Ryan Murphy Tells An American Horror Story

If Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk wanted to do a 180-degree swing from their hit show Glee, they have certainly succeeded. The two talented writer/creators have come up with one of the most original, clever concepts for a horror series. All using a very simple premise – a family moves into a haunted house of horrors. But there is nothing simple about American Horror Story.

As with all good haunted house stories the house is actually the real lead character and has all sorts of secrets, which it may, or may not, tell.

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Dylan and Vivien Harmon (Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton) along with their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) buy a lovely old house in Los Angles. They got a very good deal since the last owners were victims of a murder/suicide. That should have been the first clue.

The second hint is their delightfully crazy neighbor Constance (Jessica Lange). This also includes a housekeeper who sometimes appears as an older woman, Moira (Frances Conroy), or a sexy young thing (Alexandra Beckenridge) all dolled up in a French maids outfit. There is also the enigmatic burned guy Larry Harvey (Dennis O’Hare). Is this all an illusion, a wet dream, slipping into other dimension, time travel, or just a very haunted house up to some bizarre tricks?

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Or perhaps they’re all crazy, or just crazy to stay there.

Co-creator, writer and producer Ryan Murphy gives Pop Culture Zoo a few clues for the next 13 episodes. But don’t worry – no spoilers allowed.

POP CULTURE ZOO: You use a lot of horror plot points in this that we’re used to seeing, but you want to turn them on their heads. How are you trying to reinvent this genre?

RYAN MURPHY: With a lot of them, when you put them through a prism of sexuality and emotionality, they become more interesting. I love horror movies, but I don’t like bloody horror movies, so there is not a lot of blood in this thing. If you look at the pilot, there’s almost none. There’s a ripped out throat or two, with dried blood, but it’s never going to be a blood bath. I always felt that it’s interesting to write a horror show for women, in a weird way, not that that’s the only people that it will appeal to. My mother doesn’t want to see blood and guts, but she does like scary movies that aren’t so in-your-face. So that’s what we’re sort of aiming for.

PCZ: Will viewers find out who’s in the fetish suit, in the pilot?

MURPHY: No, that’s one we’re keeping.

PCZ: Will viewers find out more about the genetic creature in the basement?

MURPHY: Yeah, there’s a whole mythology about that. It is actually a story that I’ve always been obsessed with. That’s what that thing in the basement is.

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PCZ: Given your penchant for casting guest stars, will this show be limited to this cast, or are you going to bring in other people at different times?

MURPHY: The thing about this cast was that I targeted them. I have always wanted to work with a great number of them. I wanted to work with Jessica, and I have always wanted to work with Franny [Frances Conroy], Denis [O’Hare], Connie and Dylan. So I went after them. We just wrote a really big guest star part for Lily Rabe, who’s a brilliant actress. So it’s not going to be like Nip/Tuck.

PCZ: Do you have to cleanse yourself in between writing Glee and American Horror Story? What’s your process for that?

MURPHY: I do. Brad [Falchuk] and I work really long hours. We have two great writing staffs, and we split the day with them. We work at night and we work weekends. Before we go into American Horror Story, we walk around the lot because it’s very dark, and Glee is not that. You do have to change your energy. The staffs for both shows are in the same building, and are sort of both obsessed with the other one’s show. It’s a light and fun environment.

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PCZ: Why did you want to work with Jessica Lange, and why is her character Southern?

MURPHY: Well, there are two reasons for that. One is that my favorite stage performance, of all time that I saw, is Jessica doing A Streetcar Name Desire in New York. I went and saw it three times. I loved her in that part. Before we spoke to Jessica, I knew that I sort of wanted her to be Blanche-esque, so that’s where that came in. There’s a story that’s coming up about her Southern stuff.

PCZ: Is this story contained in the 13 episodes of Season 1 and a new one will be on next year or is this story going to continue into next year?

MURPHY: I can’t say. That’s part of the fun of it. People keep saying that, and I don’t know where they get that idea, but I can’t say. It’s explained in the last episode what we’re doing.

PCZ: Are you staying focused on Glee and this show, or do you have another show in mind that you’re developing?

MURPHY: I’m always working on stuff. I’m meeting with a writer to talk about something that I might do with him next year, which is a book that I own, maybe as a TV series. I don’t know. For the first time, in a long time, I feel very content, about creatively what I’m working on, just because I get to use both sides of my personality – the light and fun, Rachel Berry side, and then the dark, twisted, screwed up side. So I feel very satisfied at the end of the day. I really do.

American Horror Story airs on the FX Channel on Wednesday nights at 10:00 PM