The Harmons of "American Horror Story" in happier times
2012 kicked off on Friday (March 2) night with what we can safely assume will be the only panel at this year's festival dominated by stories about Dylan McDermott
masturbating and crying.
Or at least we can hope?
With moderator Tim Stack leading the charge, the "American Horror Story
" PaleyFest panel dwelled heavily on the key moment from the pilot in which McDermott's Ben miserably pleasures himself, with his back to the camera.
"It's a very serious question. I'm glad you asked that," McDermott said in response to what was either the first or second question about the lachrymose Onanism. "It's usually what I do at home anyway, so I felt I was perfect for it. And then I remember someone called me up and said, 'Oh. Who's your body double?' And I was like, 'Oh, hell no.'"
He added, "I didn't feel like it was gratuitous. I just felt like it was necessary to see my ass... That one scene where I was masturbating, crying? What's better than that? I was offered a lot of shows this season and I kept looking and that was never in there."
But there was a thematic reason, too! Really, there was.
Explained co-creator Brad Falchuk, "It's a show about infidelity and Dylan's character being the axis of that, his sexuality had to be out there. He's a sex addict, you know. So it needed to be sort of out there. And yeah, he's got a good butt."
So there you go!
And it wasn't just McDermott who ended up discussing his rear end. Alexandra Breckenridge, who played the younger half of naughty maid Moira praised the writing, costume and lighting for freeing her from inhibitions.
"I knew what my side of the character was when I read for it, so all of my inhibitions and insecurities went away when I walked on set in that outfit..." Breckenridge told the assembled crowd and countless viewers watching via Livestream. "I just did it. I didn't bother myself with what was hanging out of my butt... Wait. That was bad. That was really bad. I meant cottage cheese. Cellulite."
[More after the break, including the VERY broad and not at all spoilers for the second season.]
Falchuk and co-creator Ryan Murphy
said that they always intended for "American Horror Story" to complete its particular story in the first season and shift to an entirely different story with an entirely different cast of characters in the second season.
"Very few people knew that, but yes. When we met with Connie and Dylan, that was definitely how we pitched it, which was part of the attraction," Murphy said.
"I think it's very hard to maintain the tension of a horror show over the course of three, four seasons," Falchuk observed, adding that the benefit of this structure is that, "Every year you have a new tension and a new group of people like to f*** with."
Of course, it won't really be an entirely different group of people. It's already been announced that Golden Globe and SAG Award winner Jessica Lange
will be returning, for example. Landing Lange for her first TV series role was a big coup and a decision she credits Murphy for.
"He just kept calling me and he made these promises," Lange laughed. "It was like, 'Wow.' I never had a man really promise that much. I thought maybe it would be worth giving it a shot. See if he actually came through. Yeah, it was a seduction. I was seduced."
But Lange won't be the only returning cast member, with Zachary Quinto's return also revealed earlier on Friday. The big news on the panel was that Evan Peters (formerly dreamy killer Tate), Sarah Paulson (formerly quirky medium Billie Dean) and Lily Rabe (formerly miserable spirit Nora) all continuing with the show as part of an ensemble Murphy compared to Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre company.
So much for the "whole new cast" thing, right? Murphy also said that just because they haven't guaranteed that certainly actors will return doesn't mean they won't eventually pop up.
"Some people have gone off to do movies and other TV shows," he said. "The door's always open for fun crossover cameo stuff."
And what concrete information could he provide? Well, "American Horror Story" will resume production in July and it will probably return to FX in late October, as expected. There have been ample teases that the narrative will switch coasts and that there will be an "institutional" backdrop, but Murphy didn't address that specifically. He did say that the plan wasn't to return to another ghost story, though.
"There are so many great genre subsets of horror and our only rule on the show is 'No werewolves and no vampires.' I think a supernatural element will always be a part of the show," he said.
Murphy added, "From where we are now, I would say it's a very equally terrifying, but very different vibe. The ghost thing I loved and I loved the 'Are they alive or are they dead?' but the fun part of the show, the gift of the show is to sort of reinvent it every year. I don't think we want to go back to a trope that we did."
Another element that Murphy promised would return intact was the beloved opening credit sequence, albeit with some necessary changes.
"I love title sequence. I live for them actually. It's my favorite thing," Murphy said.
He added, "A lot of the things in that title sequence were clues. Almost all of them were answered except for one, which was the guy with the... clippers, which is something we entertained and then dropped as a storyline... And we're going to do the same thing this year. That's one of the hallmarks of the show for me."
Speaking of the Clipper Man, Murphy admitted that Constance's Fourth Child was one of the few mysteries that never got revealed in the first season and that they know the answer and plan on addressing it, even if Lange won't be playing Constance anymore.
Some other highlights of the PaleyFest "American Horror Story" panel:
*** Stack wasn't only interested in Dylan McDermott's partial nudity. He also was very invested in Rubberman. It turns out that the costume was inspired by a book about sadomasochistic wear from the '50s that Murphy found while researching. It also turns out that the suit, which McDermott was frequently forced to wear, caused weight-loss, but went from very warm to very cold very quickly. Britton remembered reading the pilot script, "I was like, 'There's no way that is going to make it into the show. Not a chance.' Cut to: I have a lot of sex with the Rubberman. All of them."
*** Britton had a number of good lines about the crucial scene in "Birth," which was screened before the panel. "It was wrenching, but also funny," she recalled. "I was constantly consulting Jessica about the realities of childbirth. She's had a lot of childbirth just like that." Britton also noted that she did the scene very shortly after going to Africa to adopt a child. ""I had literally just come back from Ethiopia, having just adopted my son... Thankfully, it's working out better with my son," she cracked.
*** The cow brains? Made out of gelatin. Britton had to eat a lot of other gross gelatin-crafted organs, but only some of that actually made it into the series, while a lot was cut. She seemed a little mock-resentful.
*** Falchuk emphasized that there are no plans to cross-pollinate the worlds of "Glee" and "American Horror Story." He noted, "Don't have your wife and your mistress to dinner together. Not that I would know. They're sorta different animals and I think you want to keep them in their purest states."
*** Lange was the star of the brief audience Q&A, which featured not one, but two drag queens in Constance garb. Lange didn't quite know how to respond to either of them. She also didn't respond to the 29-year-old who didn't have a question, but just wanted to tell the two-time Oscar winner that she's sexy and "You just do it for me all the time."
*** The final audience question asks the panelists if they had their own experiences with ghosts or the paranormal. Murphy wants to have had experiences and he said that sometimes he has sensory indications of something inexplicable, like the odor of a perfume he knows his boyfriend would never wear. The only person with a concrete paranormal experience, though, was Breckenridge, who said, "I've seen ghosts in my apartments before... I had a school girl in my apartment in Koreantown five years ago. Just staring at me in at 10 o'clock morning. You just imagine that normally you’d see a ghost at night, but apparently they come out to play at 10 a.m."