Credit: Michele K. Short/FX


It’s been a couple weeks since we’ve had a new episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show and boy did it return with a vengeance! Not one but two major characters—Kathy Bates’ Ethel Darling and Frances Conroy’s Gloria Mott—were killed off in shocking form. Unlike last year’s Coven where death could be reversed via magic, Freak Show‘s goodbyes appear to be more permanent. Murphy told EW at the beginning of Freak Show‘s run, “This season, once you die, you’re dead.” EW talked to Bates about saying goodbye to Ethel and whether she’s really gone for good.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you find out Ethel was going to be killed?

KATHY BATES: You know I can’t remember at all!! I think it must have been before I read it! I can’t honestly say. I remember reading the script and going, “Okay well I’m getting killed.” But I mean American Horror Story you can never tell when you appear again.

Were you bummed?

A little bit. I wasn’t devastated or anything. But I always prefer working. [Laughs] So when you’re waiting and not knowing when you might appear next, you can’t go on and do anything else at the moment. You’re on hold. I’m much better when I’m working so that’s what hit me more than anything was, “Oh my gosh—what am I going to do now?!”

So is there a possibility then that Ethel might pop up again in flashbacks?

Well this is American Horror Story so anything can happen! [Laughs] That’s all I can say about that.

I found it amusing that you ended up with your head off again.

I know! When I read that I thought “Okay, is she going to come back holding her head?”

Was the scene where you’re in the car dead and Denis O’Hare and Jessica Lange are talking over you weird to film?

At first, Denis was a little energetic about wrapping the chains around my neck. And I said, “Can we leave one less chain, one less loop?!” And Jessica and I are always laughing about what happens to our characters and everything. It’s just bizarre. It all makes us laugh.

Speaking of, you and Jessica have that incredible scene where Ethel confronts Elsa. What was that like to shoot?

Oh God it was difficult because of the way it was written. We both had very long monologues to one another. We really worked hard at trying to make that scene natural. [Co-creator] Brad Falchuk really wanted it to be a battle of the titans.

Madame LaLaurie was so villainous. And Ethel is the complete opposite—so tragic and kind. What’s it been like playing such a 180?

They’re obviously two very very different characters. Madame has a lot of swagger. Ethel has her own quiet strength. It’s been a pleasure, it’s been a challenge to try and create a woman who has suffered all of her life, who has suffered all of her life, and yet who has maintained her dignity, certainly within the world of the freaks.

You’ve had many different scenes with different actors than you did last year, like Evan.

I love working with Evan and I’m loving his part this year. He had a very difficult part last year where he didn’t speak. This was a wonderful part with him and I loved working with him and loved that he was my son. I thnk he’s one of these actors that’s really is up and coming and it’s been a real honor to work with him.

Ethel’s Baltimore accent really ignited a twitter firestorm. Were you shocked by how much attention it got?

I was surprised. Ryan wrote me a very encouraging email saying it was great that people were talking about it and he encouraged me to keep on doing what I was doing. The funniest remark I got was a man told me he had a friend who had friends from Baltimore. This guy asked his two friends from Baltimore what they thought about my accent and they said, “What accent?” [Laughs] It was good publicity for the show. I didn’t intend for it to be that way but it was good.

Will you miss the beard? How long of a process is that?

In the beginning, we hard our work cut out for us. We were trying different kinds of glues. We wanted to make it so the make up people didn’t have to work on it too much during the day when I was shooting. So we went through a different group of glues and a different group of shapings of what actually went on my face to try and give my face as much mobility as possible. But then we got it down to 3 pieces and really great glue and it goes on in about 20 minutes! It’s a lot of fun to have a beard like that. Gabby [Sidibe] saw me for the first time when she came back to do the show and she said, “I like it! It’s the new black!” [Laughs]

I know you and Gabby are so fond of each other but you didn’t have any scenes together this year.

I know—I missed it. But when she was in town, we went out for dinner. I just love her. I love her to pieces. She’s just a unique woman and I’m crazy about her. Whenever we get the chance, we get together. We’re keepin’ it going.

Would you want to do another year of American Horror Story? Is there hope for Kathy Bates to be in season five?

Well of course there is. I love Ryan. I love working with him and for him. One thing I didn’t get a chance to say in my Emmy speech is that after Harry’s Law and then I had gotten sick with breast cancer, I was really in the dumps. I was really like, “I’ll never work again. I’m too old. Blah blah blah.” Lo and behold, I get this amazing call from Ryan to come in and meet with him. He created these wonderful parts for me to play and I’ll be forever in his debt for that. He’s rejuvenated my career in a way that I have a young audience now and that’s fabulous! So why wouldn’t I want to come back for more of that?

Episode Recaps

AMERICAN HORROR STORY, (from left): Evan Peters, Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, 'Home Invasion', (Se
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.

  • TV Show
  • 9
  • TV-MA
  • Ryan Murphy
  • FX
stream service