The actual title of American Horror Story‘s upcoming election-themed seventh season is still being kept tightly under wraps, but executive producer Tim Minear dropped a hint about what’s in store during the show’s PaleyFest panel on Sunday, moderated by EW’s Tim Stack.
In previous years, PaleyFest tended to be when executive producer Ryan Murphy would either outright reveal or at least tease what the following season’s theme would be. However, during last year’s PaleyFest, Murphy kept the future a mystery, teasing they were deciding between two different ideas. Thus, production on season 6 proved difficult as everyone on American Horror Story tried to keep Roanoke‘s content a secret. “There was a lot of secrecy and a lot of making sure the scripts wouldn’t get out,” Minear said. “We tried to make sure nothing got leaked. Eventually, it did.”
Before it leaked, however, the producers faced a tough challenge — which led to Minear’s one and only tease about season 7 during the panel. “At the beginning of every season, in order to secure the tax benefit, you have to give a synopsis of what you’re doing,” Minear said. “That was not okay with Ryan, but we had to give them something, so we made up this completely batsh– thing for those two paragraphs and the funny thing is, we’re doing it this year.”
Back in February, Murphy — who was not present at PaleyFest this year — revealed on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen that season 7 of his FX anthology series would revolve around the 2016 election. Later that month, however, Murphy clarified that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would not appear as characters. So far, Sarah Paulson and her fellow anthology regular Evan Peters are the only announced cast members for the next installment of the series.
During the panel, one fan brought up a theory that every character Paulson has played on the series has been somehow tied to the media — Billie Dean Howard and Lana Winters among them — thus raising the question of whether she’d somehow be tied to the media in season 7. (After all, Murphy has joked about the potential for her to play Kellyanne Conway before.) Alas, EP Brad Falchuk debunked this theory. “Sarah’s parts have not been written intentionally about the media,” he said, noting that Paulson’s characters tend to be people you would not like unless she played them because she’s able to bring out a likable quality within.
Looking back on Roanoke, the cast noted it was very difficult keeping the story line secret. “There was nothing we could say. This was a whole new world order of knowing really nothing,” Paulson said, noting that it was difficult to even come close to spilling the beans, because “when we were reading, we didn’t know what the f— was happening.”
Though Roanoke came as a surprise to its audience, it was an idea the producers considered since the beginning. “From even before the show, we were always fascinated by this great American legend and what happened to those people there,” Falchuk said. “It was always in the back of our head… It was nice to have something that had just a kernel of truth and we could fill in the blanks.”
The key to making this story truly terrifying, Falchuk said, was bringing out the horror on a much more personal level. “Every season we’ve always tried to do something different from the season before,” he said. “This was a really dramatic shift, much more pared down. We really wanted to be as scary as possible. We really wanted to beat the hell out of [the cast] in a different way.”
American Horror Story, which has already been renewed through season 9, is expected to return this fall on FX.