“She is sort of a very wealthy social doyenne who is consumed with art and fashion and people and she has a nefarious plan that’s revealed in the first episode,” Murphy said this morning at the Television Critics Association press tour.
The 13-episode American Horror Story: Hotel premieres at 10 PM Wednesday, October 7.
Sarah Paulson – who played conjoined twins last season on AHS: Freak Show, creating what the actress called a “big shit-show in my brain” as she tried to keep straight their voices, characters and left- or right-handedness – this season plays a character she described as a dark, sexy drug addict. “Not that drug addicts are sexy,” she said. “This girl happens to be quite sexy. Not because I’m sexy. I should just stop talking.”
Denis O’Hare plays a character named Elizabeth Taylor who, he said, is “inspired by the awesomeness of Butterfield 8 and Cleopatra.” Elizabeth works in the bar of the hotel, which is run by Bates’ character.
“I play Iris,” Bates said. “I also am very, very sexy.” Trying to come up with further descriptions, Bates said to Paulson (and referencing Paulson’s character), “I can’t stand you,” and “I do crossword puzzles in my spare time.” Reporters assumed she’d be relieved not to have to wear a beard this time around, unlike last year, but she corrected that assumption. “I’m a character actor,” and was always “jealous of the guys because they can do different things with facial hair. I was kind of jazzed about it.”
Murphy said of his popular ensemble cast: “I feel more pressure to keep them around. One of the fun things for the actors is they all have one-year deals and after that they can go to other things. That’s what happened with Jessica Lange. She wanted a year off to do a play – which I bought for her, stupidly.
“It all comes from a genuine love of the actors,” he said. “I want my friends to be near me. I love them. … I feel that way about everyone up here on this stage. I’ve directed all of these actors … and from that comes this great shorthand and I think they know they’re safe because we’ve worked together.”
Asked to discuss the various iterations of the franchise, Murphy said that “true horror fans” love the first season, which he called a “very psychological” season and played with a lot of familiar genre tropes. “People who really like drama love Season 2 (Asylum), and Season 3 (Coven) young people adored, and we really saw those numbers go up dramatically.” The fourth and most recent season, AHS: Freak Show, was the “most art-y, so we got those fans,” he said. Freak Show became the most-watched program in FX history with 12.64 million linear and nonlinear viewers
This coming season harkens back to Season 1 (Murder House), Murphy said, calling it “much more rooted in honest, primal fears.”
Actors from earlier seasons of AHS will check into hotel hell this season, Murphy teased, explaining he likes the idea of the franchise’s characters “all being connected in some way” and that viewers will see this play out starting around Episode 6 or 7.
American Horror Story: Hotel’s cast includes Gaga, Paulson, Bates, Angela Bassett, Wes Bentley, Matt Bomer, Chloë Sevigny, O’Hare, Cheyenne Jackson, Evan Peters and Finn Wittrock. Ryan Murphy serves as co-creator, showrunner, executive producer, writer and director and Brad Falchuk is co-creator, executive producer and writer. Tim Minear, Brad Buecker, Jennifer Salt, James Wong and Alexis Martin Woodall also serve as executive producers. It’s produced by 20th Century Fox TV.