It’s not every day you get a cold call from Lady Gaga, even when you’re Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story). “I was at a construction site and my phone rang,” he recalls. “I didn’t recognize the number. [I answer and] I hear ‘Please hold for Gaga.’ I think ‘Bad Romance’ was playing [while I was on hold],” he adds with a laugh. “Then she got on the phone. At first I thought it was a prank, but we then had a lovely call.” And a brief one, too, says Gaga, who’s a huge AHS fan (Freak Show was her favorite season, for the record). “I called him and I said, ‘Ryan, I wanna be on Horror Story.’ And he goes, ‘Okay.’ And that was it.”
The pop star is front and center on the fifth season of AHS, subtitled Hotel. It’s not a huge leap to connect Gaga with the spooky series. This is the same woman who wore a meat dress to the 2010 VMAs and arrived at the 2011 Grammys in a giant egg. But in recent years, the singer has shifted toward a slightly softer, safer route, collaborating on a jazz album with Tony Bennett and performing selections from The Sound of Music at the Oscars this past year. She now says that she’s ready to go back to the freaky-deaky figure whose fans fittingly call themselves Little Monsters. “I’ve just been weeping while I’m here because I have returned to something I’ve believed in so much, which is the art of darkness,” says the singer. “It’s not something that everyone understands, but, for the people that do — Horror Story fans, my fans — there is a true connection between us, and it’s a language within itself.”
While bedbugs might be the biggest concern for most real-life travelers, AHS’ Hotel Cortez unleashes a whole slew of far more frightening vacation terrors. Built in 1930 by the rich and charming but deeply psychotic James March (Evan Peters), the beautiful art-deco hotel is, in actuality, a labyrinthine structure built to hide March’s murderous activities (think dead ends, secret rooms, endless shafts).
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In present day, though, the Cortez is acquired by Gaga’s Countess, a glamorous socialite who attends art openings and fashion shows and maintains her looks not from a steady diet of kale but from imbibing human blood. Murphy doesn’t like to call it vampirism. “I prefer the term ‘ancient blood virus,’ ” Murphy says of her affliction. “It’s really a form of hemophilia, in a way.” The Countess is also insatiable when it comes to love and sex, which sets up a macabre love triangle between her, the similarly blood-hungry Donovan (Matt Bomer) and the newly turned male model Tristan (Finn Wittrock).
Also gravitating around the world of the Cortez are Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett), an actress/former lover of The Countess’ seeking revenge; Iris (Kathy Bates), Donovan’s mother and the front desk clerk; Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare), a cross-dresser nicknamed by The Countess; Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson), a junkie and friend of The Countess; Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley), a cop investigating a murderer named the Ten Commandments Killer; and The Addiction Demon, a creature in the vein of Rubberman or Bloodyface, who has no eyes or mouth but does wield a nasty, conical drillbit dildo.
With bloodsuckers, killers, and Gaga, AHS will launch its boldest, goriest, sexiest iteration when Hotel premieres Oct. 7 on FX. It also marks the first without star Jessica Lange, who bowed out after last year’s Freak Show. “There’s a chance to do something Jessica would not have done,” admits Murphy. “So it’s a different tone. But it’s still the show — make no mistake. I think it has what people want.” Adds Sarah Paulson, who has appeared in all five AHS versions: “There’s something about this season that’s got real heat to it. It’s pulsating. Every season has a different tone or a color. And I think this year for sure would be blood red.”
To continue reading more about the upcoming season of American Horror Story, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday, or buy it here.
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