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‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ brings the circus to town

- March 24th, 2014

American Horror Story’s next season may just be its freakiest yet.

Early Monday morning, Ryan Murphy, creator and show runner of the entire American horror franchise, took to Twitter and confirmed the newest season of the show would indeed take place inside a carnival.

Rumors had surfaced months in advance that the latest season of the horror anthology would be set inside a murderous pageant setting, although Murphy and his team vehemently denied it.

 

Although Murphy himself didn’t announce more than the title of the fourth season, American Horror Story: Freak Show, Entertainment Weekly did manage to secure some more details surrounding the upcoming season, including which of the previous cast would return.

“Set in Jupiter, Florida, in 1950, Freak Show finds Jessica Lange playing a German ex-pat who is managing one of the last freak shows in the U.S.,” the Entertainment Weekly story stated.

This isn’t the first time Murphy has played around with a German ex-pat living in the United States, but unlike James Cromwell’s character from American Horror Story: Asylum, Murphy hasn’t made any announcements that hint toward Lange’s character being a Nazi.

freakshow

Florida is also an interesting choice to host the carnival, a setting much more suited for New Orleans, where the last season, American Horror Story: Coven was set.

“Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Angela Bassett, and Frances Conroy all play performers whom Lange’s character has rescued; Denis O’Hare and Emma Roberts are also in talks to return.”

From the casting news, Murphy has taken talent from each season of his anthology, but will be primarily focusing on bringing back characters from the first and third installments.

The biggest news surrounding the latest season, as well as permanent casting announcements and plot details, will emerge closer to the show’s air date, sometime in late October.

Jessica Lange doesn’t think her American Horror Story characters are creepy. Huh?

- December 7th, 2012

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In a conference call with American Horror Story’s Jessica Lange today, I asked her if she could recall the “a-ha moment” when she realized she could play creepy really, really well.

“I don’t think of any of my characters as creepy,” Lange said.

Say what?

“They might be misguided. They might be crazy. But definitely not creepy.”

Lange, of course, currently is playing Sister Jude in the second season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, the full title of which is American Horror Story: Asylum (FX, FX Canada).

In season one, which told an entirely different self-contained story, Lange played – I’m sorry, Jessica, it’s true – a creepy neighbour named Constance. Lange also will be back for season three, whatever that might entail.

“There’s nothing that appeals to me more than playing madness,” Lange continued. “And that I do know how to dip into. But that’s quite different than creepy.

“I’m sorry,” Lange added with a chuckle. “I don’t find anything creepy about these characters.”

Uh, you really need to go back and watch them, Jessica Lange.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Sarah Paulson seeks “Asylum” from cop procedurals in American Horror Story

- November 16th, 2012

Sarah Paulson - cover

As one of the main characters in American Horror Story, Sarah Paulson is about as far away from a police procedural as an actress can get.

“I’ve very grateful I’m not walking around a police department saying, ‘Hey, the perp escaped,’ ” Paulson said.

“Not that those shows aren’t great in their own way. But for me as an actress, they’re not stimulating in the same way. I love watching them, but doing them, I don’t know if that would be fulfilling.

“With this – because it’s Ryan (Murphy, creator) – I’m not just playing your typical television woman.”

There’s nothing typical about American Horror Story, which airs Wednesday nights on FX Canada. In season two – the full title of which is American Horror Story: Asylum – Paulson plays Lana Winters, a newspaper reporter in 1964 for whom things have gone horribly wrong. (SPOILER ALERT: Plot points are about to be discussed.)

If you’ve been watching, you know that Lana has been held against her will at a mental-health facility for the criminally insane, run by Sister Jude (Jessica Lange). Lana’s “official” crime was being a lesbian – it’s 1964, remember – but it actually was her desire to snoop around the institution that put her in harm’s way.

And now Lana is being held against her will again, a victim of the duplicitous Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto).

“There’s nothing more terrifying than a person being held somewhere against their will, having done absolutely nothing wrong,” said Paulson, who earlier this year was nominated for an Emmy Award for her role in the HBO made-for-TV movie Game Change.

“To me, that’s the terror of this season (of American Horror Story). There’s nothing they can do, because one person has all the power.

“There was a time in this country when that was the reality of these institutions. But I’m not saying all of them were run by sadistic nuns.”

Of course, American Horror Story has tossed just about anything it can get its hands on into the mix this season, from exorcisms to aliens and everything in between. It’s that combination of realism and the possibility of other worlds and other existences that keeps viewers simultaneously intrigued and, to be blunt, uncomfortable.

Season one of American Horror Story – in which Paulson played a psychic – largely was about ghosts. But as Paulson astutely pointed out, the basic setup allowed viewers an “out” if they were looking for one, because they could say, “Sure, this is scary, but I don’t believe in ghosts.”

In season two, however, even if you don’t believe in spaceships or possessed souls, you still can accept and lament Lana’s life-threatening predicament. (My initial review when season two debuted can be found here.)

You know the old cliche that “anything can happen?” Well, this is one of the few shows for which it literally is true.

And even better, Sarah Paulson doesn’t have to respond to, “Detective, get in here!” For her, that might be the scariest plot of all.

“Exactly, although that may be in my future someday,” Paulson said. “But I’m grateful it’s not what I’m doing right now.

“You know, I got to start (this season) in those great ’60s outfits, and by the time it’s over, it’s going to be a whole other situation.

“The great thing I can say with confidence is, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Gulp.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Ellen Barkin burrows into the (Archie) Bunker on The New Normal

- September 5th, 2012

Cast of The New Normal

Archie Bunker was not a stereotype, according to Ellen Barkin. And she is insistent that her character on The New Normal won’t be one, either.

“At the end of the day, Archie Bunker was a humane person,” said Barkin (pictured above, far right, with her cast-mates on The New Normal). “He was afraid of the other, and as you watched (All in The Family) progress, you saw why he was afraid and he became a very complicated character.

“I think all of our characters (on The New Normal) are complicated and deep. None of these characters are dummies, so that’s where a stereotype comes in for me.”

The New Normal, which premieres Tuesday, Sept. 11 on NBC and CTV (preview on Monday, Sept. 10) , is a big-buzz sitcom that comes from the creative mind of Ryan Murphy, whose previous series include Nip/Tuck, Glee and American Horror Story. So no real pattern there.

The setup is that Bryan (played by Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) are a gay couple in Los Angeles and they want to have a baby. Goldie (Georgia King) is a Midwestern waitress and single mother looking to escape her dead-end life and her big-personality grandmother known as Nana (Barkin). You can see where this is going.

Broke but fertile, Goldie bolts to California and becomes a surrogate mother for Bryan and David. But eventually Goldie is tracked down by Nana, who has some strong opinions on what’s occurring.

“It’s not going to be a stereotypical representation of some un-P.C., uninformed lunatic,” said Barkin, a former Emmy and Tony award winner. “This woman (Nana) is passionate about her beliefs. That passion comes from her own life experience. It comes from fear.

“She is informed. Now, whether or not she’s misinformed by the media that she’s surrounded by, you’ll see. But the point is, she’s not someone who doesn’t read and she’s in no way an ignorant bigot. I take great offence at that.

“She’s very articulate. Whether she’s right or wrong, my job as an actor is not to judge her. My job is to put myself in her shoes and find the truth in this woman, and I’m finding it easy to do that.”

Easy in what way? Barkin’s personal politics couldn’t be further removed from her character’s, after all.

“The way I’m doing it, if that’s interesting at all, since I think my own personal politics are pretty clear, is by just flipping my own passion, and that’s not hard,” Barkin said.

“But this isn’t a stereotypical liberal’s version of someone who doesn’t agree with their positions. Like Ryan Murphy did, I would beg people not to judge this character until they get to know her, because they are going to be very surprised.”

Hey, Archie Bunker sure lasted a long time on TV, so if Ellen Barkin’s Nana can tap into any of that, well done.

“The appeal was great,” Barkin said. “I think any actor who wouldn’t be interested in bringing Archie Bunker types back into the conversation at this point in our history would need to have their head examined.”

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv