American Horror Story Is Having Commitment Issues

Photo: Prashant Gupta/FX.
There’s no official theme other than continued WTF-ery for American Horror Story Season 6. According to co-creator Ryan Murphy, who spoke at Sunday’s closing PaleyFest Los Angeles panel, the writers are working on two ideas at once — something they’ve never done before. “I don’t wanna say what it is,” the withholding overlord let down a rabid crowd of fans. “But every darling person up here who wants to come back, can.”

The darling actors up there included Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Denis O’Hare, Angela Bassett, Wes Bentley, Matt Bomer, Cheyenne Jackson, and Finn Wittrock. Lady Gaga, who won a Golden Globe for her glassy-eyed portrayal of the Countess in Season 5, has also announced she’ll return to AHS this fall.

Although Gaga skipped Sunday’s panel to attend the Fashion Los Angeles Awards, her cast mates brimmed with praise for her like fresh crystal goblets of ancient vampire blood. “She reminded me of Jessica [Lange] in a sense, because she’s like a creature, otherworldly,” said Sarah Paulson, who cited the pop star in the penthouse as one of the most emotionally available actors she’s worked with. “Unlike some of us, she worked very hard,” said Kathy Bates, jokingly negging on Paulson’s character Hypodermic Sally, who pretty much spent all of Hotel lurking in shadows and smoking. Bates pretended to stub a cigarette out on Paulson’s shoulder, then nuzzled her affectionately. These two have an adorable symbiotic love/hate relationship (heavy air quotes on the hate) that really must be seen to be believed, and frankly blew the rest of the panel experience away. So if the writers still can’t decide what the show should be about come October, a live cam on a Bates/Paulson shared trailer (American Horror Story: Room?) would be a worthy substitute.

By and large, the AHS cast is used to having little to no idea where their characters’ arcs will go even within their short seasons. Denis O’Hare's Liz Taylor character transitioned from fringe comic relief to the indisputable heart and soul of Season 5, said he originally envisioned Liz as an old Hollywood chanteuse instead of an out-of-state insurance salesman who’d been unknowingly waiting his whole life to be touched by a countess on a business trip to heaven. O’Hare ended up composing his own sweet yet haunting songs in Liz’s hypothetical voice in order to help flesh out the basic sketch he’d been given. (“We knew she wasn’t dead, and she wasn’t a vampire,” explained co-creator Brad Falchuk.) Certain other plot points, though — namely, anything involving a random pop culture reference, were much less ambiguous from the start. The horrific gummy plastic-wrapped Addiction Demon (affectionately nicknamed “Drilldo” by Murphy and the staff) was based on the mysterious dancing blob from Madonna’s “Justify My Love” video, while Bartholomew, the Countess’ aborted demon-fetus, was a throwback to the 1974 cult classic film It’s Alive. Hey, whatever works. Even if it doesn’t. Throw it in the empty swimming pool along with those mini coffins!

The only other Season 6 hints Murphy offered are that American Horror Story “feels like an opera” to him (Yes! Do it! Denis O’Hare is ready!) and that “elements of children” are present in both of the ideas the writers are pursuing. But no matter the theme, viewers can expect to see more self-referential nods, like the time Paulson played both her Season 5 and Season 1 characters in the same episode of Hotel. “The deeper we go into the series, we will see that it is a definite universe and all of the worlds are connected,” said Murphy, who hopes AHS can last “decades and decades." And in that case, O’Hare helpfully pointed out, they can go with American Horror Story: Retirement Home and just call it a never-ending day.

American Horror Story returns this fall on FX.

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