tried a few amusing roles on "How I Met Your Mother" and "Portlandia." But now he is trying out funny full-time with a live studio audience as Dr. Stephen Frost, a senior physician who is looking after a new group of interns, including 50-something Carol Kenney, played by sitcom veteran Patricia Heaton.
Now a retired teacher whose kids have flown the nest, Kenney is pursuing her "second act" and becoming a doctor. Her age is a running joke throughout the show.
Acting in front of a live audience is a thrill, MacLachlan told Townhall. And, as it turns out, even theater vets who have been acting for 35 years still get nervous.
"This is a new arena for me - the half hour world," the actor admits. "I've never done live tape. I've done theater, of course, and it does resemble theater. But it is a kind of different animal."
"The half hour sitcom is a really delicate balance between the chemistry of the cast members, the writing staff, the story, theme we're trying to say," he continued. "And if anything gets slightly out of whack, it doesn't work."
And MacLachlan confesses there have been plenty of mistakes throughout filming thus far, which can explain why they have "a built in blooper reel."
But, he thought, if he's going into this new TV world, there's "no better person" to do it with than Patty Heaton. And why not? She has a great track record. Two of her prior sitcoms in which she had a starring role, "Everybody Loves Raymond," and "The Middle," were both massive hits.
If anyone knows the "magical formula," MacLachlan said, it's Heaton. And if the past 20 years have taught us anything, it's that her comedic timing is legendary.
"These are all things I don't do," he laughed. "So it's been a process."
He could've fooled me. MacLachlan's delivery, particularly in his scenes with Heaton, is perfect. He eventually admitted as much.
"It's a lot of fun. I've surprised myself. And I think I've surprised some of the writers too, that I can actually deliver a joke. I don't know what they were expecting, but hopefully I'm exceeding expectations."
You are, Kyle. And that's not just me saying it. "Carol's Second Act" has scored top ratings in a competitive time slot and among key demographics.
This isn't the first time MacLachlan has put on a pair of scrubs. On "Sex and the City," he played a heart surgeon. He then portrayed a dentist on "Desperate Housewives." But the catch, he notes, is that he rarely appeared in his office. On "Carol's Second Act," we finally get to see the fictional physician in his natural habitat.
The world of medicine, MacLachlan suggested, is just as intimidating as comedy. But there, too, he has some moral support. His is a family full of doctors. His grandpa was an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist, his uncle a dentist, and his brother works at the VA hospital in Seattle. He also has a close college friend who is a PhD. MacLachlan is "lucky to be able to rely on them" for questions about his character or the plot material, he said.
"Carol's Second Act" is aiming for laughs, but its underlying message is a profound one: Don't let age keep you from pursuing your dream. Better late than never. While MacLachlan said he had been fortunate enough to make his acting goals reality, he took note of his brother's delayed dreams, which eventually came full circle.
"My brother was a musician and they toured a little bit and trying to make it and it ultimately didn't go forward and he said, 'you know what I've got to find another opportunity,'" MacLachlan explained.
He went back to school to pursue, ironically, medicine, and now works at the VA.
"The beautiful thing is," MacLachlan continued, "he has time now. And he and a group of guys that grew up now perform in a tribute band. They play all the music they played back in the '80s and they get dressed up and put on all the clothes they used to have and they just have a great time."
The best part of it all? They're called Hair Storm.
In other words, it's never too late to follow your dreams - be it becoming a doctor or living out your 80s rock band fantasy.
"Carol's Second Act" airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on CBS. You can read a review of the pilot here.