SDCC | ‘American Horror Story’ Cast Looks Back on ‘Coven,’ Ahead to ‘Freak Show’
As fans of American Horror Story eagerly await the next installment of the boundary-pushing anthology series, the cast of Coven took the stage at Comic-Con International to reflect on the previous season and tease what to expect from Freak Show.
Entertainment Weekly’s Tim Stack moderated the discussion, which featured executive producer Tim Minear and cast members Emma Roberts, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Michael Chiklis, Angela Bassett and Evan Peters.
Stack joked that there were many “Comic Con virgins” on the panel, indicating Roberts, Paulson and Bates. He then asked Bassett what she thought of the convention. “Wild,” she replied. “My husband [Courtney B. Vance] came once for FlashForward and enjoyed it. He said, ‘Get ready, get ready, get ready.”
Peters, who appeared at the convention last year for X-Men: Days of Future Past, was asked whether he was a fan of the experience. He quickly replied “Fuck, yeah!” to the delight of the audience.
Turning to American Horror Story, Stack asked the actors if they had a favorite moment from Coven. Peters answered that the death of Frances Conroy’s Myrtle was “pretty awesome.” Roberts agreed, calling Myrtle “her favorite.” Paulson said she “could never keep a straight face, with Frannie Conroy it as very difficult. Particularly the scene where we were all holding hands and Myrtle was talking about the bidet and the covered wagons. She threw herself completely into it, and we couldn’t keep a straight face.”
Bates said her favorite moment was when Sarah was “whispering incantations into green gunk in a mixer.” Bassett agreed about Myrtle’s burning at the stake, and added “Kathy’s head.”
Asked whether the writers knew from the beginning that Cordelia would be the new Supreme, Minear revealed “the revelation came later.” “We were writing a story about mothers and daughters,” he said. “I think she was always the Supreme in the story, before the writers knew.”
Stack then asked whether there “was playful competition between the witches about who was the Supreme.” Roberts replied, “We were all told we were the Supreme.”
When the conversation moved from Coven to the upcoming Freak Show, all eyes turned to Chiklis, the newest addition to the cast. The veteran actor said the experience was like “jumping into a major gig,” adding, “These guys are the Beatles.”
Returning to the events of Coven, Stack wonder what it was like when Bassett’s character Marie Laveau beheaded Bates’ Delphine LaLaurie. “It was good,” the Oscar nominee said. “It gave me a chance to be bad.”
Following up, Stack asked Bates what it was like to perform as only a head. “I loved being a head,” she replied. “My favorite part … was when we were back at the house and I was lying on the dining room table with my head in the box and the lid opened and there’s Jessica [Lange].”
From one strange transformation to another, Stack asked Roberts about her reaction to “being transformed into a human doll.” “I was very excited about it, but I’m very claustrophobic,” she said. “When they put me in that wooden box, and at one point they forgot I was in there, I was like ‘Hello, let me out’ … And that make-up would take four hours to put on, and then I would wear it for 25 minutes, so that was definitely interesting, but it was fun.”
Stack complimented the writing team, saying, they “go for broke.” “Is it hard to keep topping yourself and finding crazier things?” he asked Minear. “No, we’re professionals,” the producer replied. “We get paid to make up shit. That’s what we do.”
When the conversation turned again to Freak Show, Stack asked whether the tone of the season would be more like <i<Coven or Asylum. Minear teased it will be “the best season so far.” “I just watched some dailies of a scene that I can only compare to a scene from Zodiac done in sherbet,” he said.
Stack informed the audience that Paulson will play Bett and Dot, conjoined twins. A question from Twitter asked which head is Paulson’s favorite.
“I do have a favorite,” she replied. “Bett is my favorite right now. It’s a week in and I don’t know why that is … but that for some reason feels organic to me. I love her.”
Asked by Stack how long it takes to apply the prosthetic, Paulson answered, “It’s not a prosthetic, dude … there’s mystery around what we’re doing and we want it to stay that way. Look, everyone in the room knows I don’t have two heads. Some magic is going to happen to communicate this story, but how that’s going to happen is done in a way that’s never really been done before. In a sense that no person has played a person with two heads that isn’t, I think other people have done it where they’ve hired other actors that looked similar to them … but this is a new thing.”
“There are 22 people work on every single shot that I do,” she continued, “so it’s a very complicated situation. How it will all come together, I do not know, but it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, having to switch between both girls without any time in between. … I should call Sally Field to get some tips.”
Saying the cast must be fearless, Stack asked whether it’s scary to be involved in American Horror Story. “It’s not scary,” Bassett said, “it’s exhilarating. Especially coming from the theater. It’s the closest thing to being on stage where you just jump without a net every night.”
Stack told the audience that in Freak Show, Chiklis’ Wendell del Toledo and Peters’ Jimmy Darling are father and son in Freak Show. Wendell is the husband of Bassett’s Desiree Dupree and ex-husband of Bates’ Apple Darling. Roberts is playing a character named Maggie, while Lange is Elsa Mars.
Moving beyond Freak Show, Stack asked whether there are any ideas for Season 5. “We leave that up to Jessica Lange,” Paulson replied. “New Orleans was her idea, so we can all blame her when we are sweating our asses off.”
Bringing up the tradition of monstrous villains in American Horror Story — Rubber Man in Season 1, Bloody Face in Season 2 and the Minotaur in Season 3 – Stack asked whether Freak Show will have a central antagonist. “There are a couple of central core villains, something to rival Rubber Man and Bloody Face and the Minotaur,” Minear teased. “I think it’s the scariest creation so far, it is being performed by John Carroll Lynch, and it’s going to scare the shit out of you.” The audience responded with applause.
Asked by an audience member whether there were “any elements or circumstances that you will absolutely not be a part of during filming,” Bates said she’d never do anything abusive to children.
Another fan wanted to know which scene the actors considered the scariest in Coven. Roberts said the rape of Madison Montgomery, while Paulson answered the death of Lange’s character. Bassett said for her it was a scene in which she watched a young boy being lynched, characterizing it as “a piece of poignant and cruel history come to life.”
Asked what it was like to work with Stevie Nicks, Roberts admitted she is “obsessed with Stevie Nicks.” When Nicks sang live, no one could believe it, she said.
A fan asked what it was like for Paulson and Peters to play “vastly different characters” from season to season. “The greatest security you can find in the acting world is a TV series that runs for a long time,” Paulson said. “The only problem with it for me is that you’re playing the same character over and over again, which can be an incredible opportunity to delve deeper and deeper into something. I’ve only been on shows that have been canceled … I’m not speaking from experience. I like the idea of every year getting to start fresh and play something different and to be terrified and to not know whether or not I can pull it off. I think it’s refreshing to every day go into my trailer and not say, ‘Ugh, it’s time to put on that suit and cross-examine the witness.’ I know those are great jobs to have but … this, to me, is the greatest job on television. You get 13 episodes to tell a story — a beginning and an end — and then you start fresh with the same group of people you love and you trust. … To me, it’s the first day of rehearsal to a play.”
Asked where and when Season 4 will take place, Minear replied, “The ‘50s … in Jupiter, Florida.”
For the final question Bates and Bassett were asked whether they watched the previous seasons of American Horror Story. Bates said yes, because she’s friends with Lange. However, she admitted she wasn’t “as crazy about Asylum.”
“I wasn’t watching at the time, but I did see the billboards with the Rubber Man, and I was intrigued,” Bassett said. “I thought that was a beautiful piece of art. I’m not really a lover of horror … so things like that, it scares me. I saw The Exorcist 15 years after it came out, and stayed up for three weeks straight.” She added that after she was cast in Coven, she “watched two seasons on the weekend, only at noon, with the lights on.”