Acing the tailor-made lead role in GLEE creators’ Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s new supernaturally-themed FX series AMERICAN HORROR STORY, the former FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS star Connie Britton is finding herself at a career peak (look no further than the cover of this week‘s Entertainment Weekly that just hit newsstands yesterday). Britton’s bright beginnings at The Neighborhood Playhouse and study under acclaimed acting instructor Sanford Meisner - as well as her Off-Broadway and stage work - have clearly prepared her well for the tricky ROSEMARY’S BABY-esque role of a lifetime that Murphy, Falchuk and company have devised for her on the star-studded nighttime soap thriller - which also features TV heavyweight Dylan McDermott, as well as two-time Oscar-winner Jessica Lange and Tony-winner (and TRUE BLOOD’s King of the Vampires), Denis O’Hare. Discussing all aspects of the first three episodes of the surprise hit horror series, as well as offering some hints as to what we can expect from the forthcoming two-part Halloween special and upcoming episodes (including a Rubber Man tease), Britton and I dissect the complex inter-workings of the Harmon family and the house from Hell that they now reside in - as well as its ghostly inhabitants. Will they somehow make it out alive? And, who exactly is the new ghost in house, revealed just this week, played by previous InDepth InterView participant Lily Rabe? What can we expect from Zachary Quinto’s first appearance coming up this week? And, what about The Infatata? As Murphy’s original pitch’s tagline states, “The House Wins,” but, as far as AMERICAN HORROR STORY goes, the actors do, too. In addition to all about AMERICAN HORROR STORY, Britton and I also discuss her passionate dedication to Bono’s ONE charity, as well as her participation in supporting the African Children’s Choir, who will be performing at a gala raising awareness and funds on Monday at The Highline Ballroom.
Further information about the African Children’s Choir 3rd Annual Gala on Monday, as well as tickets to the event, can be obtained here!
PC: Given BroadwayWorld’s gigantic GLEE audience, this is like the perfect marriage of the two Ryan Murphy worlds now that I am talking to you about AMERICAN HORROR STORY.
CB: Oh, that’s so awesome! I love that.
PC: Are you a GLEE fan or is this your entrée into the Ryan Murphy universe?
CB: Well, you know what? It’s not that I’m not a big GLEE fan, it’s just that I am not a big TV watcher. But, what I have seen of GLEE I just love and admire so much. It would not be doing justice to the real fans out there like you have if I said that I was a true fan - but, I do really, really appreciate it and what it is. And, that was part of why I wanted to do this show with Ryan - because I think he and Brad are such innovative filmmakers, really; even though we are doing it on TV, but whatever.
PC: It’s so outright filmatic - just this week’s episode had Dario Argento touches and a million other homages, plus that unbelievably powerful music cue from Coppola’s DRACULA.
PC: DON’T LOOK NOW and ROSEMARY’S BABY seem to be the main influences on AMERICAN HORROR STORY, so are you taking anything from the great female performances in those films - Julie Christie and Mia Farrow?
CB: Oh, yeah. Honestly, I watched all of those because I knew those were big inspirations for Ryan, and, in fact, they are so kind of pertinent to what we are doing. So, I watched them all, and, then - it’s funny, because it’s always a tricky thing with doing a send-up to something like that - I want to really have the performance have a reverence to those things, but, at the same time, I could never even hope to match them or duplicate them. So, then, it is just about being inspired by them and kind of taking it and running with it.
PC: Right before our eyes you seem to be creating a totally idiosyncratic horror heroine - and a strong, fierce woman, too.
CB: Aww, thank you so much! Well, that’s my hope, so I really appreciate you saying it.
PC: I’ve heard that when you first read the script that that is the aspect that grabbed you immediately - that she wasn’t just some big-breasted bimbo. Do you know what I mean?
CB: [Laughs.] Totally! No, no - it was very important to me. In fact, what was interesting about her - I really love playing, and, obviously, in FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS I was playing something very regional...
PC: Of course.
CB: ... and it was very true to my experience of the Southern woman - but, it’s also every woman. And, here, you know, this is a woman from a different region and she has lived a different kind of life - and I really love to get those kinds of specifics and details, but, at the same time, I also want her to feel very true and very accessible - again - to every woman. So, it’s kind of that fun balance of accessibility, but, also, with real specifics. But, always - across the board - I always really want the women that I play to be characterized by a certain strength. Even if they are in the midst of a full-on breakdown!
PC: As your character is on the show.
CB: Even if they are in crisis; even if they are in conflict - you know, I want there to be something that feels strong about them. So, that’s something that I always look for in every character.
PC: Ryan Murphy writes such strong female characters - on NIP/TUCK his characters for Joely Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave were unforgettable. Even his direction and collaboration with Julia Roberts on EAT PRAY LOVE - he is one of the best female storytellers.
CB: I agree with you. I thought [EAT PRAY LOVE] was beautiful - I thought what he did with those characters was amazing. I am always fascinated to find men who can write women so well - and, you know, he’s just got great insight into it! [Laughs.]
PC: Indeed he does.
CB: And, he’s also very collaborative - he really listens to my thoughts on it, as well, and, I think, really appreciates that and tries to incorporate it.
PC: How great.
CB: Yeah, that was one of the things that was really important to me about this project, too - I got a very collaborative feel from him and he has been very true to that.
PC: Have you ever felt uncomfortable filming any scenes so far - the insemination scene with the Rubber Man in the pilot is…
CB: Yeah, I know! [Laughs.]
PC: Was that really terrifying to do? I can only imagine.
CB: Well, you know, honestly, I was dreading it so much that by the time we actually shot it, I was kind of like, “Eh. Ok! That wasn’t so bad.” [Big Laugh.]
PC: Are you depicted as the pregnant woman with the Rubber Man - in any way - on the poster?
CB: No, it’s not me. I’m not sure who it is, but I think that ended up being a very acrobatic photo shoot, and, so, I think they hired a dancer or an acrobat who actually shot those pictures. So, when I first saw them, I said, “Wait! I think that’s supposed to be me!” [Laughs.]
PC: I don’t even think a lot of people noticed she was pregnant, at first, given the angle and everything.
CB: Yeah! I know.
PC: I am so glad I get to speak to you after Episode 3 - I think it was the best episode ever, which is saying something.
CB: It was such a great episode, wasn’t it?!
PC: Of course, Lily Rabe made her first appearance as the first homeowner of the house - and she has done this column, as well.
CB: Ugh, she’s just so great!
PC: What was it like working with her? She was so great as both the modern and the 1920s woman - I’m assuming the same person/ghost - and the kitchen scene was perfectly pitched, which was no easy feat.
CB: Yeah! That was so fun. I’ve actually known Lily for a while and I was so excited when I heard that she was going to do the show. I think that she does those kind of characters - those very period characters - so well.
PC: I agree - a predilection, it seems.
CB: I think that she has such a beautiful grasp of playing every nuance of that and I knew she would just knock it out of the park - and she did. And, it was just so fun to work with her in those scenes and watch her create that character.
PC: Can you tell me if she will be back?
CB: Yes. She will.