Blame it on the witches. “American Horror Story: Coven” cast a spell on viewers, and nowhere was this more evident than at PaleyFest. While the show has always been a reliable hit at the event, this year the fan reaction seemed, well, more ardent than usual. Young fans asked the cast for hugs. One asked for a job. Evan Peters got a hand-knotted panda bear cap, while Sarah Paulson got letters, a T-shirt, and was asked on a date by one young female admirer. There was screaming. A lot of screaming. As one woman sitting behind me grumbled, “This isn't a One Direction concert.” Despite the similarities, the audience still managed to learn a lot — even (gasp) details about the top-secret coming season, “Freak Show.” Here are twelve factoids worth mentioning.
1) Ryan Murphy was told that “American Horror Story: Coven” would be the lowest rated season of the series
Murphy told the crowd about how he was warned by network analysts that “this season won't be as highly rated as the others because it feels more niche. And I said, oh, I don't think so.” Murphy, of course, got the last laugh — the premiere episode of “Coven” was the highest rated episode of the series up to that point. So there.
2) Kathy Bates had a different take on getting a Presidential pardon
When the topic of Bates' extremely racist character, Madame Delphine LaLaurie, came up, Bates (who was brought onto the stage after the rest of the 'Coven' stars had been seated as a “surprise,” as she was last year) mentioned that she'd had the chance to meet President Obama at the Kennedy Center. “All I could think was, oh God, I hope he hasn't seen this show!” she said before bursting into laughter.
3) Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy chose witches for a reason
When asked about why the show creators chose witches, Falchuk said, “Each season, it's about something behind the genre, and [this season] became about mothers and daughters… You can't get a more female horror genre than witches.” And we thought it was just the cool hats.
4) What wasn't intentional? Making two of the main male characters mute
Anyone looking for meaning in the fact that both Kyle and Spaulding were mostly silent might be disappointed. “The show was obviously about female empowerment in many, many forms,” Murphy said, noting that “at some point” the writing staff realized that two core male characters had literally nothing to say. “It's hard to make the guy characters pop in this sea of iconic female characters,” Murphy admitted. As for Denis O'Hare (Spauldin) and Evan Peters (Kyle), both joked that they were just fine not having to memorize lines. Silver lining, fellas!
5) Jessica Lange is a kleptomaniac (not really)
As Lange wasn't at the panel, Sarah Paulson (Cordelia) gleefully poked fun at her co-star. When asked about what happened to the sets, Paulson joked, “Jessica probably took the light fixture. She's a thief… we were drunk a lot.”
6) The cast actually might have been drunk a lot
Once the topic of shooting in New Orleans came up, the cast members on stage all had stories to relate. While Bates talked about how her hotel room overlooked a pool “chock full of guys in Speedos” and said she took pictures “to send to our friends in New York,” that story hardly measured up to Gabourey Sidibe's tale of how she and Paulson got into a “bar fight” the weekend before Halloween.
Sidibe gleefully acted out how she and Paulson, “totally wasted,” ended up at a bar where they were recognized by costumed fans. Sidibe imitated Paulson's outraged, finger-wagging reaction to being “glitterbombed” by one woman. You'd have to see it to truly appreciate Sidibe's re-enactment of the evening, but think an amped-up Queenie on an epic tear — and while the imitation of Paulson suggests she'd be a great addition to “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” it was still hilariously funny (Paulson, who couldn't stop laughing, clearly agreed). As Sidibe explained, “Sarah is tough!”
7) Stevie Nicks suggested that seven wonders storyline
Murphy said that, while Nicks was initially unavailable to appear in “Coven” due to tour commitments, she offered to move some dates after reading scripts for the season. “The seven wonders was her idea,” Murphy, a longtime fan, said. “She said, I have this old song that would work… she's just a really sweet, incredibly gracious lady.” Murphy also said that Nicks was very interested in both the process of acting and of filmmaking, suggesting she may have hopes of pursuing more roles in the future. A freak version of Stevie Nicks? Make it so, Murphy.
8) Sidibe and Bates had the most awesome suggestion for an “AHS” spin-off ever
It seemed pretty obvious from the panel that this gaggle of mostly women spent their free time joking around (and sometimes drinking; see above), and even the panel itself was funnier than some sitcoms. Angela Bassett set the tone when she brought out the rubberized face cast of Bates' character on a silver platter, and the loopiness kept rolling from there.
Sidibe and Bates' suggestion for an “AHS” spin-off starring Queenie and Delphine had the audience laughing so hard it was difficult to hear all of their ideas. That's a shame, because I know I would watch every second of this, always. “We'd call it 'Queenie and the Head,' and they'd live in Seattle as roommates… the head would be an online teacher,” Sidibe said.
Bates deadpanned, “I think it's got legs,” before standing up to mime tossing the head into the air. “We'd do that Mary Tyler Moore thing where she throws the head, but that would be plagiarizing.” Hey, somebody call FX and get these women a development deal, now.
9) Those gross, blind-eye contacts Paulson wore really did the trick
When asked about those creepy, milky contact lenses she had to wear after Cordelia was blinded (twice), Paulson said that the ones she wore the first time around did exactly that. “I really couldn't see. They covered my entire eye… and it was disorienting and great, because all my other senses were [heightened].” The problem, though, was she kept missing her marks. “I kept walking into walls,” she admitted. The second time around, “they were plastic, and a hole was poked through so I could see where I was going.” Paulson said there was one upside to playing blind. “My cane was amazing. It was made of a shark spine.”
10) Murphy confirmed the rumors about “Freak Show.”
After all the joking around had died down, Murphy got down to the serious business of next season — “Freak Show.” “It's a freak show. It's not a circus, or a carnival, just a freak show set in the 1950s. Jessica Lange has said that she wanted to do this for a long time, and she wanted to play this character.” Though the show will shoot in Louisiana, Murphy added, “It's set in Florida, where all great things happen.”
11) And another thing…
Murphy added, “Everyone on this stage is coming back in some capacity.” As to who was on stage, here's your list: Angela Bassett, Denis O'Hare, Emma Roberts, Evan Peters, Frances Conroy, Gabourey Sidibe, Jamie Brewer and Sarah Paulson. Murphy also said first and second season stars like Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton and Zachary Quinto could be in the mix. “We consider ourselves a family… It's just a question of finding the right time and the right role.”
12) Let's not forget the new cast member, either
Finally, it was time to bring out another “surprise” (a PaleyFest tradition) in the form of a new cast member: Michael Chiklis. Chiklis will be playing the father of Peters' character, and will be the ex-husband of Bates' character as well. “This also marks his return to FX,” Murphy added, referencing Chiklis' Emmy-winning role as Vic Mackey on “The Shield.”
Are you going to watch “American Horror Story: Freak Show”?