[SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE LATEST INSTALLMENT OF AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW.]
The most recent episode of FX’s American Horror Story: Freak Show marked a homecoming of sorts for Lily Rabe. The actress, who appeared on all three previous installments of AHS but is now shooting her ABC thriller The Whispers, returned to play her Asylum character, Sister Mary Eunice. The kind nun was seen dealing with Pepper (Naomi Grossman), after she was sent to Briarcliff by her malicious sister (Mare Winningham). Though it was a brief appearance, it was also a marked difference from the demon-possessed woman last seen in Asylum.
EW talked exclusively to Rabe about returning to AHS and fan theories about further connections.
EW: How did this all come about?
LILY RABE: Basically I got a message that they had written Mary Eunice back into this season and we were gonna do everything to work it out, and they did. We were able to shoot on a Saturday. It’s such an incredible thing. I’ve had that experience time and time again with Ryan [Murphy] and with the show, where with most things it would be impossible to work something out, and they find a way. He really moves mountains.
Are you still shooting The Whispers now?
I am. I’m almost done, though. I’m sort of imminently done. We’re shooting our last episode. I wrap on Friday.
That show is filming in Vancouver. Was that the biggest obstacle in getting this done?
Yeah, just juggling the schedules and the location. There’s no direct flight. But it all worked out. It was that wonderful feeling of “oh, I’m home!” It felt like it hadn’t been very long. So much of the crew, I’ve worked with them for the last 3 years. It was a great day. And working with Mare was amazing. I’ve known Mare or she’s known me since I could barely walk. We go way, way, way back. We were both kind of emotional actually, playing that scene opposite each other because we just have this wonderful long history—but we had never acted together. We just knew each other personally. It was so wonderful because I respect her so much as an actress, and I love her so much as a human. So leave it to American Hororr Story to make that little dream come true.
How was it getting back in the habit? Did Sister Mary come back immediately?
I have to say it was really amazing putting that habit back on. [Laughs] Paulson texted me and said, “Text me the second that’s on!” [Laughs] All three of the women I’ve been lucky to play on that show, they don’t go far. They are wild and specific creations born out of Ryan’s brain. But they’re all still right near by, and I still do think about them all the time. So no, she didn’t feel far away at all. That habit was the same one. Lou, the costume designer, was like, “It’s the one! The one you wore all the time!” So that was pretty great.
I found it nice, too, to see Mary in a great place after Asylum ended so darkly for her.
Yes! It was sooo nice. We were talking about this on the day. It was on the third episode that she was possessed. It happened really fast. But she has that wonderful daffiness that I loved getting to play. I loved that it was the pre-possession, that original Mary Eunice. Pre-Jude, even. She doesn’t even know Jude yet. That whole relationship, of course, is probably the most formative relationship of her life, and that hasn’t even happened. So she’s this clean slate. Because Jude isn’t there yet. She’s trying her hand at trying to have a little bit of authority, and she’s not the best at it. But she’s trying and I respect her for that. [Laughs]
This is the first time the show has ever tied seasons together. Did it feel special shooting it?
Yes, it really did. It was kind of amazing because I got to see the Freak Show set on the set that I had been on for Coven, and see where my shack had been turned into Jessica’s incredible tent. Then they built a little bit of Briarcliff. It was so great to have it there. It felt very magical. But I didn’t see this coming, and it was so clever. To have this be the way that it all started to tie together, it’s so great.
There’s been all these theories about how the seasons are now connected. Your character in season one, Nora, shares the same last name, Montgomery, as Emma Roberts’ Madison in Coven. Were you aware of that?
I remember having that conversation when we were shooting Coven and saying, “Oh, it’s the same last name.” I didn’t have a theory or anything but I do remember noticing. Who knows? It’s amazing if they continue to be interwoven.
Your scenes are only with Mare and Naomi, but could you see anyone else?
I got to see Paulson. Like the minute I got to my hotel, she came over. But we weren’t on set together. I flew in the night before, and then we shot ’til like 4. Then I went straight to the airport. But I got to see a lot of the crew, which is so wonderful! That was pretty great.
Have you kept up with Freak Show this season?
I’m a couple episodes behind, but it’s incredible.
Do you have a favorite freak?
I love Evan so much this season. He’s such an incredible actor, and this character, I’m really obsessed with his performance. And Jessica is just off the charts. And Paulson is so amazing. Everyone is incredible, and it’s so beautiful. It’s so much fun to look at.
Would you come back and appear in season five of AHS?
As I’ve always said, being a part of American Horror Story and working for Ryan is something I hope to be lucky enough to continue for the rest of my life. It’s one of the great, great joys that I have. So absolutely, I hope for all those things to be possible.