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'American Horror Story': Five Things to Know About 'Coven'

Who's playing historical characters? Who's a witch? The cast and producers preview what to expect on the third season of the FX anthology.

American Horror Story Coven TCA Panel - H 2013
Getty Images
From left: Tim Minear, Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett

The stars and producer behind American Horror Story used their platform Friday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour to cryptically dodge questions about Coven, the mysterious third installment of the FX anthology.

While co-creator Ryan Murphy was scratched from his scheduled participation in the panel -- filming just started on Coven last week in New Orleans and he's also shooting The Normal Heart in New York -- executive producer Tim Minear kept stars Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett from spilling too much about what to expect from season three.

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Here are a few teasers about what's ahead:

1. Lange plays a witch named Fiona. "Some of us play witches, some of us play historical characters," she told the assembled press. "I do play a witch. We move back and forth in time. It encompasses a lot of different stories. I've shot two days so far, one day entrances and exits, the other day a scene. I don't know who the character is yet. It comes in little dribs and drabs."

2. Bates plays historical personage Madame LaLurie, a Louisiana-born socialite and serial killer who kept slaves bound in her home. Interestingly enough, Bates' great grandfather was the personal physician to Andrew Jackson, who lived next door to LaLurie. "I think he would have been there just before she left," Bates said.

3. Bassett also portrays a real person: Marie Laveau, a voodoo expert who, along with her daughter, had a big multiracial following. The actress noted that she's been approached by several individuals interested in voodoo in New Orleans for consultation should she need it. "It's been interesting being in New Orleans, there's such a regard and respect for who she was," Bassett said. "She was a woman in 1801 who lives to be 80 years old, who is a very influential person in the city. My character is based loosely on her."

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4. Paulson plays Cordelia, the daughter to Jessica Lange's Fiona. This season, Minear said, will focus on themes of oppression of minorities of all kinds. "Within that idea, the idea of minority groups going after each other and doing the work of the larger culture for the larger culture [will be explored]," Minear said. "While there is a strong feminist theme that runs throughout Coven this year, there are also themes of race, oppression and there is a very strong theme of family, specifically mothers and daughters." Minear noted it would be safe to think of Cordelia in line with the character in William Shakespeare's King Lear.

5. Coven also will feature Salem witches fleeing to the South, Minear said, noting there are two kinds of witches in the world. Among the changes in Coven, Minear said this season will be more fun. "This year is a drama but there is a lot of humor, and we are embracing a kind of velocity and fun with the series," he said. "It's not the same as it was the past two years, but I think it can be more fun for the audience."

American Horror Story: Coven returns in October on FX.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit