'American Horror Story': Ryan Murphy on shocking opener -- EXCLUSIVE
[SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE LATEST AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM]
It’s been a helluva season for American Horror Story: Asylum‘s Lana Winters (the excellent Sarah Paulson). But the reporter finally got her vengeance finally escaping the walls of Briarcliff and by killing Dr. Thredson/Bloody Face (equally excellent Zachary Quinto). Meanwhile, her son, played as an adult by Dylan McDermott, had quite the opening scene rendezvous with a prostitute. EW talked to co-creator Ryan Murphy about this shocking moment and the clue to season 3 hidden within this most recent episode.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This episode felt incredibly cinematic and weirdly beautiful despite the subject matter.
RYAN MURPHY: It’s Alfonso Gomez-Rejon who also did I Am Anne Frank Part II. Yeah, he’s just a real brilliant guy.
And this one felt very Brian DePalma-esque, like the split screen where Lana is escaping from Briarcliff felt very Dressed to Kill.
Yes, of course. Alfonso also worked a lot with Martin Scorsese so I think it also felt very Departed to me. I loved it. I thought all the choices were so fresh and so original. I loved the progressions of the characters. I really loved and I think the audience will love seeing Lana be that Hitchcock heroine. I thought the production design was brilliant. It was an episode of happy mistakes because so many things that we wrote and so many locations we wanted weren’t available. Like that mausoleum was a happy accident. It wasn’t at all what was written but it was available.
I loved that location. And that’s a real mausoleum?
Is that the score from Candyman playing in this episode?
It is. Phillip Glass, yes.
So, my fave scene to talk about from season 1 was Dylan McDermott crying and masturbating. Were you trying to top that with the opener of him breast-feeding from a hooker?
No. I never thought about topping it. I do think it’s shocking, but I think it’s incredibly moving but you don’t know it’s moving ’til the last scene. Like he’s so full of remorse and hatred and bile for things he thought he didn’t get that he actually did get. I was uncomfortable editing and watching it, which tells you something. I know Dylan loved going for it. I loved the pain of that episode. I think it was very moving.
Did this episode have greater difficulty getting past the network because of the content? Or was it the same as the others?
Well, I have a really good relationship with our people. I find the amazing thing about cable television is you can do any amount of violence you want but you will have hour-long discussions about the shading of nipples. I had it on Nip/Tuck and I had it again on this one where it will be microscopic deep-threaded, analyzations of “I see a shade there. Block that.” The only time I’ve ever been able to get a nipple on television was when we did Nip/Tuck where the guy got breast implants. At the end of the day, that network trusts its showrunners. There are certain things as a writer and showrunner that I wouldn’t show and John Landgraf and I are on the same page about that.
Will we see what happened to that prostitute?
Oh no! I think people should just presume she did not have a happy ending.
Obviously Dylan is living in his father’s house. Is he using his father’s dungeon?
Yes. You will see that in the next two episodes.
We really saw Lana go through the wringer in season 2. This episode really gave her some victories. Did you always envision this for Lana?
Well, it’s not at all the ending. She still has two more episodes. But I would say, Yes, of course. We always knew how she would win and that she would kill me. But she has two more episodes that I think are quite good.
Was that really Clea DuVall in that flashback?
That was her! There’s a payoff to that scene in the next episode, which is important.
I was having some flashbacks to Ava Moore (Famke Janssen) from Nip/Tuck’s season 2 when Lana was walking out of the mausoleum.
I always thought the Ava Moore thing was more Audrey Hepburn than Hitchcock. That is a trope in all horror: the woman who survives and becomes a hardened creature. But that’s nothing compared to what Paulson has to go through in the next couple of episodes.
At the end of this episode, Lana gave birth. Does she end up raising the baby?
I can’t reveal that. The next one answers that question of, What happened to her and the baby?
So will these next two episodes be split 50/50 between Briarcliff and the outside world?
Well, the next one I really love is called “Continuum” and we did something that I’ve always wanted to do in a one hour format, which is there’s four acts and each act follows a different character and then it all dovetails together. It’s very novelistic and you really spend time with the characters. There’s a great Kit/Grace/Alma act, there’s a great Jessica and the Angel of Death act, there’s a great Paulson act. The next episode moves you forward from 1965 to 1969/1970.
So, I still don’t fully understand why the aliens have sort of targeted Kit.
We talk about that one in the next episode too. It’s always a weird thing when you write about that alien thing because there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Most of the people that you read who write about this experience say there is something about them that other life forces are interested in. And to me it always came down to empathy. There’s a very famous case about a mixed marriage couple that were kidnapped and they believed they were studied because they were very forward figures. But why do aliens kidnap people? Who knows? But we talk about it in the next episode, at least we answer it from why our characters think they were.
Grace’s recollections of her abduction with the water were really striking. How did you all come up with that concept?
Well, in the writing it started with this whole amniotic idea, which is also researched. But for the most part, the design and the schematics and the color were just all the brilliance of Alfonso.
I find a lot of people who love the alien stuff this year and a lot who don’t. It’s very polarizing and I think the reason it’s polarizing is it’s not nor is it ever intended to be cut or dry. I think with a show like this all of the other things we write about are very close-ended. I was always drawn to this field because I didn’t think there was a conclusion other than a point of view. I also think the alien thing and how it started to be reported in the media and the UFO sightings to me was a very ‘60s/social progression thing. I thought it was interesting that flurry of activity really came out around the time of civil rights and it is a weird metaphor for a lot of that stuff which you’ll see in the next episode.
It seems like the beginning of the end for Briarcliff and the Monsignor. Is this the beginning of the end for him?
I mean, never underestimate a Machiavellian priest. There’s no more wily species on the planet. I think that’s one of the great cliffhangers people will tune in to see: does he get away with it or not? Is order restored? Is evil punished? I think the interesting thing about American Horror Story is it doesn’t always take sides or offer conclusions completely.
Were you surprised at how viral the “Name Game” musical performance went?
I was, actually. I was surprised at how many people have told me that was their favorite thing we’ve ever done on the show, which I think was interesting. I think that number had this really odd quality of joy to it and I think the cast was very committed to playing and those extras were amazing. Sarah and Evan and Jessica were like, “Holy f—. Yes, we can smile and dance and have fun.” So I think for those actors it was a very cathartic day, particularly for Jessica who would have shot that number for five days, she was having so much fun.
I might one day release the complete number, which has several shots of weird masturbation things going on with those extras.
People are now speculating on what season 3 will be about. Has anyone cracked your code?
I’ve been reading a lot of the theories and there’s another great clue in tonight’s episode. But I don’t think anyone has completely gotten it because it’s not just one thing. My favorite one was that the third season of American Horror Story is the last season of Dexter, which I thought was brilliant.
But there’s a clue in tonight’s episode?
There’s another clue tonight and there’s a really big clue next week.
Can you say if the clues are visual? Or dialogue?
I’m not saying. But last week the clue was very brief and this week is very brief. But yeah they’re in there.
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.