Actor Michael Ontkean Will Not Pick Up Harry S. Truman’s Sheriff Badge For The New Twin Peaks

Michael Ontkean as Sheriff Harry S. Truman in Twin Peaks

For unnamed reasons, Michael Ontkean will not be coming out of retirement as an actor in Hawaii to reprise his role as (Sheriff) Harry S. Truman in the new Twin Peaks.

The 69-year-old actor, last seen on screen as cousin Milo in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants in 2011, mentioned this as early as August during a phone call with Reflections author, Brad Dukes, who today tweeted the following regarding Ontkean’s absence from the third season:

So, I have a few things to say about the news of Michael Ontkean not returning to Twin Peaks: I spoke with Michael a handful of times this year on the phone. He was really excited to return as Truman, and even spent hundreds of hours in search of his old jacket, and finally reached out to me to help find it. We found a suitable replica. I bought it and sent it to him. We last spoke in August and he informed me he wasn’t going to Washington after all. I told him I was heartbroken to hear that.

Aside from being heartbroken, I am puzzled. Twin Peaks is not Twin Peaks without Michael Ontkean as Sheriff Harry S. Truman.

Harry and Coop hugging

Michael was the very last actor to join the cast of the Twin Peaks pilot back in 1989, after Robert Forster had to pass on the role due to another commitment. From Brad Dukes’ book, his account of his meeting with David Lynch:

It was winter when [David Lynch and I] first met. I had on a coat that Mitsuhiro Matsuda made for me to resemble and replace the worn-out biker jacket I’d been wearing since 1961 as a teenage member of The Black Diamond Riders motorcycle gang in Canada. David’s birthday is only two days before mine so there was some sort of immediate affinity, but he offered me the part of Sheriff Harry S. Truman just to be able to see more of that motorcycle jacket.
–Michael Ontkean

The on-screen brotherhood between Harry and Kyle MacLachlan‘s Coop was one of the numerous strengths of the original series, so while it’s likely that the character will return, it will be hard for fans to see someone else filling the man’s shoes. Even if he’s being recast with —as rumored— the original Sheriff, Robert Forster.

Robert Forster in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive
Robert Forster in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

The one and only Harry S. Truman. #25YearsLaterEdit by Rinaldo Zoontjes.

Posted by Welcome to Twin Peaks on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Michael Ontkean on Twin Peaks

Those fans are rabid. They won’t let go.
—Michael Ontkean on Twin Peaks fans.

Pieter Dom

Written by Pieter Dom

Founder and curator of Welcome to Twin Peaks since 2011. Bobsessed since March 1991.

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  1. Wait, you can’t recast the Sheriff!
    What in the world?
    That would be like recasting Luke Skywalker,
    or recasting Monk, or recasting Ross and Rachel.
    You cannot recast the lead role of your series. You are going to ruin the whole thing!

  2. Who is going to ruin the whole thing? You are talking about a suggestion made by a fan on a fan webpage, not something coming out of central casting. Chill, dude.

    At any rate, I seriously doubt Truman would still be sheriff 25 years later.

  3. Very well pointed by MATT. He may not return as Sheriff Truman, but he may return only as Truman, a retired sheriff. I seriously doubt they would leave him behind on this new season, he was definetely a key character.

  4. Forster is great. BTW official story doesn’t match Brad Dukes’ account above at all. Dukes says Ontkean was so excited to return he was trying to reassemble is wardrobe in anticipation.That account was apparently current in August 2015! The story dated yesterday has, “someone close to the actor simply explaining that he has “‘fully retired from show business.'”

    • To continue, I can only guess this: either it was an undisclosed health issue or they had some kind of difficult conflict. Nice if they could get beyond whatever it is, but with Robert Forster’s name all over the press as replacement, it seems mighty unlikely.

    • I only trust Brad’s account, who spoke with Michael Ontkean personally instead of an ‘unnamed source close to the actor’. The jacket was January 2015, but things changed around August 2015. Regarding Robert Forster, that’s the press circulating a fan rumor based on set sightings. It makes sense though, with Forster originally eyed for the role.

  5. People need to relax and realize there is NO WAY on earth the new series will return with 100% of its original cast members. It’s been 25 years after all and this continuation should not serve as a reunion piece to only please nostalgic fans. Ontkean was not in FWWM and that turned out to be an amazing work of art. As much as we love the characters we know so far – let’s face the fact that Twin Peaks’ mythology is much greater and way more fascinating that any given character in the series. Excellent proof of this was again FWWM filled with new characters and yet again amazing and fitting perfectly into the world of Twin Peaks. I would love to see as much of the original cast as I could get, but even if we get a 9+ cable-produced movie directed by David Lynch and written by Mark Frost about the town of Twin Peaks 25 years later with Kyle MacLachlan, this alone should be a dream come true for each fan!

    • “FWWM and turned out to be an amazing work of art”

      As a movie, though, Rotten Tomatoes “Top Critics” only rated it 42%, deep into the rotten range. Your certainly right that it’s nutty to expect all actors to return after 25 years — they didn’t return even after 1-2 years.

  6. Twin Peaks needs to incorporate Marvel or Star Wars or something like that, like a cross-over universe. Imagine Batman in Twin Peaks or Iron Man tearin’ it up there. Us kids ain’t interested in old ass tv shows like this we need something cool and excitements. The only way this show gonna get ratings again is if you get marvel on board. Just speaking the truth.

  7. Wow. I find this a disappointment to say the least. Still we have new characters coming I just hope the new show doesn’t seem forced on what TP “should” look like. Fingers crossed.

  8. Depressing news. And I don’t care if Forster was the original choice for Truman, he’s NOT Truman. This is a big blow; there still seems to be doubt over whether or not Sherilyn Fenn will be back but frankly Harry was a way more important character in Twin Peaks to me than Audrey. Must admit my excitement and anticipation has been seriously tempered by this development. 🙁

  9. Chill out with your “big blow” and Sherilyn will be back. She wouldn’t be strutting around Twin Peaks conventions with such zest while championing “No Twin Peaks without David Lynch” if she wasn’t hard wired.

    • Those events aren’t inextricably linked. From her tweets etc it’s pretty obvious she’s got issues about some aspect(s) of her character in the new season, while still being happy to champion the show at conventions (and get paid).

  10. Why? Wasn’t Michael Ontkean so pumped to do this that he searched over and under for Truman’s jacket? Now he opted out? Why???

  11. I’m not entirely convinced this isn’t misdirection of some sort. Brad Dukes is publicly acquainted with many of the cast and crew so I don’t see why he’d be giving away top secret info. Surely he’d be pretty much shooting himself in the foot when it comes to future TP-related assignments? Can’t imagine Lynch will be best pleased at this getting out if it is indeed true.

    I’m not taking the moral high ground at all or casting asperaions, btw – just wondering what the motivation for this was. Something fishy going on. If Ontkean isn’t “flying to Washington,” perhaps he could still turn up elsewhere?

  12. First Catherine Coulson’s passing, and now this. Two major bummers. To me, losing Michael Ontkean would be pretty huge. Other than Cooper, it seems he was the next most or one of the next most featured characters. And really, he added so much to the show. He provided a warmth, earnestness, and moral compass – always striving to do the right thing. I think Michael’s acting was top-notch as well. The chemistry between him and Kyle was among the best I’ve ever seen on TV.

    I totally understand the POV that we should be grateful for whatever comes around the bend, and I am – even if that includes accepting someone else playing that role. But, my preference is definitely for Michael to return.

  13. Perhaps he won’t return in Washington, and will be on the set in LA ?
    I wonder if there isn’t some sort of manipulations around the communication for the new season.
    And really, Sherilyn Fenn thinks she can permit herself to do the diva AGAIN ?!

  14. Michael J. Anderson denied his participation in Series 3, yet there he is in the Showtime teaser. So who can really say anything about the casting?

    • That’s old footage, though, not an declaration that Anderson is in the new season. He might be, but all they did here was use some iconic TP shots for a promo.

  15. While having him back as Harry would have been awesome, we need to respect his decision.
    Let’s also put some perspective on this. Michael Ontkean spent two years on this show 25 years ago. This time represents less than 3% of his overall life – how many of us would choose to come out of retirement to revisit a job we had 25 years earlier?

    Enjoy your retirement Mr. Ontkean!

  16. I hope Mr. Ontkean continues to enjoy his retirement. He’s obviously earned it with his career. I wish him all the best.

    That said: No Log Lady. No Truman (even as retired but on the show). Cooper and Annie possibly having a child (a rumor, but still). Possibly no Audrey.

    More reasons not to watch and enjoy the memories of the first season, the good parts of the second, and how much I continue to love “Fire Walk with Me” more and more as the years go on.

    As someone who has followed this show and its ups and downs for twenty-five years and worked hard on Twitter to help save it during the #SaveTwinPeaks campaign.

    This fan is done.

  17. It seems silly for people to be upset about the prospect that the new season won’t be exactly like 1990 Twin Peaks in terms of cast, sets, etc. It’s been 25 years. If Twin Peaks turned out to a stagnant world where no one dies, moves away, or drifts apart after 25 years, it will diminish the power and mystery of the setting in my mind.

    This post says that the chemistry between Truman and Cooper was a central part of the show and while that may be true, you’ve got to take into account that the second season ended with Cooper possessed by BOB. It’s not clear if or when he got out of the Black Lodge. Don’t you think that after 25 years that probably would have put a little bit of a strain on the “chemistry” between Truman and Coooper?

    I don’t care about the presence of any particular character or any specific relationship. Will I be disappointed to, for instance, not see Audrey in the new season? Of course I would. But only in the sense that I’d be disappointed to not see a long-lost friend at a 25 year high school reunion. It’s unfortunate, but it’s life. And unless I had nothing else to look forward to at such a reunion, it’s not enough to ruin it.

    I trust Lynch and Frost to make Twin Peaks AS INTERESTING as it was 25 years ago, not to make it THE SAME.

    • THIS. Your last sentence totally sums it up. I can’t wait to see what new characters show up in Twin Peaks! The bar for good quality television has gone WAY up in recent years with shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, etc… But Twin Peaks approached that bar decades ago, so it’s hard to imagine it won’t be top-quality entertainment that’s on-par with Lynch’s other work, and that also gets fans excited.

  18. I hope they write Truman out if Michael ontkean is not coming out of retirement. with Catherine coulson’s passing and rumors about sherilyn fenn my initial excitement has waned. Nothing’s ever perfect, is it? Has anyone heard anything about Everett McGill, Miguel ferret or Harry goaz?

  19. Even a cameo or – better yet – several appearances from Michael Ontkean as Harry Truman would be incredible, a lot better than no involvement at all. If he was intended to be a recluse in the season 3 that never made it to the drawing board in the 90s, then perhaps he could indeed do just that, appear several times throughout the series without being in a major role. I hope everyone else that can be is involved in some way also, Norma, Deputy Hawk (he could take over from Truman), Sherilyn Fenn… them all essentially, with the odd avoidable and unavoidable exception.

  20. You people need to relax and stop feeding the rumor mill. It’s a TV series, not a religion. The most important “cast” member is David Lynch. Am I wrong?!? Sure, there’s some disappointment here, but seriously… You should all just be glad Lynch is back in and has a NEW Twin Peaks story he wants to tell! Stop whining like a bunch of spoiled children and trust in his artistry. They’ll figure out a way to write around this. All great shows do. And you KNOW that when it finally premieres, most of you are gonna change your tune immediately and your Twin Peaks boners will be back in full force.

  21. Michael Ontkean and Kyle MacLachlan’s characters were the “big shoulders” on which the show rested. If Ontkean is not part of this in some way it will be an utter disappointment. I hope they can work out whatever negotiating dilemmas are secretly going on here. Just work it out and lets get this thing moving!

  22. I have watched the first couple episodes of Twin Peaks the Return and am as disappointed as anyone that Michael Ontkean is not part of the cast. There is a sheriff Harry Truman, but he is a relative (per Wally) of Harry S Truman, who is ailing and who is also Wally’s godfather. Wally is the son of Lucy, the sheriff station receptionist and deputy Andy.

  23. Forster is a fine actor and he creates an intersting character with some of Forster’s trademark gravitas, but I would like to have seen a more s character like Ontkean’s in appearance and manner, even if is he has weathered in his personality & experience.

    Or if Forster’s character could be a brother or uncle of Ontkean’s Truman (maybe even with an identical name) after the original Truman mysteriously disappeared, that would be easier for fans to deal with.

  24. Michael has to come back.Coop and Truman together is what made me watch,in part,Please Michael RETURN

  25. So, as we’ve all seen, the show IS ruined after all. Glad Michael Ontkin refused from taking part in that shitty production. That is NOT Twin Peaks, shame.

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