Saturday, March 16, 2013

News: American Horror Story: Coven

Kathy Bates Joins Cast of American Horror Story at PaleyFest (and on AHS: Coven)
Thomas J. Watson, TVFirstLook

Kathy Bates, Ryan Murphy, Jessica Lange

First there was American Horror Story: Murder House, then American Horror Story: Asylum. Up next is American Horror Story: Coven, to be at least partially filmed on location in New Orleans. That’s the plan announced by series creator and executive producer Ryan Murphy at Friday night’s salute to the popular FX series, the closing event of this year’s PaleyFest in Beverly Hills. 

“It will be a first for us,” he says. “Our first two seasons were both shot on a sound stage. Going on location will be an interesting change of pace.”

Also new to the series will be Kathy Bates, an Oscar-winning actress whose surprise introduction on Friday brought the sold-out crowd at the 2,000-seat Saban Theatre to its feet.

Bates, an unannounced guest, joined regular cast members Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Evan Peters, Frances Conroy and Naomi Grossman, on a panel that included, in addition to Murphy, the series co-creator and executive producer Brad Falchuk, executive producer Tim Minear and executive producer (and director) Dante Di Loreto. Denise Martin of Vulture moderated.

The evening commenced with a screening of a Season Two episode entitled I Am Anne Frank, Part 2, which was first telecast last Nov. 14. The enthusiastic audience greeted each scene with the screams and applause normally heard only in rock concerts.

The series’ strength, says Murphy, lies in the fact that every season the storyline starts fresh. Many of the same cast members return, but in totally different roles – much like the members of a theatrical repertory company. “It’s great fun,” he says. “We could go 10 years and still feel constantly refreshed.”

“It’s the best of both worlds,” says Lange, with nods of agreement from the rest of the cast. “We have the security of acting with the same core group of people, much like the regulars on other programs, but every year we get to play new and different characters.”

Lange starred in season one as Constance, the weird lady living next door to what became the murder house. In season two, she was Sister Jude, administrator of the Asylum. Next year, her character has been described as a “glamour cat.” “I still don’t know what that is,” admits Lange. 

Bates, a longtime fan of the show, admits to having taken less than an hour to agree to join the series for Season Three. She and Lange have been friends for years and have appeared together in such films as 1990’s Men Don’t Leave. Bates previously starred in the NBC lawyer drama Harry’s Law. When asked by an audience member whether her new role on American Horror Story will be as evil as the one she played in the movie Misery, she gave a Cheshire-cat grin and responded “I don’t know yet.”

Both Murphy and Falchuk, who have been responsible for such other TV hits as Nip/Tuck and Glee, are proud of the fact that the tales on American Horror Story have been character driven, rather than “just so much gore.” “You have to have full-blown characters if you are going to be in people’s living room every week,” says Falchuk. 

“We are lucky to have almost a year lead-time for story preparation,” adds Murphy. “The first season was themed around infidelity; season two around sanity.”

While he almost deliberately stayed away from the word “spin-off,” Murphy hinted that he has an idea for what could become an American Horror Story companion piece in a year or so. But we’ll have to wait for another occasion to learn more about that.

Friday’s special event was “closing night” of the 30th Annual William S. Paley Television Festival, presented by the Paley Center for Media, headquartered in New York and Beverly Hills.

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