'American Horror Story': Ryan Murphy on Anne Frank debut -- EXCLUSIVE
SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE MOST RECENT EPISODE OF AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM
You think you’ve seen everything as a TV viewer...and then American Horror Story: Asylum comes long and has an episode with a woman (Copper‘s Franka Potente) claiming to be Anne Frank. Yep, THE Anne Frank. Well, let me tell you AHS fans: Things only get wilder. In fact, next week’s twist-revealing masterpiece (MAJOR secrets are revealed) represents probably the best hour the mini-series has ever done for pure terror and acting prowess. But there’s tons to discuss in this week’s installment, including the brutal deprogramming of Lana (Sarah Paulson) by Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) and, of course, the arrival of Ms. Frank. EW chatted with co-creator Ryan Murphy about this epic, two-part AHS: Asylum.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: American Horror Story: Asylum ratings for season 2 are way up compared to season 1. What do you think the reason is for that? The period aspect? The Emmys? DVDs?
RYAN MURPHY: I think it’s all those things. I think it was a strange show when it started last year. Nobody really knew what to do with it. I think once people figured out the trick that every year it’s a different story, I think that has helped. And if you look at the numbers, it’s a really interesting phenomenon in that it has a very high female number. It’s almost like a horror show for women in many regards.
This two-part episode (the second half airs on Nov. 14) really feels like everything really came together in terms of this season and plot and tone. Do you agree?
Yes I do agree, and we designed it that way. American Horror Story is always about a slow rollout of the season of reveals. The pace of these two is a little slower. The scenes are longer and I think more thoughtful than the pace of the first three. These are two of my favorite episodes in the history of the show.
Also, in these episodes, I think we really understand the world a little more and what we’re trying to write about which is the horror of the insane asylum back in the ’50s and ’60s and the degradation and the abuse, the real-life horrors. I think we really hit that in a great way in the Anne Frank story.
Who even decided to bring Anne Frank into this?
We have a great writing staff but I will take credit for that. One of the things we’ve done on the show is we take historical figures—last year was the Black Dahlia and this year is Anne Frank. The Black Dahlia particularly was a case that was never solved so we solved that case in our way. The Anne Frank thing was always interesting to me because after the war, much like the Anastasia case, there were many women who came forward after that diary and said, “Well I’m the real Anne Frank,” and they were struck down. Many of them were found to be mentally ill and suffering from schizophrenia, so I read about those cases.
Before we even wrote one word of it, I thought there was sort of only one actress I was interested in playing Anne Frank and that was Franka. So I brought her in and said “I’m gonna write this for you and would you do it.” And we had no script because we were very early on in the season. She loved the story and I sorta swore her to secrecy and God bless her heart she had like five months without telling anybody. I love how it came together.
Where did you find the younger version of James Cromwell?
That’s his son! When we were casting that part, James said, “Well you have to f—ing cast my son—he looks just like me.” He walked in and indeed he did. We cast him on the spot. You can’t beat the synchronicity and luck of that. James’ son looks exactly like him at that age. It was perfect.
Probably the most disturbing portion of this is the de-programming with Lana and Thredson. That felt so real and I can see that totally happening in the ‘60s. That must have been incredibly difficult for particularly Sarah to shoot.
That scene is one of the best sequences of acting I’ve ever seen from Sarah Paulson. I think she should win everythingin the world for that. It is a true therapy so everything he’s saying and doing is based on fact. We researched the s— out of the conversion/aversion, what they do, what they say. So all of that is horrifyingly true.
Second of all, before that scene came out, I called Sarah and said, “We’re gonna put out the script and it’s going to be very upsetting to you and I want to know what you need me to do.” And she read it and loved it and said nothing. We had a closed set. She and Zach were very supportive of each other even though he’s the villain in it. They both felt it was a very important thing to show people. She just nailed it. We didn’t do a lot of takes. It was a very quiet set. I think people were really freaked out on set. But to Paulson’s credit, she has many many scenes like that in terms of dramatic intensity.
It does seem like Lana is gonna be going on a real rough road.
Lana does have a really tough road ahead. One of the things I really wanted to do this season was write one or two people you’re really rooting for to get out of these horrors and I think Lana has become that person for me, along with Kit and Grace and Sister Jude. I just can’t say enough things about Sarah Paulson’s performance.
It got so bad for Shelley this week too. Will there be happy endings or is it gonna be bleak for everyone?
That’s interesting. I don’t wanna say too much about it. I don’t know. I really think American Horror Story is about the darkness of society. It was always conceived to be a social statement on different things. I don’t wanna say too much given that we’re writing the last two episodes. I would say even when it’s light, there’s a darkness, there’s an irony, there’s a melancholia to it. You really root for Paulson, particularly after you see Part II. And wait til you see next week!
Will we learn why the Monsignor is covering for Dr. Arden?
Yes, episode 6 is called “The Origins of Monstrosity.” You really learn why the Monsignor is doing this. You learn about why Bloody Face is doing this. I think 4 and 5 really told you, Okay, here are many of the mysteries solved, and episode 6 gets deeper into the beginnings and answers the questions even further.
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.