Ryan Murphy talks latest 'AHS: Coven'
[SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE LATEST EPISODE OF AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN!!!]
American Horror Story always pulls out the stops for its Halloween-themed episodes and the most recent Coven was no exception. Human dolls. Voodoo zombies. Leslie Jordan as a man-witch. It was possibly AHS: Coven‘s most surprising (and funny) episode to date. EW broke it down with co-creator Ryan Murphy in our exclusive chat.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This one really humanized Marie Laveau. Was that important to give some background as to why she’s so angry?
RYAN MUPRHY: Yeah. We did wanna do that. There’s a lot of backstories in the episode. They were really designed to show people either the ambition behind the character, like in the case of Fiona, or maybe why Marie is so set in her ways and untrusting and unwilling to barter. I thought Angela was just so great in those scenes.
Is Angela Bassett just having a blast?
I think they all are. The material is always so baroque and the people who are attracted to it are usually actresses who like really emotional extremes. Kathy is known for that. Jessica is known for that. Angela is known for that. Also more than that we’re fans of all those women. So I feel we’re writing scenes tailored towards what we as fans would love for them to do.
Angela is clearly not afraid of snakes!
She’s not! Even Sarah who’s a little squeamish about them. Everybody has sort of gone at that stuff with a really big commitment, which I admire because Lord knows I wouldn’t do it.
I love The Council! We saw Myrtle before.
She had one line. “I’m mad for tartan!”
Was this character your idea? She’s so wild.
I think Franny is such a brilliant character actress. Maybe of all of them, she’s the one we require to do the most drastically different thing. She every season has done a different voice, a different physical look. I also love love it when Franny and Jessica have scenes together because they love doing them and I love it when they hate each other and they’re rivals as they were season one. When we were coming up with the idea, I sort of thought about this woman who if your rival is Jessica Lange and you’re so tormented as Myrtle is by Fiona’s character, I think you just totally go this crazy route and literally reinvent herself. Like I love that she’s come up with this completely different voice other than what she had when she was younger.
I was wondering that!
Yeah she’s completely gone off and reinvented herself. Everything about her is false. Everything. The only thing that’s true about her, I think of all the characters, she has the truest heart. I thought this creature of artifice who’s had a very clean soul was interesting. She’s a little bit Grace Coddington. She’s a little bit Diana Vreeland. I told Franny to watch a lot of those Vreeland documentaries. That sort of mid-Atlantic accent is sort of the fall back accent for a lot of those ladies. It’s completely fabricated and there’s nobody on Earth who sounds that way maybe other than Audrey Hepburn right off the boat. The next episode is also a gem of a Franny episode.
Our favorite thing to do bar none in the writer’s room is to think of insane things for that character to say. There’s this great line where she’s talking about the Salem witches and she says to the young girls, “Can you imagine having to travel across the country in a covered wagon without benefit of a charcuterie platter or a bidet?” It just writes itself.
Also, I love Leslie Jordan as one of the council members and the fact that Fiona is of course a fan of the gays.
Oh Fiona loves the gays. I have always loved Leslie. I wrote this for him and offered it to him. He’s doing like 3 or 4 episodes and he’s great. He’s like our little Truman Capote. I love that it’s revealed that Fiona controls the New York Times Bestseller List. I think she controls a lot of those lists. He’s very beholden to her for his Truman-like success.
So there are male witches in this coven?
Yes, there are male witches who are descendants of Salem and then there are other sects we get into later in the series of male witches who are not of the Salem tribe but other breeds of witches. Not necessarily warlocks.
So the Council will keep reappearing this season?
They reappear a lot. They appear to protect the coven or to persecute those within the coven who try and hurt the coven. So with Fiona back at the helm and really out for her own interests, they show up a lot.
I don’t even know where to begin with Spalding!
Does he just like dolls? That’s an interesting quirk.
I was writing that when I was researching this great famous dowager who was the world’s biggest collector of dolls so I guess I was in a doll mood. I just think that people who collect dolls I find it so fascinating. We get into where he’s from. He’s from a line of men who historically their entire purpose was to serve the coven. They’re not witches. They’re not of the coven. So he’s one of them. His entire existence is to protect those witches. We establish that he has a pretty lonely life and I just thought he would have dolls. And I also thought he would be really into granny teas and that he would be role-playing. That’s sort of how I got Denis to do it. I was like, “C’mon. You’re gonna play a butler without a tongue who collects dolls and has granny teas and wears bizarre, kimono chinoiserie outfits.” I think it truly is our most bizarre creature.
But I think that’s the great thing about this season: the coven is a metaphor for any outsider or group. Within minority groups, there are always wild eccentrics and I’m always drawn to that. I think this coven has a lot of oddballs and this is the episode of the oddballs.
So is Madison just gonna be seen propped up, drinking tea?
Yes! She’s dead doing granny tea. [Laughs] Well, last week after Emma was killed, I noticed through my Twitter feed that there was a lot of outrage over the death of Madison. I was just thinking, Well keep watching because she’s dead but not gone. What Spalding puts her through in the next couple of episodes is quite remarkable.
Can you tease what that entails?
No, but it’s the most shocking thing we’ve ever done on the show and that happened truly by accident. I thought it was a real, bizarre Grand Guignol series of scenes but they’re just very sick and twisted and oddly funny.
I love that you have Julia Roberts’ niece propped up in a bra and panties, drinking tea as a human doll.
[Laughs] Emma loves it! Emma just goes for it. I love her. I think Emma just has this really big ferocious talent and I think she likes being challenged by this material so there you go. She is on board for the rest of the season. Dead Madison is in many, many, many episodes.
She’s like Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s.
So what’s the deal with Hank? What can you say about him? I yelped out loud when he killed his mistress.
Well, I think everyone who has been watching thinks Cordelia’s husband is this sort of kind, stoic, Darren-from-Bewitched sort of guy. And in this episode we see, Oh, that’s not who he is at all. Something very dark and twisted is obviously going on with him which we will reveal in the next couple of episodes. Needless to say he’s not what he seems.
Is he an assassin?
Yes, you can say that. But that’s all I wanna say. We really get into who he is and why he’s doing these things. I’m not going to say too much because we reveal it around episode 7.
Also that’s amazing that they met in a Thomas Kinkade chat room.
I think in an episode where we had people doing granny teas, I think nothing is too wrong.
You had teased before that Sarah has the most horrible thing happen to her and she had acid thrown in her eyes. Was that one of Marie’s minions?
I’m not going to say who it is. But that’s all revealed. The big question is who is out to get these witches? There are many, many suspects. It all ties together with the Hank thing. It’s a big to-do we have coming up.
Where does Cordelia go from here? Will she be blind?
Well, in the next episode we reveal the complete extent of her injuries and we address will she be able to see ever.
There’s a irony there since Fiona has just told her she can’t see through the lies of her husband.
It’s very interesting isn’t it that Fiona has used that choice of words.
Watching that scene at the bar, I was thinking this is how I imagine Jessica and Sarah Paulson hang out in real life.
That’s exactly right! I have had many a night with Ms. Paulson and Ms. Lange and they’re always cracking each other up. The last take when Sarah turns to the bartender and says, “Keep ’em coming, Mr. Man,” Jessica, off camera, made this hilarious face and it made Sarah burst out laughing and that’s the take I used. They’ve been friends for a long time. They like having scenes together.
There’s a really great chemistry and familiarity [with the cast] even though they’re all playing different characters, which for me is a very rewarding thing to see. That’s what I always wanted to do with the show, was create this troop of actors that has a great family bond.
So what’s going to happen with Kyle?
He’s clearly tormented. The girls have literally created a monster. He’s made from parts of horrible guys, like murderers and rapists. That’s what I love about Evan and that part is that he can be incredibly monstrous and then turn around and break your heart with a reaction. I think that’s what Kyle is going to have to deal with the rest of the season.
The big cliffhanger is zombies attacking Miss Robichaux’s. What can you say about next week?
Well, next week is interesting because obviously Marie Laveaux wants them dead so she’s summoned their voodoo zombies. The big thing of that episode is who of the witches are going to die? Fiona is at the hospital with her daughter who was blinded by acid so, without her, who amongst those girls is strong enough to rise up and protect them. So that’s a really big clue I think that helps get the audience closer to the idea of who of these girls is the Supreme. Who’s the one who Fiona should be afraid of?
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.