During the early 1990s, long before “SNL,” Molly Shannon conned her way into a small part on “Twin Peaks.”
When starting out in Hollywood, the “Saturday Night Live” alum used a fake name (Liz Stockwell) and pretended to work for playwright David Mamet. Shannon’s pal Eugene Pack co-ran the “Mamet Scam,” which ultimately led to Shannon appearing on David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks.”
“We were trying to figure out how we were going to get in the door as actors,” Shannon wrote in her memoir, “Hello Molly!,” available from HarperCollins on April 12. “How were we gonna bust in? It was too hard to just slip your picture under an agent’s door. A random headshot? No one was ever gonna call. Then we hit on an idea. Eugene had studied with David Mamet. He was (and is) this giant, hugely successful guy, very respected — a big-time playwright and screenwriter — but Eugene knew that he wasn’t a guy who was in Hollywood much. He just liked staying in Vermont and New York.”
And so, with Mamet’s absence from the L.A. scene, Shannon and Pack decided to call casting agents from Mamet’s faux office — but only after doing their research.
“We went to the American Film Institute library and looked up managers and agents that we thought would be good for us in this big, thick agency book,” Shannon continued. “We also looked up actors who we thought were like us, found out who managed them, and decided to go after these people and try to get them to sign us by pretending to be representing Mamet. I called it the Mamet Scam.”
While running the scam, Shannon would call and say, “‘This is Liz Stockwell calling from David Mamet’s office.’ I was David Mamet’s right-hand girl. I was a ray of sunshine. A fun, positive gal.”
“The Other Two” star added, “We started meeting everyone — agents at ICM, William Morris. I wanted to be on ‘Twin Peaks’ so Eugene called the casting director, Johanna Ray, and I actually did get cast on ‘Twin Peaks.’ Through the Mamet Scam.”
After meeting Ray, Shannon was told she had to meet showrunner David Lynch: “Which was exactly what I wanted to have happen. Because I would drive my wreck past her casting office and say, ‘Oh, I really want to be on ‘Twin Peaks.’ I love that show!'”
Shannon played social worker Judy Swain in the 12th episode of Season 2 of “Twin Peaks” in 1991. It was Shannon’s first TV role. She only appeared in one episode, but the Mamet Scam still proved to work for “about six months” total.
“The way we saw it, we were doing them a favor,” Shannon wrote of duping agents. “They were meeting good, young, up-and-coming actors.”
One star who was not as impressed by Shannon and Pack’s scheme? Brat Pack icon Molly Ringwald.
“We ran the Mamet Scam on her and set up a meeting,” Shannon recalled. “When I sat down for my appointment, she glared at me and said, ‘I just wanted to see what a liar looked like in person.'”
All’s well that ends well, though, as four years later, Shannon was cast in the 20th season of “SNL,” landing her first Emmy nomination in 2000.
“Hello Molly!” is out April 12.