For Wendy Robie, the longtime performer who has been in everything from the locally produced all-female stage production of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” to cinematic re-imaginings of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and, of course, the iconic shot-in-Washington series “Twin Peaks,” acting is her life’s passion. This first took flight when she moved to Seattle several decades ago from California. 

“That’s where I started. I was doing theater there when David Lynch came to Seattle to cast ‘Twin Peaks,’ which at that time was called ‘Northwest Passage.’ He was shooting a pilot and he cast me as Nadine,” Robie said in a phone interview. “There was a script, but I’m not sure it existed on this plane of being.” 

While the original series from Lynch and Mark Frost premiered in 1990, time moves a bit differently in the strange little world they created. Thus, it felt fitting for both her and the audience when Robie returned along with the rest of the eccentric cast of characters one more time for “Twin Peaks: The Return” in 2017. 

“The whole thing is full of so many bits. It’s like a kaleidoscope what David and Mark created. It’s astonishing,” Robie said. “I was very honored for my little shard of what that was.” 

Her latest film, Michael Smith’s “Relative,” will show locally at The Grand Illusion on Jan. 30. While it very much exists on our plane of being as a grounded dramedy about a family in Chicago coming together for a college graduation party, it sees Robie taking her character to new heights just as she did with Nadine. Observing her as the matriarch of the Frank family is like catching up with an old friend who brings her familiar wit and wisdom. Robie credits Smith’s script for making her job an easy one. 

“Emotionally, it was easy. It was really all there on the page for us,” Robie said. “None of it was hard. It was all wonderful. It was all gravy. We really were those people.”


This culminates in a couple of moments toward the conclusion she gets that tie everything together. 

“They are two scenes, but they’re kind of like a duet,” Robie said. “We shot it all in one night, both of those scenes, and it was a lot of running around. It was hilarious and entertaining. We kept running around the block, around and around and around.” 

The one downside to the process? Robie was less than a fan of rehearsing these scenes virtually.

“I really hate Zoom and I avoid it like the plague. I think of it as a succubus that lives on your computer. You don’t know where to look, you can’t make eye contact because you’re in the wrong place, it’s exhausting,” Robie said. “Most of acting is listening. If there is a break between hearing something and saying something, it’s so false that you expend a lot of energy keeping it real and true and present. When it was over, I was, like, I need to lie down now.”

Having acted on the stage and screen, Robie remains particularly attuned to the importance of energy. 

“The difference is in the direction of the energy because when you’re doing a scene, on stage, your focus is in the scene with who you’re talking to, who you’re hearing and everything. But you have this energy that’s going out into the house so that people in the balcony are receiving that energy and are part of the experience,” Robie said. “On camera, the energy is going from the camera into you. It’s coming in and what you’re doing is allowing it in. You’re opening so that it comes in. You invite it in. Because if you used that kind of energy you use on stage on camera, your audience would turn away because it’s too much.” 


When it comes to her latest work, she sees it as being closer to her past projects on the stage in how the experience is more patient in sitting with the characters just trying to make their way in the world. 

“‘Relative’ is rare in that it is one of those pieces that proves the rule that you don’t move people by the tears that roll down your cheek. You move people by their own. You just need to be,” Robie said. “Maybe in this way it is like the stage in that there isn’t a lot of action. Nothing happens, but life happens. If you got something going on, it’s interesting and then the really lovely golden moments are well-earned.” 

Regardless of whether she is on the stage or the screen, this is what Robie says she was born to do. 

“That’s why we’re here. We’re here to tell human stories and we’re necessary. We’re of value.”


The film, starring Wendy Robie, will play at The Grand Illusion at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30.