TCA 2011: The promises of Ryan Murphy on ‘American Horror Story’

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Ryan Murphy has a reputation of giving mixed signals about just who will be returning to his series (see: “Glee”). So when Murphy, who appeared Saturday to promote his new FX series “American Horror Story” at the Television Critics Assn. media tour, was asked whether it was still the plan to rotate the characters of his new show after 13 episodes (which was part of the early report about the series), he chose his words a little more carefully.

“It’s not necessarily true that this cast is doing it for one year,” he said. “We’re keeping it open.”


One thing that is necessarily true: The producers do know what the the last episode of the psychological thriller will be about. “It’s very unexpected and exciting for me,” he said.

“American Horror Story,” from Murphy and Brad Falchuk, who in addition to having created ‘Glee’ were the masterminds behind ‘Nip/Tuck,’ centers on a married couple, played by Connie Britton (“Friday Night Lights”) and Dylan McDermott (“The Practice”). The spouses, in an effort to cope with infideility and a miscarriage, move their family cross-country to rebuild their relationship. But they find their new home brings with it other problems, eerie ones: like Constance, a disturbing nosey neighbor played by Jessica Lange, who waltzes in the home without warning, a maid who takes on different incarnations, and a frightening creature in the basement.

They’re the kind of occurrences that might cause a family to vacate immediately, but they don’t. And the horror genre trope of why they stay will get an answered in the first couple of episodes.

“That was the most important thing that we worked on,” Murphy said. “We will explain why they are still there.”

As for the other mysteries posed in the pilot — there are “eight cliffhangers,” according to Murphy — they’ll also get explained by the third episode: like why Constance (Lange) has easy access to the house, why people are seeing Moira in different incarnations.

But Murphy cautions against getting too wrapped up in the horror of it all. The show “was never really about horror,” he said. “It really was about marriage and infidelity. It permeates all the characters, they all experience different points of view on that topic.”

Let’s just hope faithfulness remains intact in the marriage between Murphy and the actors of the show. In discussing what attracted them to their roles, Lange and Britton both noted that it was all in the commitment made by Murphy.

“I had a couple of phone conversations with Ryan,” Lange told reporters. “I never had a man promise me so much … I had to do it.”

‘American Horror Story’ premieres Oct. 5.

--Yvonne Villarreal


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