Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott face a real housing crisis on 'American Horror Story' (Robert Zuckerman/FX)Halloween may be over, but the scares keep coming every week on FX's creepy-crawly new drama, "American Horror Story." The frightfest -- which centers on the Harmons, a fractured family that moves into a very haunted house -- has sucked us in with its smart blend of mind-freak horror, dense storytelling, and pitch-black comedy. And we're not the only ones hooked: Last week's installment was the show's highest-rated yet, and FX just picked it up for a second season.
Last week, we took part in a conference call with "AHS" stars Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott, who play estranged couple Vivien and Ben Harmon -- and the TV veterans were more than happy to chat about their latest hit. Read on to get the full story on "American Horror Story," straight from the stars themselves.
They weren't afraid to take the plunge
Both actors have starred on successful TV series before (him on "The Practice," her on "Friday Night Lights") -- so presumably they knew what they were getting into when they agreed to climb aboard this sex-filled, blood-soaked crazy train. McDermott welcomed the challenge. "A lot of actors will say no to the nudity and sex and violence on the show. But I was that guy running into the building as everyone else was running out." (Running into the building nude, that is, if he's anything like the frequently naked Ben.)
For Britton, it was a chance to put five years of Tami Taylor behind her. "I wanted to do something that was really, really different from what I had just been doing... so going from this wonderful marriage on TV to this completely damaged marriage, and with the style being so different, it just seemed like a great gift and a great opportunity for me. So I felt really good diving in -- even though it felt very risky and scary." Speaking of being scared...
They have very different ideas about horror movies
If Britton and McDermott were a real-life couple, they'd never be able to agree on what movie to rent on date night. Britton is not a fan of horror movies, so she was understandably a little anxious about starring in the TV equivalent of one. "They always say about working in horror that it's a lot less scary when you're actually doing it. But there have been moments, for sure, that I get really creeped out. I tried to watch this week's episode by myself at night, and I couldn't watch it. Which is pretty sad, considering I had shot it."
McDermott, meanwhile, jumped at the chance to try the horror genre on for size. "I like psychological horror. Roman Polanski is one of my favorite directors. I think that this show is unsettling, in a great way. So for me, I was always attracted to it, I was never afraid of it." Good, then you can tell Connie what's happening while she's busy covering her eyes.
They don't know what's coming next... or do they?
Much like the vampire baby lurking in the Harmons' basement, Britton and McDermott claim to be totally in the dark regarding what's coming down the pike on "AHS." When pressed for details on future seasons, McDermott confesses: "We're not quite sure about the next episode, never mind the next year or so. We're kind of flying by the seat of our pants." Britton adds, "I don't know that ["AHS" creators] Brad [Falchuk] and Ryan [Murphy] know [what's coming]. Which is really fun. It feels like we really do watch this thing come to life."
But maybe they know more than they're letting on. When asked about a connection between the infamous Rubber Man and that baby in the basement, Britton lets out a knowing giggle. "You know what? We can't answer that question. If we answered that question, it would ruin it for you. But that's a great guess. [Laughs]" We'll go ahead and mark that one down for future reference.
Everyone's in awe of Jessica Lange
That's not a surprise, considering the acting master class the two-time Oscar winner has been putting on as the Harmons' prickly next-door neighbor, aging Southern belle Constance. (After only four episodes, an Emmy nod for Lange already seems a foregone conclusion.) When asked about his favorite "AHS" storyline, McDermott volunteered, "I love Jessica and her whole story... it's a great backstory. I'm really interested to see what's gonna happen with her character."
Britton shares more scenes with Lange, but that can be a mixed blessing. "She just makes me better than I thought I could be, and also I'm catching myself just stopping and watching her in a scene, which of course I really shouldn't be doing." Lange isn't afraid to let her feelings known on set, either. "I was shooting with her yesterday," Britton says, "and she told the writers, 'I want more comedy!'" And when Jessica Lange says she wants something, you darn well better get it for her.
They both have ghost stories of their own
Both McDermott and Britton admit to having real-life encounters with supernatural beings. McDermott's happened back in 1989, when he was shooting a film in Louisiana. "A bunch of us were in this car at night, and the headlights sort of washed over this ghost-like figure. We all didn't say anything for two minutes, and then we all brought it up."
Britton tells of staying in an old Tuscan villa owned by a friend. "I woke up in the middle of the night and I heard all kinds of moving upstairs above me, furniture moving and voices. And then it came out that [the owners] were very aware that this house was haunted with all kinds of Tuscan ghosts. I've been back several times, but I can never ever sleep at night when I'm there." Well, well... we hope the "AHS" writers are taking notes for Season 2.
Get a sneak peek at this week's all-new "American Horror Story":
"American Horror Story" airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.
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