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Old 05-27-2015, 10:29 AM
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Everything We Know So Far About American Horror Story: Hotel

Just a few short months ago Ryan Murphy announced Season 5 of American Horror Story with a splashy intro from his new star: Lady Gaga. Ever since then, information has been trickling in. Here’s a round-up of everything we know so far and our best guess as to how American Horror Story: Hotel will “radically reinvent” the gruesome FX series.

We Know Where and Probably When: There was some question as to where the 5th season might take place and though we don’t have official confirmation within the world of American Horror Story, we do know that production is moving out of Louisiana (where it has been for the past two seasons) and back to Los Angeles. Filming will start there in early July. We also know that Season 5, like the previous odd-numbered seasons, will probably take place in modern day America.

It’s All Connected: So what do you get when you combine horror, hotel, Los Angeles, and modern day? You get the frightening 2013 tale of Elisa Lam at the Hotel Cecil. The Canadian student was found drowned in a water tank, but a disturbing elevator surveillance video of her allegedly taken right before her death shows erratic behavior that some chalk up to drug use, and others to paranormal activity. Ryan Murphy has said before that the seasons are all linked so the fact that the Hotel Cecil (which has since rebranded as Stay on Main) not only reportedly housed serial killers Richard Ramirez in 1985 and Jack Unterweger in 1991, but also Beth Short a.k.a. The Black Dahlia would give Season 5 a connection to Season 1 where Short was played by actress Mena Suvari.

The Musical Theory: This part fall more into the “wishful thinking” than “we know for sure” camp, so I’ll be brief. But with the splashy casting of Lady Gaga, the possibility arose that American Horror Story Season 5 might fill the musical-shaped hole the cancellation of Glee left in Ryan Murphy’s heart. The confirmation from Ryan Murphy that the Top Hat motif in Season 4 was a massive “arcane” hint about Season 5 indicates that at the very least dancing, a la Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the 1935 musical Top Hat, might be in the cards. As you’ll see below, Murphy has cast several great dancers (and some singers) for Season 5, so musical lovers get excited. Could a hotel-hosted dancing competition—a la Strictly Ballroom or even They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?—set the scene for the horrors of the fifth season?

Many Regulars Will Be Back: There was some concern, at first, that the departure of star Jessica Lange would cause American Horror Story irrevocable damage. That may still prove to be the case but even without Lange in the lead, Ryan Murphy has managed to get most of the band back together. The show’s next biggest stars, Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters, will return. Paulson reportedly gets to play a villain—or at least “the baddest bad girl of them all”—for the first time in her Horror Story tenure. Peters doesn’t get a character description, but Murphy promises his character will be “waiting in Room 64.” Permanent resident? Of the ghostly variety perhaps?

Newer regulars like Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett will also return. Bates’s character will run the hotel whereas Bassett will be making trouble “in the ballroom and elsewhere”. Sounds like either a poltergeist or a dancing competition. Both work for me.

Actors like Wes Bentley, Matt Bomer, and Chloe Sevigny—who have all appeared in at least one previous season—will be back as series regulars for Season 5. Bomer implied that he might be a love interest for Lady Gaga’s character but, at the very least, he’ll be partnered with her for much of the shoot. Bomer, as we know, has some fantastic moves so fingers crossed for dancing partner.

There Are Some New Kids on the Block: There are some new faces alongside the familiar, returning ones. The big headline, of course, is Lady Gaga. We’ve no clue on what her role will be, but we know it calls for platinum blonde hair.
Broadway star Cheyenne Jackson—who previously worked with Murphy on Glee—was announced along with New Girl’s Max Greenfield. Murphy teased that Greenfield will appear “like you’ve never seen him” and promised that though the actor would be checking in to the hotel, he won’t be checking out. You can cue up “Hotel California” any time now. Both Jackson and Greenfield, for the record, are solid dancers.

Here are the Maybes: Regular American Horror Story player Emma Roberts is busy with Murphy’s other pulpy project Scream Queens but has said she thinks she’ll be joining Season 5 “at the end.” Another regular, Denis O’Hare, says he hasn’t officially been asked back yet, but that he signed a two-year contract last season so could be called up at any moment. American Horror Story favorite Frances Conroy will likely be too busy with Jason Reitman’s new series to join in the fun for Season 5 and there’s no word yet on Lily Rabe—though she hasn’t said no—but if she came back to the American Horror Story fold, I’ve no doubt she’d bring her dancing moves.
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Old 05-29-2015, 12:09 PM
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Evan Peters on Emmys, challenges of 'AHS: Freak Show' and playing drunk

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Old 05-31-2015, 03:29 PM
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Why Horror TV Succeeds, And The Difficulty Of A Good Wig
May 30, 2015 1:04pm

Why is horror so successful on television? We’ll get to that, but first make note – Grimm is planning some kind of reboot in its fifth season. The Zombie-as-metaphor has evolved into a reflection of American office culture. And the hardest special effect of all is a good toupee. Those revelations and more spewed forth like rivers of blood from the unfocused but highly entertaining Scary 3.0: The New Horror panel, held today in the Paramount Theater at the start of the 2015 Produced By Conference.

In attendance were executive producers Dave Alpert of The Walking Dead, Norberto Barba of Grimm, Jeremy Carver of Supernatural, Carlton Cuse of Bates Motel and The Strain, and Tim Minear of American Horror Story. The five of them talked at length about the increasing success of horror on television and why audiences are responding so strongly to horror, digging in to how technology and social media impact their work, while also revealing surprising trivia, like the difficulty of making a convincing hairpiece.

So why has horror made such a strong comeback? Alpert attributes the success of horror on television in part to what he calls “a certain amount of escapism,” that allows audiences to set aside their own worries, but he went further, making the case that the genre’s resurgent popularity is a specific reflection of our tumultuous times. “It started during the economic crisis,’ he said, adding that “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when the crash hit is when horror started to really take off on television.

"Horror" is watching something dreadful happen to someone else -- "Terror" is the fear of something horrible happening to you.

Alpert continued that theme later in the panel. Zombies have, of course, always been used as metaphors, from civil rights turmoil, to consumerism, and even delayed adulthood, but in Alpert’s view they are reflective of American working culture. Asked why zombies are so scary, Alpert referenced the Chuck Klosterman essay “How Life Is Like A Zombie Onslaught", adding that “A lot of people, they spend all day working… somedays you spend all day responding to emails, and the more you do, the more you have to do.

But other members of the panel weren’t necessarily so (humorously) glum, attributing the success of horror more to the changing landscape of television. As networks give greater freedom for shows to push the envelope, with the ability to achieve greater technical ambitions, and the increasingly cinematic quality of television, in that view horror is allowed to thrive more fully than was previously possible. “With higher production value and really awesome looking stuff, horror is like the perfect genre to play with cinema, and I think play with genre,” Barba said. “And audiences are enjoying… all the possibilities that we can do visually with horror.

Carver concurred, adding “with all the programming out there now these horror shows can go almost in a way more niche in terms of they don’t have to appeal to everybody, they can be much more adventurous and daring.” But, he made clear, the writing ultimately matters most. “I personally think the horror genre is, like any other genre, the show is only gonna sustain itself if it has the characters to sustain these stories. Horror or not, I don’t think horror alone is going to bring people in.

Um, when you put a giant billboard up with a worm crawling into an eyeball, it kind of cuts through the clutter,” Carlton Cuse said about The Strain‘s success, to big laughs.

More seriously, taking about technological advancements that have made convincing special effects much cheaper, Cuse said outright that “it would not have been possible to make [The Strain] five years ago.” Carver backed him up, noting how SFX heavy Supernatural is, and how “well over a thousand” visual effects shots were made possible by bringing their visual effects team in house.

Not that non premium cable networks are allowing these shows an free hand when it comes to gore. All five producers talked openly about the things done to get around network censors. “You pad out your episode with horrible horrible things that you know will never be let on,” Carver said. Cuse meanwhile confirmed that The Strain has filmed so truly grotesque stuff that never made it onscreen – specifically, when the character Bolivar loses his genitals during his transformation into a vampire during The Strain’s first season, they actually shot a scene of “his d-ck falling off.”

But having those limitations helps, the panelists agreed. “Real horror is the build up, the suspense, the dread,” Minear said. “When you show something you take the air out of it.

Minear also credited the current television landscape, which he called “the greatest boon to writers in recent years,” Minear praised the rise of the limited series, which he later said saves writers from having “to bullsh-t your way through five years,” and noted that with American Horror Story‘s success, other networks have explored limited series, citing The Slap and Aquarius in particular.

Other highlights:

* Discussing the success of their shows, and the need for reinvention, Barba dropped an interesting tidbit about the upcoming fifth season of Grimm. “The fifth season is going to go through a reboot phase just to keep it fresh,” he said, though he declined to elaborate.

* The panelists were very bullish about social media’s contribution to the success of their shows. Barba, noting how precisely analysts study social media reactions during broadcasts of Grimm, said “they’re almost like test screenings.”

* Talking about his anxiety regarding the SFX on The Strain, Cuse described his relief at how it turned out, before adding, to big laughs, that “The only thing people didn’t buy into was Cory Stoll’s hair.”

* So what scares them? Cuse: “earthquakes”; Barba: “disease”; Minear: “personal interaction”.
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Old 06-02-2015, 02:59 PM
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Scream Queens', 'American Horror Story', 'Minority Report' Coming to Comic-Con
Twentieth Century Fox Television is also bringing 'The Omen' follow-up 'Damien', Seth MacFarlane's 'Bordertown' and 'Sleepy Hollow' among others to the annual convention.
June 02, 2015 08:24:46 GMT

Twentieth Century Fox Television is already prepping for the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con. The studio has unveiled its line-up of programs that are heading to the annual convention from July 9-12.

Among the highlights is the world premiere screening of new series "Scream Queens" from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan on July 11. The cast of the show, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Emma Roberts, Lea Michele, Skyler Samuels and Keke Palmer, will also join "American Horror Story" stars Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters and Matt Bomer for a joint panel.

Also having its world premiere screening at the event is upcoming TV adaptation of "Minority Report". Fans can also expect a first look at "Damien", an upcoming series based on horror film series "The Omen".

Seth MacFarlane will participate in a SDCC panel for the first time to talk about the new seasons of "Family Guy" and "American Dad!", as well as debut a first look at new comedy "Bordertown" which he executively produces.

Another new series, "Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll", will have a panel with series creator/star Denis Leary and other cast members Elizabeth Gillies, John Corbett, Elaine Hendrix, Robert Kelly and John Ales scheduled to attend.

Other shows coming to the convention include "Sleepy Hollow", Will Forte's sophomore comedy "The Last Man on Earth", "Salem" (WGN America), "Bob's Burgers" and "The Simpsons".

Further details of the Twentieth Century Fox Television panels will be revealed in the coming weeks. The studio will also have a two-story booth at the convention center.

"The Strain" (FX) and "Doctor Who" (BBC America) are going to take part in the event as well.

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Old 06-03-2015, 02:01 PM
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Sarah Paulson Emmys chat: 'AHS: Freak Show' was hardest thing I've ever done (Exclusive Video)

"This was the hardest thing I've ever done, for sure," admits Sarah Paulson ("American Horror Story: Freak Show") during our recent video chat about the challenges of playing conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler. "I played both characters [and] I worked very hard to make sure that the girls had two distinct personalities ... In the beginning it was an incredibly terrifying, overwhelming deal in terms of how we were gonna figure out how we were gonna do this."

When she first learned she'd be playing the groundbreaking role of a two-headed woman, Paulson reveals, "I don't think I really believed it until [Ryan Murphy] sent me the first script and I thought, I can't believe this is really happening and that I get to do this. It's really exciting."

Despite the immense challenges that came with playing the two girls, Paulson tells us, "By the time we got to the middle, to the end of the season, I felt that there was nothing they could throw at me within this world that I couldn't pull off in terms of the technicalities of the things we were doing."

Even though Paulson has two Critics' Choice TV Awards victories under her belt, she has yet to win an Emmy despite three prior bids ("Game Change," "AHS: Asylum" and "AHS: Coven"). Could this year be the charm? Gold Derby's combined odds currently have Paulson in first place in the Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actress category, one that'll be full of many heavy-hitters. "I feel very honored that when I get nominated I'm up against these sort of very, very celebrated, anointed actresses whom I've always admired," she says. "Pinch me, I can't believe I'm in this company."

Don't forget, Paulson may have a head up on the competition this year because Emmy voters love rewarding performers who play dual roles or have multiple personalities. Just ask Toni Collette ("United States of Tara"), who earned her Emmy in 2009 for showing her range and versatility as a woman battling her alters. Paulson's theory? "I guess it shows a certain range within the show itself."

Also in our chat, Paulson teases her upcoming roles in "American Horror Story: Hotel" (she plays a "badass") and "American Crime Story: The People vs. O. J. Simpson" (she plays Marcia Clark) and relives her favorite moments working with departing star Jessica Lange.
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Old 06-10-2015, 02:01 PM
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‘American Horror Story’ Emmy exclusive: Finn Wittrock on Dandy Mott, memorable ‘Freak Show’ scenes, future
June 9, 2015

To say that Finn Wittrock was one of the breakout TV stars of 2014 would be an understatement. This is an actor who had a chance to appear in Ryan Murphy’s “The Normal Heart,” and then transitioned over to “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” where he had an extremely memorable arc as infantile psychopath Dandy Mott. His arc went from the beginning of the season more or less until the end, and it was full of sensational character moments, shocking endings, and of course plenty of death. Dandy is responsible for the death of a good many characters on this past season, though he eventually did meet a grisly fate of his own.

Today, we had a chance to speak exclusively with actor Finn Wittrock in our latest edition of our Emmy Preview series, and we had a chance to go through much of what it took for him to give such a fantastic performance this past season (one that is definitely nomination-worthy). We also briefly talk about what the future could hold for him at the end of the chat.

CarterMatt – Was it around this time last year when you started filming ‘Freak Show’?

Finn Wittrock – It was around mid-July last year I believe.

It has to be a strange experience going from doing all of that to still talking about the character now. Is that hard to do? Has your impression on the character or anything on the show changed over time?

It’s kind of that thing where the more you talk about it, the more you realize what it is. A lot of stuff that you do unconsciously when you’re filming it, sometimes after you get some perspective on it you’re like ‘oh yeah, that’s what I did’ (laughs). You can articulate it. If it’s a movie or a show or a part that I get sick of, sure [it would be hard]. But I had so much fun doing this and it was so stimulating … I’m sure that by the time the Emmys are over I’ll be like enough Dandy! (laughs), but it was so cool. First of all it opened so many doors for me, and as an actor it was such a fun, challenging stretch as a character.

I remember back when Ryan first announced you were on the show on Twitter, and while I had seen ‘The Normal Heart’ and was excited, I had no idea who you were playing. When did you first get the news yourself?

I didn’t know for a while. Last year I was wrapping this football movie called ‘My All-American,’ and it probably could not be any more different than Dandy, and I remember around the end of the shoot I got the first three episodes of ‘Horror Story,’ which told you a lot but didn’t tell you everything. Then we started filming not long after that. The turnaround between getting it and working on it was not that huge. You kind of had to take a leap and trust your instincts, and trust that Ryan is going to lead you in some awesome direction, though you don’t know what that is.

Because Ryan directed the first episode of last season, I got to spend some time talking with him one-on-one, which is a special thing. That was less about the storyline, but more around what we thought Dandy’s backstory was, what his emotional infrastructure was, was he capable of love, his sheltered childhood, and sort of the idea of him having an infant ego that never grew up, even though the rest of his brain really did mature. You have this really smart person with this really infantile, emotional state, which is kind of a scary combination.

We kind of went from there, and every new episode was kind of late ‘what are you going to throw me this time?’ (laughs). ‘Who am I going to kill now?’

So what in the world is the preparation like for this character? He’s obviously got this terrible part of him, but then we also saw early in the season that a big part of him really just wants to be accepted.

It’s like going back to the playground. He never was accepted, despite all of his wealth and all of the opportunities he had. You saw what happened in the second episode; not even the freaks accept him. So he’s always sort of ostracized, and that leaves him lonely, and that kind of vacuum is what leads the way for the clown to become his idol. Like his god, almost.

The prep kind of kept coming back to the inner child thing; it may sound hippy-dippy, but that’s kind of what it was about. ‘Me me me me me.’

What was it like filming some of those scenes early on with John Carroll Lynch as Twisty? You’re doing these scenes with someone who doesn’t communicate in traditional dialogue, not reacting in traditional ways. Were these scenes even more exciting?

It’s exciting to break up the pattern of your line / my line. I was working with such a good actor in John so that it wasn’t a monologue, even though I had all of the words. It was definitely a dialogue, and he was [acting] it through as an actor would. He wasn’t just a stuntman, standing there. He was giving me a lot, and it was a scene between us. There were definitely still challenges about that kind of thing, like ‘what exactly is f***ing happening?’ (laughs); it was about getting specific about this really bizarre reality.

There are a lot of people who talk about the bathtub scene or the killing spree at the end as these iconic Dandy moments, but is there maybe a part of the season that you are especially proud of that maybe isn’t getting the same sort of attention?

My last big scene with Frances Conroy, [who played my] mom [Gloria], I was proud of that, actually. I thought that the scene had a lot of ups and down, intricacies. It wasn’t just like a one-note, ‘I’m going to kill you, mother.’ In it we found, because she’s so good, a whole lot of depth there. Even the murder itself is not even an act of pure hatred. [There was self-loathing], sadness that I have to do this. A plethora of feelings. The complexity of that scene was definitely one of my favorites.

At what point during the production did you get the sense of what was going to happen to this character? I’m sure that even before you were told, there was probably a feeling of ‘yeah, this guy’s not making it to the end alive.’

Yeah, I didn’t think he was going to reform. (Laughs) There were a lot of rumors flying around the set before, based on the fact that the writers were toying with different ideas; in terms of whether he was going to die or not, that was the big question. I heard conflicting things from different people. I honestly didn’t know until I read it.

I had a pretty decent idea that he was at least going to go out with a pretty big bang. It kind of had to end, after a lot of murder. We all kind of saw that coming. So the big question was ‘does Dandy get away with it or not'; actually, the show has been like that through all of the seasons. Despite being twisted and dark and macabre as it is, there is bizarrely like a moral compass to it. People usually do get what they deserve in this universe.

We talked a little bit about the killing spree [at the end of the season]. How twisted was it to film that?

It was actually really hard. People are always asking me ‘did it affect you working on Dandy, going into a dark place?’. Some characters you take home with you more than others. With Dandy, I was mostly able to kind of leave him on set when I went home, and not let him crawl into my nightmares (laughs). The killing, though, I did start to get some guilt and self-loathing after that. I was a little sick with myself. Especially with a gun! I really don’t like guns, so having to shoot all of those people did have an [impact] on me.

But actors love to die, you know, so everyone who I was killing was having a great time! I was just like ‘I hate myself.’

But when you did get to die, did you have a good time with that?

I did. Technically it was a very difficult process, that cage. There were some issues with it, and it was our last day and we were so tired. It was definitely a trying day at work; I felt like I really earned my paycheck at the end of it. It really was fun; I knew he had to die, but I really wanted to see that he had an epic death and I think he got it. I felt it was a wonderful kind of cinematic irony for him going out on stage. This was the dream he had all of his life, and the one time he gets it, it is like this great death scene.

A couple of last questions for you. Before the show premiered, were you worried at all that some would try to transpose this character onto you in any way?

Oh definitely. People do that. Like, when I was on a soap opera [in “All My Children”], people were like ‘why did you sleep with Colby’s mom?!’. People would get mad at me! People who are very into a show often don’t make any discrepancy between the character and you. I was mostly worried that they would just write it off as a weird, psychopathic mama’s boy and not be willing to go to any depth with him. That was my work. When I saw the reaction and saw that people were scared and creeped out, but there was also more than that, that was encouraging.

So what are you looking for next? I’m sure that you’ll want to work with Ryan and Ryan would want to work with you again, but is there anything in particular that you are looking for?

I’m always wanting to find a thing that is somewhat of the opposite direction of the thing I’ve done before. I am looking to do something … whatever the opposite of Dandy is (laughs.) Maybe something gritty and masculine. We’ll see. You kind of don’t know until you see it. I’m sure that Ryan has something up his sleeve.
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Old 06-12-2015, 07:17 AM
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Emmys: 'American Horror Story's' Evan Peters on the "F—ed-Up Stuff" He Loves
by Bryn Elise Sandberg 6/11/2015

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

His character in the X-Men films, Quicksilver, is a mutant capable of superhuman speed — that must be typecasting because Evan Peters, 28, has spent the past couple of years zooming between soundstages and working on multiple projects simultaneously. This summer, he’ll do it again, shooting X-Men: Apocalypse while at the same time taking on another role in the FX anthology series American Horror Story, which is about to start production on its fifth season (this one titled Hotel). He spoke to THR about the "f—ed-up stuff" he loves.

What drew you to American Horror Story?

I was basically out of work. I didn’t know it was going to be anything like it ended up being, but I just fell in love with [my character] Tate. Then Ryan [Murphy, the creator,] called me and asked me if I wanted to do season two and said, "Do you want to be a different character? Because it’s going to be a whole new story." That’s a huge draw because you don’t get pigeonholed. I’ve had the opportunity to play four different characters so far, which is just unheard of.

And it helped you land the role of Quicksilver in 2013’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, right?

Yeah, [director] Bryan Singer is a really big fan of AHS. He called me up and told me he has this cool role for me in X-Men, a guy who is incredibly fast and hyperactive, and if you give him some caffeine, forget about it. I said, "He sounds really fun, so of course." And then I got off the phone and started jumping on the couch.

This year, you’re hoping to compete in the lead actor in a miniseries/movie category at the Emmys. What makes Freak Show’s Jimmy Darling more than a supporting character?

He was kind of the leader in the freak show — and it was a really hard role. There was a lot of emotion involved, a lot of physical stuff. Wearing those [deformed] hands every day and trying to make them believable was very difficult. I mean, they were rubber. You can’t really touch anything because the paint rubs off quickly and the glue comes undone. They were a very temperamental prosthetic.

But they ended up getting cut off at one point.

I didn’t expect that. Poor Jimmy. They ended up giving him wooden hands. That was another challenge, to re-create the experience of not having any painkillers.

What sort of character do you want to play next season?

Something totally scandalous. I like the real f—ed up stuff.
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Jessica Lange On Leaving 'American Horror Story': "There's Always An End To Everything"
By Antonia Blyth

In her four seasons of American Horror Story, Jessica Lange has carved a niche as the show’s grande dame. From her turn as a crazed nun in Asylum to the deranged witch of Coven to most recently her all-singing ringmaster Elsa Mars in Freak Show, Lange steals the show every time. Raking in two Emmys, a Globe and a SAG award for her AHS efforts, her recent announcement that she will not be joining the latest in the series, Hotel, has come as a shock to fans. Her involvement with AHS creator Ryan Murphy does not end there however. He will be producing Long Day’s Journey Into Night on Broadway in which Lange will reprise her role as Mary Tyrone – a performance that won her an Olivier award nomination in 2000 —opposite Gabriel Byrne.

A nation weeps–it’s the end of American Horror Story for you. Why?

I mean they’ll continue and it’ll be great. You know, when I originally agreed to do this, it was for one season. (I thought) “this will be interesting to try this. I’ve never done this kind of television before.” Then I had such a great time doing it the first year, when they approached me to do it again I thought, “well okay, maybe we can do it season to season.” Instead, I agreed to do three more seasons. And that was fine because I’ve had just such a great time doing it. I have no regrets or second thoughts about that decision. But there’s always an end to everything.

You seem to have an almost collaborative relationship with AHS creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk.

Yes, I mean I love Ryan. I think he’s absolutely unique and wonderful and brilliant. And the fact of the matter is what kept me coming back were the characters. I mean they wrote such characters for me – so diverse and wild. They gave me so much to do every season in a time in my career where that’s the exception not the rule anymore. I mean we could get into a long thing about women aging in Hollywood and what happens.

That shouldn’t be a topic of conversation anymore, but unfortunately it is.

No, it shouldn’t. But it is because that’s just the natural order of things. There’s a period of time when the work is just plentiful, and then there’s a steep drop-off as far as what is still interesting to play. What was great about these four years is that it reminded me of the kind of work that I was doing when I was in my thirties and forties. Those huge roles. It was kind of like inexhaustible, bottomless. I mean what you could do. And well written with really something to play. I mean, this last season, it was just huge. It was a great role – one of the best I’ve ever had. I really hope that Ryan and I can continue some kind of work situation, but I did feel like four seasons for me was probably enough of this particular piece.

“What kept me coming back were the characters. They wrote such characters for me, so diverse and wild”

Murphy will produce Long Day’s Journey Into Night on Broadway–you’re playing Mary Tyrone, one of your favorite characters–a role for which you previously won an Olivier Award nomination.

What was wonderful is Ryan and I were talking, he’s so generous, and I mentioned this thing of wanting to do this play because I had done it 15 years ago and I really wanted to do it again. He went out and got the rights, which was so touching. I love him. He’ll be involved as a producer, but he signed it over to the Roundabout Theater so it’s all done, it’s a not-for-profit theater, and we’ll do it on Broadway next year. It’s going to be great. At one point I thought, “what if this doesn’t work out? I don’t care. I’ve played Mary Tyrone,” and then it kept getting closer, one step closer, and I thought, “yes, I get to do it again.” I loved that character.

You consistently play these kind of tortured, extreme women–what draws you to these characters in particular?

Well I just find them so much more interesting. It allows you to really just work from your imagination. Whatever you can imagine is possible because there are no limits to these characters. You know, I’ve always loved that thing of a character who’s just walking that tightrope between holding onto sanity and just with a slip of a foot can fall into that well of madness. All the great characters that I’ve played have been like that – certainly Blanche (DuBois) and Frances Farmer. I do love that thing of navigating that edge.

Your performance of Life on Mars was so Bowie-esque on Freak Show–how did that come about?

The first song Ryan presented was Life on Mars. (I thought), “I mean, what? Certainly not.” But then I realized it’s so perfect and it’s so brilliant because of what the lyrics are and the fact that it’s David Bowie. I studied his music video from that and they copied the blue suit. His movements were very minimal. So I studied them very carefully because I thought, “if I’m doing David Bowie, I’m never going to be able to come up with something’s that’s going to be better than David Bowie. I’ll do it as an homage to his brilliance.”

What is it about TV that works for you in comparison to film?

Well it’s a couple of things. For me it was kind of a perfect storm because of the length of time that you’re given to develop the character – 13 hours as opposed to an hour and-a-half film time – and yet I didn’t have to sustain the same character from one season to the next which, knowing me, I’m sure I would have gotten bored. So this was the best of all possible worlds.

Do you have an all-time favorite co-star? You’ve worked with so many of the greats.

Well probably my all-time favorite, and I worked with her twice, was Kim Stanley. There’s nobody like her, nobody. There was a rawness to her and a truthfulness and a ferocity. I loved working with Tommy Lee Jones, we had a really great way of working together and obviously Nicholson and DeNiro. Liam Neeson. It’s a long list.
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American Horror Story’ Cast on Lady Gaga and Trusting Their Writers

Lady Gaga’s casting in the next season of “American Horror Story:Hotel,” may have thrown the Internet, but the cast of the horror anthology wasn’t too shocked.

Are you out of your mind?Kathy Bates asked an audience member who asked about the “nontraditional” casting at a For Your Consideration panel Thursday night. “It’s perfect casting for this show!

I’d set your TiVos if I were you,” exec producer Tim Minear teased.

Bates and Minear, along with cast members Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Angela Bassett, Finn Wittrock, Denis O’Hare and John Carroll Lynch, gathered at Paramount Studios in front of Emmy voters for the FYC “Freak Show” screening and panel, going over everything from the aforementioned pop star joining the show to their biggest challenges in the unique series.

When asked about what it’s like to tackle a new character in every season (“Freak Show’s” Elsa was her favorite, she revealed), Lange, who is leaving the show after four seasons, praised the system.

I thought it was the greatest,” she said. “I mean, I love that whole idea of a repertoire theater, you know, a company. It was exciting because you come and you’d be playing with the same actors, actors that you really love and have deep respect for, and you know their rhythm and you know how you work together and everything, but you’re both in different skins. I mean, I thought that was one of the best conceits of our show.

Every actor has to be so brave,” she went on. “There’s never a moment where you can be timid with your character or the subject matter. So you know right off the bat that the actors you’re working with, from experience and the way you’ve worked together over the seasons, that there’s never going to be any hesitation on their part either.

Bates echoed her praise, calling it an honor to work with actors who know how to handle the challenge. O’Hare, who starred in “Murder House,” “Coven” and “Freak Show,” also pointed out the narrative that such a format lays out.

It also set up a weird sort of multiseasonal theme,” he said. “For instance, Taissa [Farmiga] and Evan [Peters] were lovers in more than one season. People took the same kind of role. I always tended to be subordinate to Jessica’s characters somehow. I was either a henchman, a servant — in love with her somehow. But it’s a crazy thing that you can get an echo of a past season because of those sort of relationship themes. That’s a really complicated thing that’s only possible to do in this kind of form.

With the series’ unusual format, though, the cast also faces unusual challenges. One audience member pointed out that they may not know where their characters will end up a few episodes from now, forcing the actors to create their own backstory.

The cast members chalked up their success to several different factors, but Lynch pointed out an important one: trust.

There’s another level of trust,” he said. “You jump in and go, ‘Okay, I’m just going to trust that you’re going to take me to a place that’s going to make all of this make sense.’ You really have to really trust them.

Lynch noted that television overall is a collaborative process, and that actors have to be willing to accept writers will always be a little bit ahead — but, as Lange pointed out, “Not always ahead of you!

As for Bates, she focused on living in the current scene and letting the writing guide her that way. She brought up a memorable scene in “Coven,” in which she and Gabourey Sidibe’s characters, who were once enemies, headed to a fast food restaurant late at night.

It’s living in the moment,” she said. “You have to make each moment, each scene, real. When I read that Gabby and I were going to go to the hamburger joint in the middle of the night, I was just absolutely thrilled. I thought that would be so much fun. But I never would have dreamed in a million years that our characters would be doing that. But that’s part of the fun of it, I guess.

The panel was followed by a “Freak Show”-themed after-party, complete with contortionists, fire breathers and carnival food. “American Horror Story” returns to FX with “Hotel” in October.
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‘American Horror Story’s’ Finn Wittrock Talks Fake Blood, Tighty-Whities and the Emmys

Is there any TV series with a higher volume of disturbing images than “American Horror Story”? Probably not. The anthology series’ latest chapter, “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” may have outdone its predecessors in this arena.

Most of the season’s terrifying moments were supplied by Finn Wittrock (“Unbroken,” “The Normal Heart”) as the murderous man-child Dandy Mott. Wittrock spoke to Variety about the joys of getting acquainted with stage blood, working with Jessica Lange and his hopes for Emmy season. Oh, and he wants you to know that he’s much nicer than the unhinged guy he plays on TV.

What was the best part of playing Dandy?

The clothes. I just got to wear really nice Brooks Brothers suits and really go for it. That was fun. The best thing about the show is getting to work with the best people, and really going to dark depths with them. Frannie (Conroy) and I really got to invent and discover this bizarre, twisted relationship together. We have the same alma mater, the old Juilliard, so we kind of spoke the same language. Well, she speaks her own language, but I understood.

And getting to work with Sarah (Paulson), too, was a pretty special thing. Working with both of her heads was a pretty special experience, seeing her be able to transform scene to scene. It was really technically difficult, and it took three times longer to film her stuff than a normal scene, with lots of special effects, lots of very technical things. You had to be in a very specific place, and your eyes had to be in a very specific place, so trying to stay inspired and stay loose and free with all those restrictions is a big challenge. It was cool to do it with her and watch her be a total pro about it.

Were you ever jealous of the cool prosthetics the “freak” characters got to wear? Did you ever wish you had a third arm?

Honestly, no. I was much happier to sleep in for those two hours that it would have taken in the morning. Poor Jimmy (Evan Peters). Those prosthetic hands would take two hours every morning. I would much rather show up and get my hair perfect and wear a nice suit.

And then get blood all over you, right?

Yeah, I did have a lot of blood. I learned a lot about stage blood and all the different kinds of it. The stuff that they want to make look like it’s old, caked-on blood is really hard to get off. It was definitely a learning experience.

Are you a squeamish person? Or were you before working on this show?

I hope not. No, I’ve always loved horror movies. I love that darkness. I love horror. I don’t like gratuitous stuff, but I’m pretty willing to go into crazyland. I think it’s fun. Having to do something else on TV, like a procedural, sitting in an office all day — at least I get to come home from my job and be like, “Guess what I did today, honey? I bathed in my mother’s blood. I chased Emma Roberts through the woods in a clown outfit. Just a normal day at the office.”

Is there anything that stands out to you as the most surreal moment from set?

It kind of happens every day. There was a moment way at the end of the shoot when I was being lowered into a glass tank in my tighty-whities, and they had to get a rigging apparatus under my underwear that made me look like I was floating in water. They didn’t want to put me in the actual tank with water, because there was an issue with the tank, like it might explode. So we did this special effect where I was floating there and they made my hair look like it was sticking up, waving in the water. So I’m being elevated from this thing coming from the top of the stage, going under my little underwear, pretending to act like I’m dead and drowned. And I thought, “This is not the sort of thing I thought I’d be doing when I auditioned for drama school.” But, like I say, that was like a Tuesday.

What kind of reactions do you get from fans?

People are always like, “Gosh, you seem so nice,” in a very surprised tone. I don’t actually massacre animals in my backyard. I am acting. I know! It’s weird!

You don’t know how people are going to react. You know there’s going to be a shock value on the show, but you don’t always know if it’s going to be positive or negative. The fact that it was positive, from what I’ve seen, was a very nice surprise. Once I knew that people were into it, it gave me a little bit of confidence to keep going. Like, “How far can I push it?”

Were you ever disturbed that people found your psychotic character to be so alluring?

I felt bad for Michael Chiklis (who played Dell), because he didn’t kill a lot of people, but he killed Ma Petite, and I feel like no one forgave him for that. The outrage was so big because she was so cute. I feel a little guilty, because I killed, like, 25 people and no one seems to be mad at me. What’s wrong with this picture? He kills one cute girl and it’s done. He cannot be forgiven.

Do you have any fond memories of working with Jessica Lange in her last season on the show?

Yeah. I didn’t get to do a whole lot with her. We were kind of in separate universes. The little scene we had in the last episode I think was the last scene she did at all. So it was a very special thing. She was there, and the whole crew was there and said goodbye to her. It was very bittersweet. She’s such a classic. She’s a real pro. I think she was excited but also sad to say goodbye. It was epic.

What went through your head when you heard Lady Gaga would be on “American Horror Story: Hotel”?

I was like, “Perfect!” Ryan (Murphy) always has a way of outdoing himself. It’s hard to keep surprising people when each season is so surprising. He very wisely makes a big awesome casting choice to get people intrigued. This was the epitome of that.

The thing about her, with her great theatricality and the gratuity of her own image, it actually makes a lot of sense for her to be on this show. The show is heightened and gothic and that’s sort of what she is. It’s a good omen for the way the season will turn out.

What are you anticipating for Emmy season?

I have no expectations….I’m biased and I work with her a lot, but I really think Sarah deserves a lot. The work that she put in, I don’t think everyone quite realizes how hard that is, to do what she did.

What’s up next for you in the Ryan Murphy universe?

I can’t say for certain, because it’s still up in the air. But I will definitely be doing something on one of his shows very soon. That’s really all I know.
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Finn Wittrock joins American Horror Story: Hotel... and a Lady Gaga love triangle

Another alum of American Horror Story: Freak Show is joining October’s Hotel: Co-creator Ryan Murphy announced today on Twitter that Finn Wittrock, who played serial killer Dandy on Freak Show, will return for the next AHS installment. Based on Murphy’s tweet, it appears Wittrock will be involved in some sort of triangle with stars Lady Gaga and Matt Bomer.

Ryan Murphy ✔@MrRPMurphy
Finn Wittrock is checking into HOTEL. Who will Gaga choose -- Finn or Matt Bomer? #AHSHotel
5:17 PM - 17 Jun 2015

Wittrock joins a cast that includes Gaga, Bomer, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Chloe Sevigny, Angela Bassett, Wes Bentley, Evan Peters, Max Greenfield, and Cheyenne Jackson. It premieres this fall on FX.
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Ryan Murphy On Jessica Lange's 'AHS' Exit & Possible Return, Building His 'Hotel & Next 'American Crime Story' – Emmys
By Nellie Andreeva

With American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy helped usher in the current golden age of event/anthology series. Alongside frequent collaborators Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, he continues to be at the forefront of the trend with three anthology series on the air. Murphy has FX’ AHS, whose most recent installment, Freak Show, just became the most watched program in FX history with 12.64 million linear and non-linear viewers, and is about to start filming the next one, Hotel, starring Lady Gaga. He just directed the first two episodes of the spinoff American Crime Story: The People V. O.J. Simpson starring John Travolta and Cuba Gooding Jr, as well as the first episode of the new Fox horror comedy Scream Queens. In an interview with Deadline, Murphy speaks about the amount of awards respect genre shows are getting, the real horror in Freak Show, bidding farewell (for now?) to AHS leading lady Jessica Lange, who is the latest member of the AHS troupe to join the new “bloodier and grislier” Hotel installment, why Lady Gaga won’t be singing, what big surprise Hotel has in store for Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters, and what direction ACS would be going after O.J.

DEADLINE: The Walking Dead, American Horror Story and Game Of Thrones are among the most popular series on TV yet none has landed a top award. Do you think there is stigma against genre programming?

MURPHY: I really don’t. I think that the only way you could ever say that is if those programs, including Game Of Thrones and American Horror Story, never got nominations, but they do. And they usually lead the pack with nominations so I feel like people do watch them and do recognize their excellence. I know that people write articles: is genre tough to be recognized. I think maybe it used to be, particularly in film, but I don’t believe that. I feel like, who wins what year is always a crap shoot, but we’ve had great luck with it. We’ve won many Emmys so we’re always thankful just to be in the game whether you win the big prize or not.

DEADLINE: Freak Show just was named the most-watched series in FX history and Coven was the one before that. Why is awards recognition so important to you when the franchise already has been such a commercial success?

MURPHY: Well, the thing that’s important to me about the whole process is that the cast and crew was really recognized because the people that I work with work themselves into the ground, they love the material so much, and they give 150%. That was really true last year in Freak Show where it was a really difficult shoot. We shot in really tough conditions. Some days it would be 120 degrees, actors were having heat strokes; it was the nature of the material. It was a traveling freak show set out by a pond, a swamp. So I’m always just trying to beat the drums for the people I work with because I think they’re so extraordinary.

And I think we’re all really excited about this season because it was Jessica Lange’s last season and it was her idea so, in a certain way, I’ve been viewing it as a tribute to her because she had been such a great collaborator over four years. This is her last year so I think people were just trying extra hard for her because she’s so close to that cast and that crew.

DEADLINE: Let’s talk about the genesis of Freak Show. Did you have circus nightmares as a child?

MURPHY: No, I think I’m one of the rare people who was never afraid of clowns. A lot of the crew members were but there’s an actual phobia for that so I shouldn’t make light of it. I think that it’s a horror trope, a very terrifying clown. We wanted to do ours in a weird way — I thought that his back story was really emotional and really upsetting, and John Carroll Lynch is such a great actor, it was sort of written for him. He was the first and only person I contacted about that role because I had seen him in Zodiac and I was so obsessed with Zodiac, when Mark Ruffalo and I were doing The Normal Heart, I was always talking to him about John Carroll Lynch and he said, oh, I’ve got to put you two together. So Mark sort of set that up in a way.

DEADLINE: You mentioned that Freak Show was Jessica Lange’s idea.

MURPHY: The whole theme was her idea. It was always the one that she talked about a lot, that she was always very, very interested in it. She is a photographer so she was very drawn to the images of these haunted traveling freak shows. She would send me postcards, she would buy me books. And, after this she would sit around on the set, and we talked a lot about it and she was just so passionate and interested in it that, we spent sort of a year and a half researching that. I knew we were going to do it, and she was very thrilled when I said, “OK, we’re going to do Freak Show”, because it was her great passion and she was so invested in it. She had done so much research already and I think the day that she got to show up to that set — we really did take over acres and acres of farmland near the swamp — there were tears in her eyes, she was so thrilled and she just kept saying “it’s like a poem come true, it’s like a poem come true”.

DEADLINE: How hard was it to say goodbye to Jessica?

MURPHY: Well, all I can say about that never say never with Jessica. She and I are doing something else right now. I’m producing a production of A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, that is one of her dream roles. She’s done it before and she wanted to do it again and I got the rights for her, we’re going to do that on Broadway. So we’re working again together, and I think if I went to Jessica and I had an amazing role, I think she would do it. I think she wanted some time off, but Jessica is somebody that is always about the role, in every season on this show.

One of the unique things about American Horror Story is, it’s very respectful to actors. Actors in many cases don’t want to be tied down to a seven-year contract. So my deal with the cast is: you’re free after every year, you can come back or you cannot come back. And what I usually do is tell them, “If you come back, this is the role I have in mind for you and these are the other actors you’re going to be working with, the script, the theme and the tone.” And I think from that for them comes a great amount of personal freedom. They feel that they have a choice to a certain degree and that’s certainly how I always approached Jessica every season; I would say, “Here’s the role, here’s the theme; are you in, do you want to do it?” and I was lucky enough that she said yeah. I think if I came up with something extraordinary for her, if I could come up with a great character, she’s all about that, and she’s told me that, if you have something great after I sort of get my rest then let’s keep talking, so I’ll do that.

DEADLINE: Is there one element that sets Freak Show apart from previous American Horror Story installments?

MURPHY: Jessica used the word “poem.” It felt very poetic to me and much sadder than previous seasons. It was also I think a little bit more character-based. I think the true horror of this season was the fact that these people, these so-called freaks, were driven out and langesongfreakshowtreated so terribly in our society and many of them were put into institutions and they were complete outsiders and outliers. Also this season we did something that was sort of unique — it was a traveling freak show so we did some musical numbers that were different and original and weird, and I really enjoyed them. I think that we’ll never do that again. This season there’s not a number to be had but for last season I thought, and for Jessica’s character particularly, the sad chanteuse that she played, that it worked great.

DEADLINE: No musical numbers in Hotel? With Lady Gaga starring?

MURPHY: No. People, keep saying to me, “What numbers are they singing, what numbers are they singing,” and I say there will be no numbers. The interesting thing is we cast a lot of singers this season but I like that singers, for the most part, are always great actors because they know how to sell a story through song, through a scene. I’m excited about that and I think that’s why Gaga was excited about it; it’s not something that she’s ever done before. It’s a pure acting part. I think people expect that she’s going to be sitting in a bar in a white silk gown sort of singing songs — she is not. The upcoming season that we’re doing is much more horror-based; it’s much more dark. It’s about a theme and an idea that’s very close to my heart that I’ve always wanted to do that’s a little bloodier and grislier I think than anything that we’ve done before; it’s straight horror this year.

DEADLINE: What was the inspiration for Hotel?

MURPHY: It’s based in the hotel in horror movies and horror tropes. We’ve researched several real-live hotels in downtown LA where absolutely horrifying things happened. Murder House I thought was a very primal season because everybody’s great fear is about the bogeyman under the bed in their house, and this feels similar to me in that when you check into a hotel, there are certain things beyond your control. Other people have the keys to your room; they can come in there. You’re not exactly safe, it’s a very unsettling idea.

DEADLINE: Any new Hotel castings you can share?

MURPHY: We’re just finalizing Denis O’Hare’s deal, he’s going to come back. Everybody else is pretty much done. We start shooting in three weeks and we’re building this incredible set which is one of our best sets ever I think — which is saying a lot because our production designer Mark Worthington I thought really outdid himself in Freak Show — but we’re building this incredible six-story Art Deco hotel on the Fox lot. Everybody in the show is very excited about this season, Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters particularly because in every season thus far they’ve always been sort of the heroes, the good guy or the good lady so to speak, and this season they’re playing absolute evil villains so they’re very excited about that and I think people will really enjoy it, and the Gaga part is bananas good.

I also think that the thing that’s different about the season is that before we’ve always been very driven by the Jessica Lange character. She was always the lead character. This year, it’s a true ensemble and I think we have more male parts and more male stories. The Wes Bentley part is really big, the Matt Bomer part is really big; Evan Peters and Finn Wittrock are really big. That’s not to say that the women aren’t either; I mean Kathy Bates and Gaga and Paulson’s part and Angela Bassett’s part are great. But I guess it’s a different tone this year than we’ve had.

DEADLINE: Switching gears, how was it filming the O.J. Bronco chase on the streets of Los Angeles for American Crime Story?

MURPHY: It was amazing. The interesting thing about this show is everybody knew what was happening outside the Bronco but in this case we tell people what went on in the Bronco. We shut a couple of L.A. freeways down for two days and we really show A.C. Cowlings and O.J. Simpson in that car, what they were doing. It was really tough, it was very emotional and very wrenching. We’re always very cognitive of the fact that two innocent people were butchered and killed and we’re very respectful of that. It’s one of those stories that’s just fixed in your dreams. It’s very intense, and the reason I’m even a part of it was because I’d read the first two scripts just as a fan, and I thought they were so fantastic that I wanted to help get them made. Then cut to a year later, and we’re almost done shooting the first two episodes.

DEADLINE: Are you already thinking of a new crime to tackle for next season?

MURPHY: We have some ideas. It’s going to be difficult to top this one because of the star power, and also the story is so riveting. But I think as in the case of American Horror Story, we always do the opposite of what we did so probably after O.J. we’re going to probably try and find something that’s much more character-based and maybe not a trial but that’s all I can say. I think we’ve figured out what we want to do but I’m not ready to announce it yet.

DEADLINE: But it will stay in the crime franchise with a new crime right?

MURPHY: One hundred percent. It’s always going to be a true famous case, yes.
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Jessica Lange Says She’s Open to ‘American Horror Story’ Return

If Ryan came to me and said, ‘Would you want to do a small character for a couple episodes?’ I would absolutely say yes,” actress tells TheWrap.

It seems that Ryan Murphy still has Jessica Lange under his “American Horror Story” spell.

Though four years on the FX anthology have netted the actress two Emmys, three Emmy nominations, a SAG Award and a Golden Globe, she broke fan hearts by announcing her exit on a PaleyFest panel in March. “I’m done,” she declared simply.

Or is she?

“If Ryan came to me and said, ‘Would you want to do a small character for a couple episodes?’ I would absolutely say yes if I liked it,” Lange said during a recent interview for TheWrap’s Emmy magazine. “This was a great collaboration, so I would love to keep working with him.

Lange is technically headed back to work for Murphy — for a Broadway staging of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” which begins previews at the Roundabout Theatre Company in March 2016. But first we’ll see if her last major “Horror Story” effort, as grande dame Elsa Mars in this year’s “Freak Show,” will earn her a fourth consecutive Emmy nod.

There was a thread through all four of those characters, which is a kind of desperation, a profound disappointment in life,” Lange said.

As on-edge or neurasthenic as they appear to be, they have a spine of steel,” she said. “It’s exactly the kind of complexity in a character that I love, that it appears to be one thing and it’s something else.

The fifth season, “American Horror Story: Hotel,” returns to FX in October and will star Matt Bomer, Lady Gaga, Sarah Paulson, Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates.
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Emmy Contender Sarah Paulson on Challenges of Playing ‘AHS: Freak Show’ Role: ‘It Was Really Scary’

The actress opens up to TheWrap on how difficult it was to play conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler

“American Horror Story” star Sarah Paulson is busy preparing to play a brand new character in the next installment of the FX miniseries, but she hopes her “AHS: Freak Show” characters Bette and Dot Tattler won’t soon be forgotten.

And with a 2015 Critics Choice TV Award already under her belt for the role, it’s hard to imagine Paulson’s performance will escape the attention of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which has twice previously nominated her for an Emmy for her work on the horror drama.

Only time will tell if Paulson will finally get to go home with a trophy in hand this year, but if she does, it will be particularly meaningful, since she considers playing the conjoined twins the most difficult role she’s ever tackled.

It’s no question, just because for me it was also a lot of acting on my own with myself,” Paulson told TheWrap while taping of a recent “Drinking with the Stars” episode. “And when you’re not looking at anything, but kind of cocking your head to one side and imagining your own eyes looking back at you, it takes a very big imagination. I had to kind of [have] a lot of faith. It was really scary.

Paulson talked at length about the challenges she faced while bringing the character life, how weird it is to work with a fake identical head strapped on, and which “AHS” season has been her favorite.

TheWrap: Let’s talk about “Freak Show.” Because I know there’s something you want to correct people’s opinion about, you play Bette and Dot Tapper.

Sarah Paulson: I do. I play them both. There’s not an animatronic puppet playing the other part. I sort of think that there’s been a misconception that because I did, in fact, wear an animatronic head that looked exactly like me — I had to do a life cast that was totally terrifying, you feel like you’re suffocating.You’re in there for half an hour, covered in paper mache that’s just getting wrapped around you

Oh, God. Are you claustrophobic at all?

Yes. Anybody would be. You feel like you’re being buried alive. It’s awful. So they made this puppet essentially. They made two, one for Bette and one for Dot, that I would wear only when the camera was high and wide, so you can see the body completely with both heads without having to do any special effects, which are very expensive. And the show is already an expensive thing to produce, so when Ryan decided to do this, they had to think of a way to do it where they could sometimes shoot across both heads, so having a puppet that was exactly crafted to look exactly like me. Which, I have to tell you is really horrifying because when you look in the mirror, you’re seeing yourself reflected, but when you’re seeing a puppet that has been made to look exactly like you down to every freckle and mole, you’re actually I think seeing what everyone else sees when they look at you. Because it’s seeing yourself outside of yourself, if you know what I mean? It’s beeping weird, I have to tell you.

I would just be more worried that like one day the puppet would just start talking and just like Chuckie-style.

Believe me, I did a big joke every time I had the puppet on where I’d always talk to it. Like, “Why are you so quiet? I don’t understand why you don’t talk.”

You should’ve learned ventriloquism.

I could have, but you know I have enough. Thanks very much, but I have enough on my plate. I have to do two completely — you know, girls that shared a body but had very different personality. I would wear an earwig so that I could come in in the morning and pre-record my dialogue so that I will have played both girls. And I would switch the earwig so that when I had conversations with myself I was listening to my own voice. And you know, all of that stuff.

It sounds like, I would imagine, it’s your most challenging role to date.

It’s no question, just because for me it was also a lot of acting on my own with myself. I get obviously a lot of pleasure of acting with other people. Looking into other faces and eyes and you know acting is really, for me anyway, about listening and responding. And when you’re not looking at anything, but kind of cocking your head to one side and imagining your own eyes looking back at you, it takes a very big imagination. I had to kind of [have] a lot of faith. It was really scary. I had never done it before. It has not been done this way before.

So did you have reservations about playing the character at all?

I certainly didn’t. I had reservations in my ability to pull it off, for sure. Because I thought “How?” I really didn’t know how I was going to do it. And so much of it was — there was so much of a technical reality to the part that I have never experienced before in terms of I had to hit every mark exactly and then position my body in such a way that it was slightly off the mark so that when I came in playing the other character I could lean my body in the opposing way. And so it was just a lot of my brain was working in a way that my brain just doesn’t actually work. It just — it almost felt that I had to become a mathematician and just being very physically aware of my body in a way that I’m not normally. In terms of having to shift my ribcage over when I was playing Bette and shift it more center when I was playing Dot. It was like patting your head and rubbing your stomach and running down the street and trying to solve an algebra equation all at the same time.

So you you created two distinct physical characteristics for playing those characters. Did you have any others that you did?

Well, no. I mean, I think with Dot I kept thinking how because she was much more sullen and sort of cynical, darker soul, my body would end up getting more compact when I would play her. My face, my neck, everything got kind of smaller. When I was playing Bette, I had one head tilted to side. She was much more open and so I would have my face felt more open, my body felt more open. I actually had them create what I would call the buttress, which was a piece that fit under my arm that I would switch to whichever side I was. If I was playing Bette I would put it on my right side, so I would remember spatially that I had another person attached to me. Because if I didn’t have that, I would — it was very hard for me, particularly in the beginning, to remember that the width of their bodies were different, their arms swung at different paces. I had them build up one side of my shoe higher so that I could remember.

A lot of work that went into pulling that character off.

It was a lot of work and I’m an actress, not a brainiac for God’s sake. It was very challenging.

Did you have a favorite sister to play? Did you like one role over the other?

I liked them both because I feel like they’re two sides of that person and everyone, and certainly in me, the part of me that can be very playful and kind of juvenile, which was Bette. And the other person that’s sort of cynical and cigarette smoking and just like, “Everything’s terrible.” I feel like I can be both of those gals. They both live in me, so it was a kind of yin and yang quality. I think it was sort of more fun to play Bette because she was more open and I found somehow that my emotions were more readily available to me in emotional scenes as Bette because I wasn’t so shut down. She was just a sort of very open person. So all of a sudden if I was supposed to cry in a scene, it just happened because she was–. It was an interesting thing to take that part of me that is a little more shut down in the way that you are as a human being in the world to protect yourself from the horrors that come to you during the day–to let some of that go and having a more open sense of yourself brought a lot of things out of me that I wasn’t aware I could do. It was hard.

Do you look back on any season more favorably than others in terms of just the experience?

Well Season 2 was a very special season to me because I felt very attached to that character of Lana Winters. She kind of became the heroine of the show by the end and yet she was very flawed and her ambition got the best of her some times. And I liked that I wasn’t playing a heroine that only had everyone else’s best interests at heart. She was self-serving sometimes and I thought it was very human for the writers to depict her that way and therefore very freeing as an actor to not worry about playing someone that needed to be liked or loved by the audience and I just you know didn’t have to think about those things so much. I don’t think you should ever think about those things, but sometimes they’re written into the material where you can tell that they want to engender goodwill from the audience to your character. I didn’t feel that so it was very freeing and liberating as an actor to not be thinking about that kind of stuff. She’s a very strong character, she’s the only survivor of that season, I like that.

Do you think that’s important? You hear a lot that, “Oh, this character’s not likable enough.” Do you think that matters or that audiences are smart enough where they don’t need “like” a character?

I do think there’s more sophistication to audiences than people give credit to. At the same time, I definitely have had experiences — not on ‘American Horror Story’ at all, that’s one of the more exciting things about being on it. I don’t think anyone’s thinking about trying to be likable. I think that’s death as an actor. Trying to be worrying about that because then you’re not going to be open to all of the nuanced things about playing a person that isn’t necessarily likable all the time. You don’t like anybody all the time do you?

Of course not.

No, I mean even the person you love the most in the world can be frustrating and disappointing. I think it’s really interesting to have those kinds of characters depicted. And it’s certainly more fun to play them than to play the person that you feel has to be liked by the audience. And I actually think people are actually drawn to characters that they can recognize themselves in. Because everyone’s a narcissist and see themselves reflected back.
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Old 06-24-2015, 09:19 AM
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‘American Horror Story’s’ Finn Wittrock on Filming in Tighty Whities and 5 Other Emmy Contender Quickies

Actor describes show as “noir, musical, horror, romantic drama. With a clown”

Finn Wittrock is generating awards buzz very early in his career.

The young actor turned heads and stomachs on “American Horror Story: Freak Show”as the murderous Dandy Mott, a spoiled child who becomes the protege of the even more demented Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch).

Here the actor discusses his toughest moments during “Freak Show,” which episode he would submit for awards consideration and the acting prowess of co-star Sarah Paulson.

TheWrap: What was the toughest thing you had to do this season?

Finn Wittrock: I think the last episode was the toughest, in general. I don’t believe in guns, so to kill a bunch of people that I had come to know and love with a gun was actually hard [emotionally].

But then I got my comeuppance, which was hard physically because I had to drown in this box … they had to make me look like I was drowning because I couldn’t actually be in the tank with the water filled. They had to put a harness under my tighty whities … and they raised me up and they sort of put my hair up to look like it was in the water; they put crazy gel in it. And then I had to somehow act like I’m drowning and dead in the water. And I’m floating there in the air and it’s 3 a.m. the last day of shooting.

What was the most fun thing you got to do this season?

The funnest thing was working with John Carroll Lynch, the crazy clown … especially in our one big scene in the playroom together, because he had no lines but he communicated a lot, you know? With only his scary eyes. And so it was this sort of bizarre, heightened, weird conversation with your spooky, scary best friend, who has two kids that he’s hidden in a school bus in the middle of the woods. He’s like my hero.

If someone hadn’t seen your show, how would you describe it?

I’d describe it as a noir, musical, horror, romantic drama. With a clown.

Who else on your show deserves an Emmy and why?

There’s a lot of talent all over the cast, but I think Sarah Paulson‘s challenge was greater than anybody’s, having to be two people at once (the conjoined Bette and Dot). It’s a very hard, laborious, technical, tedious process … and she was a real pro throughout all of it. It literally takes three times as long to film those scenes than any other scenes, and to be able to do that and maintain two separate characters is pretty extraordinary.

Are you a binge TV watcher or a once-a-week viewer?

If I’m actually current, I want to watch “Game of Thrones” when it’s on, you know? But other than that I’m a binge watcher. Like “House of Cards” — I’ve become a Netflix junkie.

If nominated, which episode would you submit?

I really liked working with Fraces Conroy, who was my mom. And I think that our big, final scene is really cool. And I think that’s episode eight … After that Dandy really spiraled out of control, which is fun, but I think that that episode is the big climax for him.
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