Question: I actually wanted to ask you what is the strangest thing that has happened to you on set, or personally, from doing this show.
Dylan McDermott: Well, I mean if you watched all the episodes, you know that I’ve had to do some strange things clearly, but I was part of the ride when I talked to Ryan [Murphy] about this show. Obviously the cry baiting and walking around naked, and now I’m playing a serial killer, is all in terms of doing American Horror Story, this is what comes with the dinner. So you just have to be up for it.
Question: This is a show that really stretches your acting abilities and part of your personal fear factor. Is there any one fear that you would like to try to conquer by doing this show?
McDermott: Well, I think if you had any fears walking—you better not have any fears walking into this show because all your personal things are public. So I think that you really have to be not too shy to do a show like this, let me just put it that way.
Question: Then can you tell me a little bit about your character and where you hope he ends up at the end of the season.
McDermott: Well, ‘Johnny Thredson,’ obviously he’s a troubled man; so where I hope he goes and where he goes are two different places, but I think he’s got a sole purpose in life and really that is, he feels so scorned by his mother. Everything is about his mother. The reason he’s doing all these horrible things is because he was rejected so harshly by his mother, obviously aborted. His father was a serial killer. His mother aborted him and he still lives. So his whole trajectory in life is really about her.
Question: Can you just give us a breakdown as to how you got involved in this show again? Were you looking to come back and what happened? Did Ryan give you a call and say, listen, I’ve got this sick, twisted character that I want you to play?
McDermott: Yes, we talked in the summer and he said he was looking for something for me to come back. I wanted to come back and we weren’t sure in what capacity. Then the day the show aired, he called me and said he wanted me to come back as the son of ‘Bloody Face,’ the modern day ‘Bloody Face.’ He just told me; I hadn’t read any of the script, so I knew nothing about it. It was sort of a blind call. When he told me the story of it, I was just like flabbergasted. I mean, I couldn’t get—because it was just so horrendous how this guy would survive and what he would become and who he was. I was just fascinated by him. It was so different from, obviously, ‘Ben Harmon,’ to come back to this same show with a different character. I just thought it was a great way to make television completely different from anything you see on television, because when do you get to play different characters on the same show.
Question: Without giving too much away, can you tell us how many more episodes you’re going to be appearing in?
McDermott: I will be, I believe, in the next three out of four.
Question: Because you’ve been through this once before with Ryan, when you came back, when you made the decision to come back, were there things that you talked about with him about specific things you wanted to do this time around, to make this character distinct? Did you have a lot of input in shaping how you wanted this character to be?
McDermott: I mean he really—he’s the one who designed the character. Then we talked at length on how he would look and what we wanted. We came up with this mullet idea and the tattoos and how I’m really a blue collar guy as opposed to the psychiatrist of ‘Ben Harmon.’ So I think we were both looking to do something radically different than we had last season, but this was, once again, Ryan’s invention.
Question: Did the veterans talk to the newbies at all about working, doing this kind of show, what’s involved in doing it?
McDermott: I mean, I think you know what you’re stepping into when you just see four minutes of this show. You understand that this is a very dark, twisted world. So when you come on this show, whether you’re a guest star or a regular or whatever, you know what you’re getting into.
Question: Would you see yourself coming back for the third series, if Ryan came up with another big idea for you?
McDermott: Yes, I mean I love this show. I just think it’s just really—if I wasn’t on the show, I’d be watching it; so I’m a fan of this show as much as an actor on the show. So whatever—like I said before, I really trust Ryan and he has a great instinct with me. If he asks me to come back on, of course.
Question: Are there are any other characters whose storylines that you’ve been like really following this season? Are you curious to see how they kind of pan out?
McDermott: Yes, I mean, it’s funny because I was really following Zach’s [Quinto] character and Sarah’s [Paulson] character and it’s funny that they would end up being my parents. Because I had no idea and then all of a sudden, I’m their son. So it’s funny that it would all work out in such a way.
Question: What would you say is one of the biggest reasons that this show seems to resonate well with viewers, at least in your opinion?
McDermott: It’s a funny thing. I think that people, as much as they deny it, they want to be scared. It’s sort of a phenomenon, really, why people want to be scared when there is so much violence in the world and there’s so much craziness in the world. People still really enjoy being scared. It’s a conundrum to me. It’s hard to explain. It’s an unconscious thing, really, why people like that so much. I don’t like the slasher stuff myself, but I do like the psychological horror of Roman Polanski and that world. But it’s curious to me why people do like to be afraid.
Question: I just wanted to know—I know much of this show is very twisted and dark. Is there anything that resonates with you in this show that you take home and it’s hard to shake?
McDermott: Yes, I mean there are a lot of things. There are a lot of things in this show that are disturbing and hard. There is a lot of violence in this show and it’s hard to get around that, you know what I mean, and it’s real. It makes you feel things and it’s upsetting; but nonetheless, as an actor, you can’t judge it. You have to be in it. When I’m playing a serial killer, I’m in it. I’m not judging him. I’m not judging his environment. I’m just sort of like looking for the why; why he is the way he is. But there’s no doubt that you have to take—if you’re a good actor, you’re going to take this stuff home with you.
Question: Do you have a favorite type of horror story?
McDermott: I’m really, like I said before, I do like the Polanski stuff more than anything else. I mean, Rosemary’s Baby is still one of my favorite movies of all time. The idea of her being impregnated with the devil and all that stuff is just like so frightening and being in New York at The Dakota, it’s so scary. I’m going to work on a movie, actually, in February, called Mercy from Jason Blum [Paranormal Activity] and there is a similar theme to Rosemary’s Baby in the movie. So somewhere I am attracted to that in a strange way, so that does scare me; the sort of demon baby, more than anything else. Like we had in the first season of American Horror.
Question: Last year’s story had this wonderfully, neatly tied up ending, at least for most of the characters—for yours especially. Does this year’s have a similar kind of closure to it?
McDermott: Yes, without giving anything away, I think it does. I think that you’ll be satisfied in terms of what happens. All the characters will definitely—you’ll have closure with all the characters. It’s hard to wrap up the season in one show, but I think that having read it and now performing it, I think that you’re going to be satisfied for sure.
Question: Then what has been the most fun aspect of this year’s role for you?
McDermott: I think because it’s so radically different from last year. Playing the psychiatrist role, a white collar guy, and going to a blue collar guy who’s a serial killer and has these enormous problems with his parents and the way he feels. I think that’s been fun to play, for me, personally. The idea of diving into his past and creating this guy, this sort of like wounded person who is just lashing out at the world; so I refer to both of these characters in American Horror Story as twin brothers with a different father.
Question: Is there anything you can tell us about what’s coming up in the next three episodes that you’re in?
McDermott: I mean, I think we’re going to look into what—he really is after some sort of closure with his mother. I think he can’t understand, he can’t wrap his head around why someone would want to throw him out, throw him in the trash. So I think we’re going to peek into his psychological world in the next three episodes and then we’re going to have closure with his character in the finale. But it’s really—it goes into the psychology and the pathology of who he is. He’s not just like a serial killer and out there on the run with no reason. I think we really get into the reason of “Johnny Thredson.” People behave badly and people are in prison and people are on death row and there are no excuses for everybody’s behavior, but most people are coming from abuse. I think “Johnny” is not alone in that. I think he just really suffers from an enormous amount of abuse and there’s a reason he’s doing the things he’s doing and that’s not justified, but we’re going to peek into his world.
Question: You’ve had a lot of shocking moments on this series. What would you say is the one that stands out most for you?
McDermott: Well I think for everybody, it’s got to be the cry baiting. I think you would agree on that. People still talk about that. That’s going to be with me for awhile. That’s okay because that was “Ben Harmon.” If people were afraid to play “Ben Harmon” because of that scene, people—they just couldn’t do it. I always picture myself the guy running into the burning building, not running out. That was certainly evidence of that moment right there.
Question: What do you think is the most underrated aspect of American Horror Story? Is there anything about the show that you think deserves a little more praise from the T.V. critics?
McDermott: I think it’s widely praised. I think that sometimes people are afraid of the genre and maybe they’ll judge it. It’s sort of like The Walking Dead, I think deserves to have more nominations and deserves to be up for more awards and somehow I think the genre maybe gets in the way of that; that people dismiss it, maybe a little bit more, because of the genre. But if you look at American Horror Story and you look at Walking Dead—and these are two phenomenal shows—and I think maybe other shows might get more nominations or awards because they’re sort of—they fit the notion of what a drama should be. These are groundbreaking shows. I think American Horror is a groundbreaking show and ahead of its time. Sometimes when things are ahead of its time, people don’t always get it in the moment. I think that’s happening right now. You look back on things and say oh, wow, that was a great show. Sometimes people maybe miss it; not to say that they are missing it, but I think sometimes this idea of horror is hard for people. It’s not for everybody, but I think it’s hard for people to wrap their head around in terms of awards.
Question: I was wondering if there is anything about this particular character that you added to the role that wasn’t originally scripted for you?
McDermott: Yes, you’ll see him in, I think in the next episode, I started smoking some crack. I don’t think that was in it. I wanted him to be—I needed him to have an outlet for it and then when I started smoking crack, they started putting it into scenes. So that was an important thing that I wanted him to be high because a lot of these guys are high and a lot of people do, obviously, terrible things on drugs. It was important for me to have him to be a drug addict as well.
Question: How much of a rush was it to put on that “Bloody Face” mask? Also, you’re a big Polanski fan, were there any maniacs or twisted individuals from Polanski that you kind of drew from to kind of inform your “Bloody Face” character?
McDermott: Not really, no. Obviously, when you put that mask on and you can hear your own breath, it’s like a mini-horror show inside your own head. So that’s frightening in itself, when that thing goes on. I twittered a picture of myself with it on against a wall that said, “Beware,” and I have a machete in my hand and it’s truly a frightening picture. But no, this guy he came to me very naturally. Like I said before, sometimes you have to search for inspiration with characters and other times, they just drop out of the sky and they arrive and “Johnny Thredson” was one of those for me.
Question: I was wondering if you worked at all, directly, with Zach Quinto on your characterization of the son “Bloody Face,” or if anything you watched him do prior to the season informed choices that you made as a character?
McDermott: I kind of just watched him and picked up a few of his mannerisms. There is one scene coming up where we’re in the same room. I guess in the writer’s room, they put up a picture of me and Zach and Sarah to see if I could be their son, when they were casting it. I guess I passed the test, but I think that we do have some similar qualities in our darker features, so I don’t think it’s much of a leap. But I did kind of try to listen to his voice and look at his mannerisms a little bit.
Question: Also, on a prior call with Zach, he mentioned the nature of the horror this season as opposed to last season. That last season being primarily supernatural and then this being, obviously, more human driven between you guys being the main thrust of that human driven horror. So I was wondering what you think about the difference between the paranormal and the more human driven horror and if you prefer one or the other.
McDermott: I mean I like the psychological horror personally. I think the show is radically different from what it was last year and what it is this year and I’m sure it will be again next year. I think that’s just what American Horror Story is. It really is an anthology series and I think it’s always going to be changing, no matter how many seasons it’s on. I think it’s going to change its location and character and I think that’s just the nature of the beast.