After a hit, critically acclaimed first season that ended its story with grim finality, where else can American Horror Story go? How about back in time? Creator Ryan Murphy’s ode to the horror genre returns this Wednesday night (October 17th) on FX with American Horror Story: Asylum, a new, entirely different story set in Briarcliff Manor, a mental institution in 1964. And while this season features some of the first season’s actors - like Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, and Zachary Quinto – albeit in entirely different roles, it introduces a host of names new to the show.
Having spoken with them at this weekend’s red carpet premiere in Hollywood, I think it’s safe to say that season two, while packed with just as many scares as season one, offers chills that are more psychological; and the period setting allows American Horror Story to explore sexual and religious taboos in ways that make them as frightening as any ghosts. Here’s what the cast had to say…
“My character’s a doctor in an institution for the mentally ill, and he runs the medical unit and he takes advantage of it for his own interest, and conducts experiments that he believes are worthwhile, and are actually horrendous… The producers give me the tray of instruments and I just use whatever’s there. There is a lot of blood, I got to say that.” [laughs.]
“I never was a horror fan before this, unless you include The Shining. I’m interested in the filmmaker and I’m interested in the performance. I don’t like getting the shit scared out of me. I never saw it as much fun. I don’t like it when the door slams and you jump out of your seat. That always made me really uncomfortable. So I didn’t see it.”
“It’s going to awesome. Pepper is my character, and she is crazy. I’m a patient. A lifer crazy, who’s not going anywhere. On Wednesday you won’t be able to miss her.”
“They’re definitely keeping us on our toes. Last season was a family drama, with ghosts. This is sort of more like an office. It’s a work drama. It’s totally different, but it’s still scary. It’s still an American Horror Story. But I think this is beyond horror. This is psychological.”
“My character’s name is Anna [Walker]. And she is Evan Peter’s character Kit Walker’s wife. It’s controversial, their relationship, because it is an interracial couple during the ‘60s, and that was kind of taboo at the time. That’s really all I can say about her.”
“How shocking will it be? This season is the next level. It is scarier for me because it’s more psychological, and that’s what gets me going. It’s a completely different experience.”
“The thing is about my character, if you give something away, you give everything away. She is a patient at the asylum. She doesn’t work there, most of my scenes were with Jessica Lange and James Cromwell. I set some things in motion in there, shed some light on things. And some things are done to me.”
“This season is scary. There’s a big scary asylum that all these people are living in, and it’s horrifying. My character is named Spivey. He deserves to be there. He’s a patient. There’s a lot going on with him.
It’s very different than the first season. I think you’re going to be really scared. I think it spans a few genres of horror. There’s definitely something psychological, and there’s a few messages that you’ll see throughout.”
“My character, Sam Goodwin, is neither a doctor nor a patient. No comment at this time! But with my coming on to the show, this season has got to be much better.” [laughs]
“I play a character named Jed Potter. I’m a patient at the institution. I can’t reveal his medical condition; but it’s exciting and it’s a thrilling. And the course that the character takes, just in the time that he’s there, escalates to this point where it’s beyond insanity. It was exciting to play, and the writing was so brilliant, that every line was this amazing meal that I got to devour.”
“Compared to the first season, it’s a very different feel. Even aesthetically, I think it’s a different sort of feel right away. But I think it’s probably just as gory, and just as dark, and maybe even darker. Honestly, because of the nature of the show they don’t even tell us that much. So I got my scenes only, I didn’t get full scripts. So I don’t know where it’s going, I don’t know a lot of that stuff as well.”
“I’ve become a horror fan kind of through this show, because I was always too petrified and scared to watch things, but it kind of opened that door up for me a little bit. I’ve watched a lot more horror stuff lately, and I do like it. I think I still get very scared and it haunts me for months afterward, but I do enjoy it. Cabin in the Woods I thought was epically amazing. I just did a movie with Frank Kranz from that film, and I was so stressed because I thought [Cabin] was so brilliant. And The Shining is so incredible. Staying in hotels as much as I do an actor, I always think of hotels every time I go into those hallways and every time I go into a bath. It’s a beautiful movie too, in a lot of ways. Scary, but also beautifully shot. Like American Horror Story.”
“I play a guy named Frank McCann, he’s the head of security at the Briarcliff nuthouse, basically I’m Sister Jude, Jessica Lange’s, henchman. I have a big stick and a gun and a big set of keys. I think Frank might be the only sane person in the asylum. But we don’t know how that’s gonna end up.” [laughs]
“I think this is going to be more psychologically horrifying, whereas the first season was a lot of boo’s. This is some outrageous, twisted psychosexual insanity. It’s pretty jaw-dropping. Every page I turn in the script, I just say to myself, “They can’t do that!” I don’t know how they think of it. I’ve met most of the writers and they seem to be sane, but evidently not!
“There’s a lot of sexual morays and taboos that were a little more outrageous back in 1964 than they would be today. And it explores some of that. And also, religious views were more strident and dried back then. There were far fewer questions. The nuns in my mind are infallible, and people may not automatically feel that way today. It puts more tension in the story.”
“I play Wendy, who is the partner of Sarah Paulson’s character. It’s something I was familiar with because I did a movie that was set in the ‘60s and I played a gay character who was actually committed to a mental asylum because she was a lesbian. So at that time, it’s definitely something that you have to hide, and we are in hiding.”
“My character is a Catholic priest. His name is Father Timothy Howard. He’s a monsignor, and he’s running Briar Cliff as a beacon of light for the spiritually broken, dislocated, dispossessed. The outcasts of society. However heinous their crimes, he believes there is a healing element to his work. So I love that as a starting point.”
American Horror Story season 1 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.