[03/02/12 - 11:22 PM]
Live at the Paley Festival: FX's "American Horror Story"
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

6:55 PM - It's night one of the 29th Annual PaleyFest, which runs over the next 12 nights at the legendary Saban Theater in Los Angeles.

6:57 PM - The evening kicks off a few minutes early with a clip from FOX's "The Simpsons" where the animated family looks to buy a new house, which perfectly ties into the first PaleyFest panel this year, FX's hit series "American Horror Story."

7:02 PM - Paley Center President and CEO, Pat Mitchell introduces the night and announces that for the first time, "we are live streaming to fans who can't join us in person but who will be watching along with you all the activities at the Saban Theatre." (For more information on how to watch PaleyFest via Livestream, visit their website.)

7:06 PM - Pat introduces Entertainment Weekly's Tim Stack, moderator for tonight's panel. Of tonight's show, Tim excitedly explains, "I love this show. It's one of my favorite shows from last year and I love Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk because they don't play it safe." He adds that the series proved that horror can work on television as long as they have a dysfunctional family, man in a rubber suit, a slutty maid and a Frankenstein baby.

7:08 PM - Tim introduces the screening of the "Birth" episode, which was the penultimate episode of the show's first season.

7:50 PM - The screening over, Tim returns to the stage and brings out the cast for tonight's panel. Alexandra Breckinridge (Younger Moira)! Frances Conroy (Older Moira)! Sarah Paulson (Billie Dean)! Jessica Lange (Constance; who gets the biggest applause of the panel)! Dylan McDermott (Ben Harmon)! Connie Britton (Vivien Harmon)! Executive Producer Dante Di Loreto! Co-Creator Brad Falchuk! Co-Creator Ryan Murphy!

7:52 PM - Tim asks why the screening selection was the "Birth" episode. Ryan says, "It was my favorite... I loved the acting the most in that episode and it was also the one I think we were trying to keep under wraps the most, the idea of it while we were shooting. I remember everybody kind of knew something big was coming and we didn't tell anybody and then sprung it on them."

7:54 PM - Of the birth scene that also killed off Connie's character, the actress says of shooting the intense scene, "It was hilarious!" Big laughs and then she adds, "It took us three days to shoot that whole sequence." Dylan, seated next to her, throws in "I think we're still shooting it."

7:56 PM - Tim says how much he loved the verbal sparring between Jessica's Constance and Zachary Quinto's Chad. But who won? "He won so you can tell who wrote it," says Jessica eyeballing Ryan. Does Jessica have a favorite Constance moment? "I don't know. Every one was a jewel in itself... I love some of the monologues they wrote for me." She cites the one about California and also says there was a lot a poetry to Constance. "She really did, I thought, I felt all the time, in the way she spoke and her ideas and everything were very reminiscent in a way of Tennessee Williams."

7:58 PM - Tim asks how the idea for the show came about. "We're both huge fans of the genre," says Brad about why they chose horror. He and Ryan talked about this before "Glee." Ryan adds that they always knew the series would be an anthology. (As previously announced, season two will have some of the same actors but as different characters and a different house.)

8:00 PM - In referencing Dylan's nudity during the pilot, the actor jokes that he had to get naked for Connie, who had casting approval for the role of her husband. "I wish I were kidding," jokes Dylan. Dylan does say that he and Connie had instant chemistry. Did the actors always know the Harmons would die by the end of the season? Connie says yes.

8:03 PM - How did the producers get Jessica, who had never done a TV drama series, to sign on? She says Ryan kept calling her and making promises. "I never had a man really promise that much!" she says, getting big laughs from the crowd. She likens it to a seduction and Ryan delivered. Ryan thought of Blanche DuBois post-"Streetcar Named Desire" when he created Constance.

8:06 PM - How did the house become such a presence in the series. Dante says that they shot the pilot and then got the series order so fast they didn't have time to do anything but use the same house. The house was in a neighborhood south of Hancock Park in Los Angeles and was a neighborhood that probably once was affluent but had since fallen on harder times. "A remnant of what it once was," says Dante. The house was even a church for awhile, he says.

8:08 PM - Dylan's butt gets applause for its appearance so often in the pilot. Even though people have suggested to him that it was a body double, the actor says it was not. He says of the now-classic masturbating/crying scene, "What's better than that?"

8:10 PM - Was Alexandra nervous about the nudity in the series as Young Moira? "Yes... but I knew who my side of the character was when I read for it so all of my inhibitions and insecurities went away when I walked onset in that outfit... I just didn't bother myself with what has hanging outside my butt."

8:11 PM - Did Frances/Alexandra try to mimic each other since they were playing different aged versions of the same character? "I suppose there had to be some continuity between the two of us," says Conroy.

8:12 PM - What was the inspiration for the Rubber Man? Part of the allure of the show for Ryan was the design of the creatures. He said he had seen a photo of some sadomasochistic wear from the 1950s and brought it in to Brad and they were off creating. At one time in the development, Rubber Man actually had a breathing tube.

8:14 PM - Dylan had to be fitted for the Rubber Man suit and said he had to be naked and lubed to get fitted for it. He adds it's "a great way to lose weight because you sweat inside that thing... it was hot and cold." What was it like for Connie to have a love scene with Rubber Man? Connie says, "When I first read the pilot I was convinced Rubber Man was going to go," but it never got cut. "I had a lot of sex with rubber man... it was fine... it wasn't what it was cracked up to be."

8:17 PM - Sarah said her psychic character, Billie Dean, was intended to be both real and fake... but they didn't want her to be like Whoopi Goldberg in the movie "Ghost." One little fact - Lange and Paulson did "Glass Menagerie" on Broadway and Dante was one of the producers so they know each other well and had fun on the set. "We laughed an inordinate amount of time," says Sarah.

8:19 PM - Why is Constance so insistent on becoming a mother? Instilling self-esteem in her kids was not her objective. "If you're not pretty, I'm going to tell you... a serial mass murderer? I still love you." Jessica says, "I mother somewhat differently than Constance [but] I think she's still looking for that perfect child."

8:22 PM - Who played Thaddeus, The Infantata? A child? No, Ryan says, it is an adult, actor Ben Woolf. Murphy said it was really hard to cast and once talked about using mechanics or puppetry but decided against it.

8:25 PM - Tim asks about Constance's penchant for stealing things. "I think she's a bit of a magpie... attracted to shiny things... this is a woman who had great aspirations and at one point thought she was going to have all these things, these shiny objects," says Lange. "I like that part of her."

8:27 PM - Of the "bromance" between Dylan and Denis O'Hare, Tim suggests a sexual tension? Was Larry in love with Ben? "I don't know how to answer that," says Dylan. "We didn't really talk about that but I think Larry [Denis O'Hare's character] in a funny way understood Ben and was the person I could talk to, cry to."

8:31 PM - Ryan and Brad say that the look of the show and the editing was part of the freedom they had in making the show. "Let's be brave and let's risk failing because greatness often comes out of that," says Murphy. Of all the edgy content, he says only one shot was taken out of the entire first season. Dante adds that the studio and network was fully supportive of the show. "Everyone wanted to give us everything we needed to make the show a success," says Dante.

8:33 PM - Of the monstrous character of Tate, how did they approach navigating that character? Falchuk said they made you fall in love with Tate (Evan Peters) first and then you found out what a monster he was and that made you still like him or sympathize and a place of no judgment. What also helped? "Evan is such a charismatic actor," says Brad.

8:35 PM - What was the biggest challenge of the show? Murphy says, "It was never the writing... we did a great amount of research. I think the hardest part was it was a strange show in that the pilot shot really late... we got a pick up and we were trying to literally build the house the next day."

8:37 PM - How was it for Ryan, Brad and Dante to be working on both "Glee" and "American Horror Story" at the same time? Ryan says, "I thought it was wonderful and really, really fun." He adds that they split the days and went back and forth. He also says the "Glee" kids were obsessed with the "American Horror Story" actors and Lea (Michele) and Chris (Colfer) would sneak over to watch Jessica Lange.

8:39 PM - Teases for season two? As previously announced, Jessica is coming back and it was announced earlier today that Quinto will be back. "We're writing it and we don't want to talk about it too much but the interesting thing is anyone could pop up at any time," says Ryan. He confirmed that Sarah will be back as will Evan Peters. Everyone will be playing the opposite of what they played before, he also says.

8:44 PM - Time for questions from the audience. Someone asks about the impressive opening title sequence. "I love title sequences," says Ryan. "I live for them, it's my favorite thing... I wanted it to evoke a very specific feeling." He modeled it after David Fincher's "Seven." Ryan says they will do the same thing for the second season. Of the rules for the ghosts and other parts of the show, Ryan says, "the only rule on the show is no werewolves and no vampires."

8:48 PM - Of the impressive casting in the show, Ryan says, "It was a tremendous amount of passion and I think actors respond to passion... and vision and what they haven't played before."

8:50 PM - A fan asks about the unsolved mystery about Constance's fourth child? Any plans to know more? Jessica says she thinks that is the clipper man seen in the opening titles but the writers "never got time to write it." Ryan admits the writers "have not lost sight of the fourth child... we do have that story and it's something we talked about... we want to answer that."

8:53 PM - Asked if the writers have truly thought about crossing over "Glee" with "American Horror Story" and Brad says, "Don't have your wife and mistress together at dinner... they're different animals."

8:54 PM - A drag queen that looks a lot like Constance grandly takes the mic and asks Jessica how she can be so effortlessly sexy. "It pisses me off!" she says before twirling around and sitting back and her seat. Jessica (and everyone else) claps and laughs loudly. No answer necessary.

8:55 PM - A fan says that if writers are like their characters, who are Murphy and Falchuk? "I'm clearly Constance," says Murphy. Falchuk adds, "They all really are you."

8:59 PM - The final question is whether the cast has had any paranormal experiences? Alexandra says she has seen ghosts in several apartments she's lived in and Ryan says he feels an energy but also wonders if he just wants to see it/feel it so bad that he imagines it.

That's a wrap from tonight's panel. Brian will be covering the "Community" panel tomorrow night so stay tuned!

And for more PaleyFest coverage - past and present - visit our Paley Center topic page.

  [march 2012]  


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