The seventh iteration of American Horror Story, titled Cult, premieres on Sept. 5. Friday evening, FX held a special screening of the first three episodes of the new season, followed by a Q&A with network chief John Landgraf and AHS co-creator/demi-god of television Ryan Murphy. Although the network asked attendees not to reveal plot details from the episodes screened, Murphy genially revealed key secrets from the season, including the real-life historical character Lena Dunham will be playing and the many characters (plural) Evan Peters will take on this season. Here are the key points from the talk:
Here are the key points from the talk:Season 7 continues a stylistic evolution that began with last season’s Roanoke.
After the fifth iteration, Hotel, pushed the show to a new height of visual decadence, last year’s reality TV-spoofing Roanoke was intended as something of a reset. “With season 6, we really wanted to strip everything away, sort of deconstruct it,” Murphy explained. “I thought that was a really good jolt.” Cult will be more grounded, with a muted color palette and a relatively normal setting in suburban Michigan. It will also be the first American Horror Story saga without any supernatural elements.
Kind of. The first episode begins on election night and tracks characters’ response to the shifting political realities that have defined 2017. But Murphy noted the concept was developing before last November. “Many seasons, the runner-up idea for the show had been Charles Manson, and the Manson Family,” Murphy explained. He felt he couldn’t make the material fresh, but he was drawn to the idea of the cult of personality. “Last year, at this time, everybody was talking about the election, and everybody was talking about those two candidates.”
The idea of the election as the jumping off point was decided before the actual election results came in – which resulted in at least one conceptual difference from Murphy’s original idea. “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was gonna win in a landslide,” he deadpanned. “So the opening was a little different.”
But although Cult addresses the politics of the moment, Murphy stated that his intention wasn’t to directly address any politicians. “It’s not about Trump,” he noted. “It’s not about Clinton.” Instead, the idea of a cult of personality is expressed via Kai Anderson, a blue-haired cult leader played by AHS regular Evan Peters.She shot Andy Warhol.
Peters will also play a number of actual historical cult leaders throughout the season, including Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh…and Andy Warhol. That leads to the appearance by Girls creator/star Lena Dunham in the seventh episode of Cult. “Lena Dunham is playing Valerie Solanas, who attempted to shoot Andy Warhol, because she felt denied the cult of personality that was Warhol and the Factory at the time.” For Murphy, that episode is specifically about the female rage, then and now, which ties into Solanas’ SCUM manifesto. (Frequent AHS star Emma Roberts will also appear in the series in a small role as a reporter.)
Bees and hives have been central to the advertising of the new season. They factor into the show, kind of – a new neighbor played by Billy Eichner is a suburban beekeeper! – but it also has a thematic element. Said Murphy, “Bees are the original cult.”