In the 13-episode, fifth installment of the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning franchise, American Horror Story: Hotel ventures into The Cortez.
The Cortez is an infamous hotel in Los Angeles that is operated by The Countess played by international superstar Lady Gaga. Featuring an all-star cast including series regulars Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Evan Peters, Dennis O’Hare and Chloe Sevigny, the series welcomes in expanded roles Matt Bomer, Wes Bentley and Cheyenne Jackson.
Evan Peters is an Emmy nominated actors starring in two of the biggest franchises on TV and film: American Horror Story and X-Men. Peters is one of the few actors to stay with American Horror Story for every season thus far and has won acclaim on both film and television for his dramatic work.
Matt Bomer is one of Hollywood’s most exciting young actors working today. He starred in the Ryan Murphy directed HBO film The Normal Heart, winning both a Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award for his performance. He also received an Emmy nomination for the role. Bomer has been seen on many successful television shows prior to American Horror Story including White Collar and Chuck and is part of the cast of both Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL.
Evan, where did your character’s accent come from?
Evan Peters: Well, he’s from the 30s and Ryan Murphy, we were talking when he first let me play Mr. March, he said, You know who has a really good 30s accent is William Powell. I go, Oh, OK! I had never heard of William Powell before and I started watching all his movies and he really does have an amazing 30s accent so this is my poor attempt at emulating that so that’s where I got it from. And also, he’s kind of creepy. He’s kind of devious, minion guy, there’s always the playing into the humor of that.
Evan, you’ve been in all five seasons, which one is your favorite? Which one was more challenging or more fun?
EP: Well, they always get more challenging. Every year I think, Oh, I can walk through this, this will be great, but it’s always different and it’s always harder, and there’s always something new to learn. This one was by far is the most fun, I love playing the villain, I think it’s awesome, it’s great to torture people and not be on the receiving end of that so that’s really nice. So this has definitely been a great character and one of my favorites that I’ve played so far.
AHS has just been renewed for season six; would you be open to another season and if so what type of character would you like to play next?
EP: Yeah! Yeah, definitely. Well, I guess I wouldn’t want to play the villain because I just did that so I don’t know, I have no idea. I mean, maybe some kind of handicapped [person], that’d be interesting to try to challenge myself to try to play.
Matt Bomer: Yeah definitely, I’d love to be back! I think I’d probably just trust the powers that be. I’d take whatever I was given and enjoy that.
Evan, you played Kathy’s son last season, Matt you’re playing Kathy’s son this season, can you talk about the whole maternal aspect of working with her for the character?
MB: For me, Kathy Bates, growing up in terms of my iconography of film actors, she was always somebody who was the mother I saw on scree. She bares somewhat of a resemblance to my mom–I’m speaking less about Misery and more about the other roles she’s played—but she’s such an icon for me and then you meet her and she’s so relatable and watching her work as an actress has been one of my favorite experiences of the season. There are so many different maternal and relationships played out over the course of the series, it seems to be one of the continuing themes, so this one had a particular element of addiction to it that certainly Donovan is someone sees himself as a victim in many ways and she’s someone who is trying to reach him and whether or not they’re going to be able to connect, truly connect, sort of remains to be scene.
EP: Yeah, Kathy is a very motherly person. She’s very sweet, she’s very funny, she’s very nice, she calms your nerves, she’s hilarious so it’s not hard to play her son and to love her like that so it was a pleasure to work with her, I mean, it’s Kathy fucking Bates!
MB: Kathy fucking Bates!
American Horror Story seems so extreme, does it feel different shooting it to other productions?
MB: Yeah, first of all there’s just a lot more money so the pace is, they really take their time. I came into this show wanting to work with all of these incredible actors who id been fans of for so long because I’ve been watching this show since it started airing and I really more star struck by the creative behind the show now. I mean, look at the scene design around you right now. I’ve never seen an interior like this. The Countess’ penthouse, your [Evan] penthouse, it’s some of the most interiors I’ve ever seen; the wardrobe department, the writers, and so every job is different that way but it’s been really nice to come into a place where they really trust you as an actor and give your creative process room to breathe and have the time and the funds to let that happen.
What do you think is distinctly American about American Horror Story?
MB: I guess the landscape seems to be horror stories that are distinctly American –
EP: The show seems to be about acceptance…
MB: And outcasts and people who might traditionally be on the margins or the periphery actually being heroic and finding their voice.
What are some of your favorite moments working with Lady Gaga? It seems like there’s the Lady Gaga that you see on TV but you guys get to spend time with her.
EP: She’s really sweet, you know? She’s really down to earth. Just like you were talking to her, she’s just like that all the time. She’s never freaking out, never a diva, she’s really kind of amazing and a really down to earth person. But then really gets into the scenes and there’s been some times when she was really getting into it, scaring the crap out of me, you know? It was cool! She was really going for it, it was inspiring, you know, so that was really cool. There’s a scene that we have, I think it’s in episode seven, that is really intense and she just went there and scared the hell out of me. It was cool to see her make that switch and really go there, so I guess that was mine.
MB: Yeah, I’ve had a couple of those moments too. She is so relatable and she’s able to make herself so accessible that I love all of our time here in these safely confined places where she can just bring her artist to the table and you get to work with each other purely as artists. It’s only when we’re on location or maybe somewhere else where I’m like, oh my god, that’s the biggest star on the planet!
EP: I didn’t think about that, yeah.
MB: Not really because she’s such a committed actress that when we’re in the scene, I’m usually just marveling at the acting that she’s doing. I’ve had similar moments where she’ll change things up, take the take in such an interesting way that it really keeps you on your toes as an actor. So I just love her, I couldn’t love her more.
Matt, Wes was talking earlier about as a parent the whole child abduction thing is particularly brutal for him. Do you feel the same way?
MB: Yeah, when I read that, I think that’s something where if you’re a parent or just a parental influence in any kids life—if you’re a godparent or an aunt or an uncle—when you read a scene like that and when I saw the way they filmed it at that fairground, the merry go round, that just hits you right in the gut. I mean, that storyline for me has really resonated. I can’t imagine what that kind of suffering would be like so sometimes I have to fast forward through those scenes when I watch ‘em.
EP: I don’t have kids (laughs) but it is very sad, when I was reading it, I can’t think of anything worse and feeling like its your fault. I can’t think of anything worse than that.
What do you attribute the international success of the show to?
EP: It’s called American Horror Story; people want to know what’s going on in America! (laughs) I don’t even know…
MB: It’s interesting… because even though it’s called American Horror Story, there are elements of the show that are universal, that aren’t just particularly a part of the American fabric. We all like to be scared, I remember being a fan of horror movies from a young age, far too young. I saw A Nightmare on Elm Street a lot earlier than I should have but there’s something about that feeling of fear that makes you appreciate life a little bit more after you watch it and I think that’s universal, and certainly a lot of the themes in the show are.
Have you had any strange fan encounters since the show has started?
MB: I loved seeing peoples American Horror Story costumes for Halloween. I got a real kick out of that because I’ve never been a part of something – maybe Magic Mike, I don’t know, I didn’t see any of those. That’d be a really cold Halloween… But it was really interesting to see people take the characters they’d seen on screen, whoever it was, and put their spin on it and have their night of Halloween be a celebration of the show, I thought that was something really special and interesting.
Matt, with the vampire myth as we’ve seen it in pop culture, there’s that very sexy side, but there’s also a loneliness and sadness that goes along with it. Did you do any research into the idea of vampirism or did you kind of approach it from more of the addict side or was it a combination of both?
MB: Yeah, I think the addict side was more important for me to understand and that mentality and what he was going through at the time when he did overdose because a certain part of him is frozen in that immediate post adolescence and he never really is able to get past it even though he’s lived another twenty years, he’s still struggling with the same conflicts, he’s still having these issues with his mother in the lobby, so that was more of a key into the character. When I first heard the word ‘vampire’ I thought, Oh wow, OK what’s this going to be, once I understood it was much more about this blood virus that was passed on and they were still very mortal people still struggling with very mortal issues, they just had to be smart to survive, they had to take a lot of self protective measures to survive and some of the issues that they had twenty years ago they’re still struggling with today.
When you get your scripts do you ever find yourself going, where do these writers come up with all this horrific stuff?!
EP: Oh god.
MB: Every time I get a script!
Does it ever get to be over the top for you as actors?
EP: No. No, I like bigger and more and bloodier and crazier. That’s one of the things I love about this show, you get to do the most insane crap ever and you don’t get in trouble for it! It’s kind of amazing, you can act however you want, you can do whatever you want, it’s kind of amazing because you cant do that in real life – hopefully
MB: You do have a wider creative license on a show like this, I think, and that’s really liberating as an actor. On top of that, whatever comes in from the scripts, this is a writers medium—we get action to cut but they are in essence the deities, they are telling the story, they are pulling the strings and the writers on this show are so talented and bright and it’s so clear to me that they put such a great deal of thought into every character in every scene so it never feels like too much.
For fans of this show, what makes this season stand out? Is it the scariest, the most glamorous?
EP: Honestly, I think it’s definitely the bloodiest. We’ve got a lot of blood, we’ve got a lot of killing. I think it’s got a lot of the darkness from season two and season one, it has a lot of warmth in the colors in season one, like wood and there’s kind of that in this too, it’s that old school feel. There’s a lot of ghosts and blood virus, to me it’s one of the scarier ones and all the theme it’s very dark, it’s not like season three, there’s not a lot of light heartedness and happy go lucky stuff, it’s all very dark and all the humor comes from sad places too, I think. So get ready because this wont be an easy one to watch!
MB: And it’s a very a relatable environment. To me, it does harken back to season one and “Murder House,” and it being an environment we’ve all been in before. We haven’t all been in an asylum or in a coven but we’ve all been in a hotel where our wellbeing and our welfare is looked after by other people and we’re not in control of our immediate environments and anyone could come, theoretically or hypothetically, come knock on your door at 3 o’clock in the morning and so to me, that’s an immediate fear.
The four-way in the opening episode sort of sets the tone for the whole season, that must have been trial by fire in a way, how did you and Lady Gaga prepare for it?
MB: It’s another testament to Stephanie that she had Finn (Wittrock) and I over to her house before we started filming so we could get to know her and feel comfortable around her so we weren’t having to show up naked for the first time saying, Hi, nice to meet you! Let’s have a four-way!
EP: Why wasn’t I invited?!
MB: I think she was trying to handle the explicit scenes first, maybe.
EP: Oh, OK… Alright.
MB: But so she was great and so down to earth that by the time we got to set, everybody was relatable, and a big part of the job on that was breaking the ice with the other two actors and making them feel as comfortable as they needed to be and you can only really prepare so much and then you have to leave it to the genius of Ryan Murphy. Part of that scene, we were just committing to it fully and it was happening in the moment. He was following the steady cam around and going, Do this now…! So you just had to be in the moment and just trust each other. It was actually a really unique experience and it sounds really terrifying but there was also something really fun and liberating about it.
How long did it take to shoot and how messy was it?
MB: Well, the best aspect of it is that we were covered in – the blood is largely corn syrup based, it’s very sticky…
What was the small talk like?
MB: We told stories, we told intimate stories actually. Not about sex, but it was just like, trading stories by the campfire! We just happened to be blood soaked and covered in tarp.
American Horror Story: Hotel is out now on Blu-ray™ and DVD, courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.