'American Horror Story': Ryan Murphy on the return of Dylan McDermott
[SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE MOST RECENT AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM]
The second episode of American Horror Story: Asylum upped the stakes even further with not only an epic old-school exorcism — with a possessed nun! The Sound of Music this ain’t! When the Briarcliff staff failed to save a young man possessed by Satan, the spirit instead forced itself into Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), although no one knows that yet. Viewers also met new psychiatrist Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto), who seems nice but naturally that can’t be the whole story since this is AHS. EW talked to co-creator Ryan Murphy about clues within the episode to the mysterious pasts of Thredson and Arden (James Cromwell), as well as the return of Dylan McDermott later in the season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: From the beginning of this episode, it appears that both Leo and Wendy are killed by Bloody Face. Are they dead?
RYAN MURPHY: I cannot say because we reveal that in the third episode. We reveal who’s alive and who’s dead — you find out the fate of both. Well, Wendy takes a little bit longer but you find out.
So much of the show is about the battle between faith and science, and this episode really tackled that head on.
I think it was a really cool interesting episode to write about the power of goodness and faith over the power of evil. And that exorcism took forever to shoot. It was very complicated [and] draining. It was very physical on the actors, particularly Jessica [Lange]. I loved writing about it. We have a line coming up in an episode where the devil says, “I know everything.” I think that’s a very interesting way to look at that scene. And I like the device of the devil himself telling the audience about Sister Jude. That was the first thing we came up with: how do we tell the audience?
Let’s have Satan do it!
Another day in the AHS writers room. Let’s have Satan tell us that Jessica [Lange’s character] was a failed floozy.
In the original script, Jude wasn’t the one singing in the bar. You changed that right?
I changed that. My whole thing with Jessica [Lange] and with [Sarah] Paulson and Lily Rabe is I want you to not only play the opposite but I really want you as actors to be challenged. Jessica has sung in movies before — she was Patsy Cline [in 1985’s Sweet Dreams]. I went to her and I said, “Let’s make you that.” And as soon as I said that she loved it. That’s her voice. That’s a flashback that we play with as the whole season progresses. That was that character’s low point.
That night is supposed to be the same night she had the hit-and-run?
Yes. She’s rejected by the sailor. You see her getting drunk on her martinis.
Will the guilt of the hit-and-run plague Sister Jude for the whole season?
Yes, you sorta really find out that was the night that she turned to God after that tragedy.
We get more of a peek inside Dr. Arden and his sexual proclivities?
Don’t you love that?
I think that was the scariest part of last night. What’s his deal? He just seems like a major crazy person.
Oh, he’s not crazy at all. His backstory comes in episode 4 and 5. But I will say to people, look very closely at the photos in that box. Those are all clues to who he is and what he’s done.
We also meet Dr. Thredson, who seems like the voice of reason. But when the young man is possessed, he channels Thredson’s mother. Are there skeletons in his closet?
All of the characters are haunted by their pasts in this season, maybe even more than last year. But that thing that the devil says to him is definitely a plot point coming up where he very movingly talks about that.
The fun thing about these episodes is we have a luxury of writing so far ahead that there are little clues in episode 2. What the devil said to Zach and what’s in that box with Dr. Arden comes back and then becomes whole episodes. They are blood-splattered easter eggs.
Is next week’s episode focused on Grace’s past?
No that’s episode 4. Next week’s episode has my favorite thing that I have ever seen Jessica do in two seasons. It’s movie night at Briarcliff. The episode is called “Noreaster” and there’s a terrible storm coming and to calm the inmates, Sister Jude orders a religious movie. Jessica’s introduction of that movie is one of my favorite’s ever. It’s a master class. After each take, she would get rounds of applause.
At the end, it appears Sister Eunice is possessed by Satan. Will she be a different level of possession?
She certainly has her moments. I think it’s very clear by the end of the episode that Sister Eunice has been taken over by the devil. It’s fascinating to research the idea of Satanic possession. From the 1400s on, there are very different levels of possession. There are more animalistic ferocity, there are more sly and cunning, a possession that’s not so much about outward force but inward ambition. And that’s the thing we wanted to do for Sister Mary Eunice.
We saw more of Chloe Sevigny’s Shelley and she just seems like such a tragic character.
I love Chloe so much and I love her in this part. Next week you will see something about her that might just be the most shocking thing we’ve done on the show, and that’s saying a lot!
That’s a helluva tease! Lord knows we’ve seen it all. So what else can you tease about “Noreaster?”
It’s an episode where everything we’ve been building in the first two collide in a very sort of seismic way. I really love the episode because it’s a very atmospheric episode. It’s about the building of a coming storm. I loved how it was shot. I love an episode that’s all about the episode. It’s a really great spooky Halloween time episode. A lot is revealed in that episode. It’s great.
And I gotta ask you about Dylan McDermott coming back. What can you say about him?
Well, I just love Dylan. He and I spoke at great length at the end of last year because Dylan loved the experience and loved the material and the actors and he and I really wanted him to come back. I wanted him to do something that’s the opposite of what he’s done. He’s introduced in episode 9, which is our winter cliff-hanger. So he’s a big part of the last chunk of the episodes. We plotted and plotted and came up with something that is great and he actually starts filming tomorrow. I love it because it’s a real departure for Dylan, who is usually such a handsome leading man.
Are you ugly-ing him up?
No, no. I didn’t wanna pop a wig on him and be like “Trick or treat!” It’s a really cool plot twist that I think is fun.
Will he once again be crying and masturbating at the same time?
You know? Alas, no. Alas, no.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @EWTimStack
American Horror Story
An anthology series that centers on different characters and locations, including a haunted house, an insane asylum, a witch coven, a freak show, and a hotel.