Laura Dern: I, like Amy, am certainly longing to uncover a deeper connection with myself. However, I get there. I’m a TM [transcendental] meditator. I do it with mediation as much as I do it with dinner with girlfriends. They’re of equal weight in different areas of my life. A good talking to from my grandma, all the different things we get balance from. My mom is and was of a generation of women who are big seekers, and it was new. That was considered very woo-woo, especially when I was a kid. Astrology, psychics, anything she could get her hands on she would try and check out. I feel like our generation is very lucky because yoga is a part of everyday life for a lot of people. Meditation is a practice that is considered mainstream: The NFL uses it, the NBA uses it, heart patients use it. It’s very easy to consider yourself a meditator and not be too alternative-minded. But I think for Amy, it’s a wonderful backdrop to her desperation, because she’s really just longing to be good enough and make a difference.
Slate: Your mother, Diane Ladd, plays your mother on Enlightened, and she’s played your mother in other well-received projects. Is it ever hard to draw boundaries? I would think that sometimes it would be difficult to disconnect from the characters you’re playing and get back into your real-life mother/daughter dynamic.
Laura Dern: Yes, yes it is. It’s unusual. I was 23 I think when we did two movies back to back together that were extreme. She was playing my mother in one when she’s a monster trying to sleep with my boyfriend [the David Lynch movie Wild at Heart]. I mean, just the worst mother; literally riding a broomstick as the Wicked Witch of the East in that film. The next film we did together, she plays the character of Mother who is the ultimate nurturer [Rambling Rose]. I’m an orphan who she sort of takes in. A therapist once said to us, “You guys don’t even need any work. You’ve done the antithesis of archetypes.”
The one thing we hadn’t played out, which is very opposed to our dynamic is this very restrained, unfeeling mother in Enlightened who probably barely hugged Amy in her life. You learn more about that as the series goes on. The easier part of stepping out of our characters this time is that it’s the opposite of my mother, who, if anything, as a child I thought engulfed me. She’s very affectionate, Southern, big personality. She’s really playing the opposite character.
Slate: Your collaborations with David Lynch are well-known and well-loved. A website called the Awl recently ran an article arguing that you are the only one who can persuade him to return to directing [“Laura Dern Is Our Only Hope for Bringing David Lynch Back”]. Do you think there’s a chance you can convince him?
Laura Dern: Well, if there were any truth in it, then over fried chicken last Sunday that website should know that I’m doing my job.
Slate: Can you tell me anything else about it?
Laura Dern: That’s all I’m saying. I went into this rant [to him] about how profoundly important that is. If he were to listen to me, I’ve done the best job I can of trying to persuade.
Slate: Millions of people would thank you profusely.
Laura Dern: He has to be in the world, just doing what he’s doing.
Slate: It must be so hard to have all that pressure. Knowing that you have this fan base that is not only so devoted, but has such high expectations of your work. I imagine that would make it hard to create.
Laura Dern: I think what helps him so much is that he just redefines art every day for himself, as everybody knows. On his website he’s doing paintings, he’s photographing, he’s directing. He’s making movies on a digital Super 8 camera. He’s just all over the map. I think he feels very alive because of it. He has so many things he wants to do. He’s working on a documentary right now. He has this David Lynch Foundation, which is doing extraordinary work teaching meditation throughout the world to underprivileged children in school systems, jails. He’s got a big life, so it would be easy for him to not have time to make movies, but I mean, with pretty much any threat I can wield I will beg him.
Slate: You’ll drag him back?
Laura Dern: Yeah.
Slate: In an interview with the Times from 1986, you said that you wanted to play someone in politics and you’d like to play a strung-out drug addict, and you’ve done both.
Laura Dern: That’s so hilarious!
Slate: You don’t remember saying that?
Laura Dern: Uh-un.
Slate: I think you were probably 19. Are there any other roles that you are dying to play?