We’re still a long ways away from indulging in a new season of American Horror Story, but that doesn’t mean we can’t devour every little morsel creator Ryan Murphy drops about it. Vulture has an excellent interview with the busy showrunner who is currently developing two feature-films, The Normal Heart and the A-list musical, One Hit Wonders. Murphy is doing this while juggling three television shows: Glee on Fox, American Horror Story on FX, and his promising new family comedy, The New Normal, which was ordered to series at the NBC Upfronts earlier this month.
In the interview, Murphy peeled back the tinfoil on the roast he’s cooking up for Season 2 of AHS. He reiterated that it centers around Jessica Lange’s new character who is running an institution for the criminally insane. He revealed that Chloë Sevigny (Big Love) will join the cast. The first season’s theme was infidelity and raising babies, what will season two’s theme be?
“The second season is about sanity,” Murphy said. “What makes someone sane or insane? Sometimes the people you think are insane are actually the most sane of all. It’s fun to write about people who society throws away.”
“I haven’t said this publicly, but the new season is set in the sixties and Chloë Sevigny, for example, plays a character who was put in an asylum because she was a woman who likes sex, so her husband sends her away. At the time, you were able to put people away for that… She’s playing a really screwed-up but very important part that she’s never played before, and I think she responded to the fact that somebody saw that in her and was interested in bringing something else out.”
“Another character is institutionalized for being a lesbian. To me, there’s nothing more scary than somebody coming to you and saying they’re going to take you away and put you in a mad house and you have no legal rights and there you shall stay till the end of your days. That is a real horror. Everybody has felt people thinking, ‘You’re fucking crazy.’ Even somebody saying that to you is scary.”
The most important thing I like about Murphy’s work is that he takes risks. He and co-creator and co-executive producer Brad Falchuk have a signature voice, whether you are drawn to or turned off by it, they make no apologies and love to cause uneasiness at the start of a show before backing up and letting those things be the thread that weaves the other pieces and parts. He’s hoping to do that with Ellen Barkin in The New Normal by bringing an Archie Bunker-like character back to the major networks. Constance was that on AHS.
Murphy goes on to say that he originally envisioned the show as an anthology with the hope that it would reach a second and hopefully third season. FX told him that they hoped season one worked because they “love the second season” pitch.
First things first, I love the addition of Sevigny. She’s an actor that has that timeless look and is believable in any era. So she will be a great addition. I also believe the anthology set up is risky but plays well to Murphy’s strengths. He knows how to hit the ground running. It’s as if he pulls up next to you walking in a car, grabs hold of you and drives off.
But Murphy’s first FX show, Nip/Tuck got stuck after the third season, constantly putting some of his characters through torture – Matt McNamara (John Hensley) and Kimber Henry (Kelly Carlson) especially – and audiences were being shocked just for the sake of being shocked, not because it moved the story forward. Glee also had problems in Season 2 as well as starting out this past third season, and Murphy addressed what he believed was the problem in the interview. Glee’s third season did end well, and he’s using that to kick Season 4 off with a bang.
I’ve often felt that some shows would have been better designed as one or two-season series. Not every series need to have #sixseasonsandamovie as a plan or a scope. Hopefully the AHS format keeps the process fresh for Murphy so that it doesn’t repeat the same traps that made the final seasons of Nip/Tuck forgettable. The concept that the setting, circumstance, and themes change season-to-season in American Horror Story at the very least, ensures a strong, fresh take out the gate each season.
As for the concern of the returning cast members playing different characters, that too is a risk, but while many of us loved Lange as Constance, I have good faith that whatever she’s given she will be able to bring us into that particular world and be the baseline for the second season. It’s a testament to the writers to re-imagine how to use each actor and decide how much each character develops over a single season instead of several. Actors also get a chance to show their range and play multiple roles as opposed to having only one to prepare for and perform–an appealing draw, especially for younger cast members. Murphy had this to say about the shuffle:
“I think that people will love seeing Evan Peters, who was last season’s ultimate badass bad boy and this year is the hero of the show. It’s not like the actors are playing similar parts. They’re going to look different, they’re going to sound different, they’re going to have different accents. It’s a different time period. The actors are so excited to do that and hopefully their enthusiasm will translate. I mean, I would pay to watch Jessica Lange read the phonebook. And she’s so the opposite of Constance this year. Like, if she was the wilting Blanche DuBois character, there’s not a shred of that now.”
What do you think about the series taking place in the 1960′s? What do you think about Evan Peter’s playing the hero? And Chloë Sevigny joining the cast? Share your thoughts below!