Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott talk AMERICAN HORROR STORY

TVFXby Jim Napier

American Horror Story continues to be one of the scariest TV shows on aside from AMC's The Walking Dead. What sets this show apart from many other new TV series is that it has a phenomenal cast. Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton play Mr. and Mrs. Harmon, who could be the poster children for what dysfunctional families look like. I had the chance to sit down with them for to talk about American Horror Story and here are some excerpts of that interview:

Connie, why do you think the audience has not just been good, but the ratings continue to increase week-to-week?

I actually really, really attribute that to Ryan and to Brad, and they listen because you ask the question in that way and you know about my aversion to horror. When we first—even when they were shooting the pilot, I was still very unclear about what the show was going to look like. And what I think is so brilliant about what Ryan and Brad do is that they have a very distinct vision that is so outside the box of anything we’ve ever seen before, and they have such a great talent for bringing that into fruition and that’s what they’ve done. And I think audiences, even audiences who weren’t—it wasn’t their natural inclination to like a show like this, I think audiences are really drawn to and really appreciate being challenged and seeing something that they’ve never seen before.

Dylan do you think this is ultimately a story about the Harmons relinquishing this evil or simply surviving it?

Maybe a little bit of both. I think when I met with Ryan and Brad and Connie, originally we had talked about that this really is a show about a fractured family and what infidelity can do to people, and I think that it’s a metaphor for all the horror of being in a relationship and being in a family and being in a marriage. All that stuff is the horror of it is really the metaphor of this marriage and the house. So, I think it’s a little bit of both to answer your question.

How much did you know about the characters and their back-story going into the show?

C. Britton Well, I—and Dylan, you tell me if this is the same for you, but I think we actually didn’t know very much, but what was fun was it felt like it was sort of in … as we were going forward with Ryan and Brad. So, it feels constantly as though we’re back story and discovering who these people are, which is, to me, really fun and kind of adds to the mystery of the whole thing.

D. McDermott Yes. It kind of unravels as we go. I don’t think we know exactly where we’re going. So, it’s kind of fun to just open up the scripts and realize, “Oh, I didn’t even know this about myself.” So, that’s kind of the best part about the show.

With the show being so intense, have either of you ever uncomfortable with something that happens in the script, and you try to change it, or do you have any power over where the Harmons go?

C. Britton Well, I was just going to say, I think we have a lot of power over it, but I also think that the things about the script that make me uncomfortable are the things that are what make it interesting to me as an actress. So, if something was really—like, I mean, listen, I was not comfortable with the Rubber Man in the pilot, and I was convinced that the Rubber Man was going to go. But I really, again, I really—I’m so always amazed that Ryan and Brad can come up with something that I think is just going to be hideous and awful, and I’ve grown to really trust them to create it in a way that is only interesting. So, I kind of keep my mouth shut at this point.

D. McDermott After masturbating in the pilot, what else is there? I couldn’t be uncomfortable again.

What are your opinions of the various back stories of the house, all the horrors and which are your favorites? 

D. McDermott I love Jessica and her whole story and where she’s going. And to see Addy die this week, I thought was really so powerful and her dragging her to get to the house to make her a ghost. I thought that was just a great storyline. So, for me, it’s like her having a young lover and all these kids, these mentally handicapped kids, I thought this is just a great type of story for her. So, I’m really interested in what’s going to happen to her character.

C. Britton Yes. I am too. I just love the—I think it all—I kind of love how it all evolves each week, and I love that there are so many ghosts in this house that we just have no idea. We could never count them, really. And they create this culture in this community, in this house, that we have stumbled upon. And I just think that’s really fun. I think it’s fun that we’re watching these people, these sort-of human people stumble upon this crazy world.

What it’s like working with Jessica Lange?

C. Britton Well, it’s really amazing. As Dylan was saying, she’s so incredible and such an incredible person. She’s really a lovely, approachable human being and then beyond that. I did a scene with her yesterday, and I kind of go back and forth with feeling like, wow, she just makes me be able to be better than I could ever be. And then also, just catching myself stopping and just watching her in a scene, which of course, I really shouldn’t be doing. But it’s really extraordinary because she’s so—she’s kind of almost this mythic creature, and yet, also just very approachable and real and lovely to work with.

Have either of you had a supernatural experience in real life? 

D. McDermott For myself, I did have one in 1989. I don’t believe in this kind of stuff at all. I’m kind of cynical in that way. But I was in … Louisiana. I was doing a movie. I was in the car with two other people at night. And the headlights washed over this ghost-like figure around midnight in Louisiana. I don’t know if that’s specific to Louisiana or not, but I did see this. And they did see this sort of ethereal being suddenly, and we all just sort of didn’t say anything for like two minutes. And then, we all brought it up. So, that was the only time in my life that I actually saw something and felt things, but never saw anything before like that. So, I have to say I did have a real experience. And also, I’m not that person, but that’s the only time I ever had it.

C. Britton Well, I also am not a big believer in ghosts, or I don’t really walk around in fear of ghosts. But I have definitely had an experience with ghosts, which was in Italy. I was staying at this really amazing, old Tuscan villa. It was my friend’s house. And I woke up in the middle of the night and heard all kinds of moving around upstairs above me and furniture moving and voices, and I thought that something must have—some plumbing must have exploded or whatever. And then, I asked them about it the next day, and they said, “Oh, no, no, no. No, nobody was up at night. Nothing was moving. Nothing was happening.” And then, it came out that they were very aware that the house was haunted, and they told me all kinds of stories and the various … ghosts that they’ve experienced while they’re there. And I have never, and this is my friend’s house, I’ve been back several times, and I never, ever can sleep at night when I stay there.

Has there ever been a scene that’s just been so ridiculous you’ve had trouble figuring how to play it in the moment?

D. McDermott I think that Connie and I try to keep it as real as possible because we’re probably the most grounding part of the show, but I think that’s really important so it doesn’t become just a freak fest. So, I think that mostly we try to keep it grounded in reality so people can be rooted in something, rooted in the family. And every once in a while, yes, I’ve had to put on the rubber suit a few times myself.

C. Britton So, that’s always a big laugh.

D. McDermott Yes. So, that’s always fun to put that on. And I think you just have to go with it. There’s no parachute in this show. There’s no net. We just are all in this together, and I think that’s what makes it so much fun is that everybody’s making the same show here. And we’re all going for it. And so, I think that’s why it’s working.

C. Britton Yes. I have to say when I first read the pilot and talked to Ryan about it, I thought it was very serious and dark. And I was actually talking to my cousin about it, and she said, “Oh, if it’s a Ryan Murphy show, there’s definitely going to be tongue in cheek.” I’m like, “No, no, no, no, not in this show.” And so, but I’ve come to discover that that is, I think, a trademark of their shows. And what I found, just as Dylan was saying, I think we are the grounding characters of the show, but what’s really fun, to me, is I find that I can play the scenes very straight and very real, and they just end up being comedic because of the way they’re written. And that’s always really—the best kind of comedy is the kind that you don’t have to work very hard at. It just sort of happens out of circumstance.

All new episodes air Wednesdays at 10pm e/p only on FX.

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