AMERICAN HORROR STORY: Ryan Murphy on ASYLUM and What to Expect in Season 3
January 24, 2013 by Marisa Roffman
Another season of AMERICAN HORROR STORY has come to an end. Did things go down the way you expected? (Personally, I would have loved to have seen Lana explain away what happened in her home, but it’s a little more fun to have that out there and let you imagine that media circus.)
AMERICAN HORROR STORY co-creator Ryan Murphy talked with reporters after a screening of the finale to reveal what he knew had to happen this year, how that memorable Sister Jude number came to be, and what he could say about season 3…
The end was planned all along.
One of the benefits of having your story self-contained each season? Murphy was able to plan that Lana would ultimately return to Briarcliff with a documentary crew up to take down the place from the season’s inception.
“That’s one of the first things when I and the writers landed on [while crafting] the idea of ASYLUM: that period of time, those documentaries that were made,” Murphy said. “There was a very famous documentary that Geraldo Rivera made in that time period, and this is a loose homage of that.”
“Also there was a brilliant movie that we were very influenced by for this last episode, this brilliant documentary called CROPSEY, that also was about the unraveling health care system in our country and how so many people were dumped there, and left to rot there,” he added. “All those abuses that you see, we studied pictures of, and we recreated all that stuff. We did a lot of research. But that was our jumping off point. In the beginning of the series, we knew we were going to have that character going there, becoming a prisoner, do her SHOCK CORRIDOR, and then go back to tear the joint down. That was the ending that we knew the path from the very beginning.”
But in order to get there, Lana’s path had to get a little bit bumpy.
“I also like that meditation on fame,” Murphy noted. “The corruption of fame stuff I thought was interesting. I know a lot of viewers were furious with Lana after the [penultimate] episode, that she left the people there to rot. But I like that she goes back. I love that she does try — even after everything Sister Jude has done — she does go back to get her, she does succeed in closing that place…I think Lana having her Barbara Walters ending was great.”
And, yes, Lana was always meant to survive.
“I always knew she would survive,” Murphy said. “I didn’t know how fantastic her wigs would be! That was fun, too, working with Sarah Paulson (Lana), who had so many dark days, but she loved it. She was actually weepy when the show ended, because she said ‘I never had a character that had a beginning, a middle, and an end like that.’”
Season 2 was a little rough for Jessica Lange (Sister Jude).
After season 1 being delightfully evil as Constance, Murphy acknowledged that season 2 was occasionally difficult for Lange.
“This was a hard thing for her. She is the most sensual, I think, actress, around. So to put her in a black tight thing with her hair [up] and no makeup. But she loved it by the end of it. She loved this episode. She loved all the stuff with those kids. She was very happy that Jude got a happy ending.”
Fun fact: that infamous song and dance number came from Lange going to Murphy’s office and saying, “You need to give me something fun!” (Sure worked, huh?)
Some of that crazy episode direction nearly didn’t make it in the final cut.
One of the distinctions of AMERICAN HORROR STORY’s finale was the crazy camera work executed by director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. But if you were a little skeptical about it, Murphy admitted he almost thought it was too extreme, too.
“I will admit that when I saw the first cut of this with the shot where Lana is being interviewed by the police and the police are telling her [about the modern day Bloody Face] and the camera is going around, and I’m like, ‘What is this nonsense? I’m going to cut that so quick!’” Murphy shared. “And then it went under the table [to show Johnny's police file] and I went, ‘That’s pretty genius.’”
Sometimes things catch on in ways you don’t expect…and sometimes they don’t.
Season 2 certainly featured its share of strange happenings (um, Anne Frank?!), but even Murphy was a bit surprised by what caught on and what didn’t.
“I thought the alien stuff was interesting,” he noted. “I always thought it was metaphoric and so take it or leave it. I think that stuff was polarizing for people. The thing I thought people would not like was Lily Rabe possessed by Satan, which, by far, was one of the great fan faves of this year.”
Season 3 plans are already underway!
With AMERICAN HORROR STORY vets Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, and Evan Peters already committed to season 3 (once again playing new characters), the writers have already gotten to work on shaping the season.
“I already know what the season is,” Murphy said. “So I’ll talk with the writers and flesh it out. And then I’ll meet with [the network and studio bosses] and I’ll pitch the whole season. So that’s a great thing to do. And after I pitch it, we start writing it.”
After going dark the first two seasons, Murphy is looking to be a little bit lighter in the new year.
“I want to do something next season that’s funnier,” he said. “I really miss…Jessica Lange as Constance [in season 1], that [vibe]. I know she missed it, too. So the only thing I’ll say about [season 3] is that it’s a mixture of several cities, and it’s really about female power. And I got Jessica to do it because I did everything she asked. Which was the location, and I also told her she’d have complete hair and makeup, and the best designer gowns ever. She said, please don’t put me in a wimple again. She’s going to play a really glamor cat sort of lady in season 3.”
What did you think of AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM?