December 22, 2011 12:50pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'American Horror Story's' Ryan Murphy: New Cast, New House, New Story Set for Season 2
[WARNING: This story contains spoilers from Wednesday’s Season 1 finale of American Horror Story.]
After generating series-high ratings for Wednesday's freshman season finale of American Horror Story, series co-creator Ryan Murphy and FX topper John Landgraf announced Thursday that there would be a new family and a new house in the horror-thriller's second season.
During a conference call with reporters, Murphy and Landgraf revealed that the second season would feature some new and returning faces but that the story of Ben (Dylan McDermott), Vivien (Connie Britton) and Violet Harmon (Taissa Farmiga) – who all perished and joined the legion of the undead in the house -- has concluded.
“Every season of the show will be a different haunting,” Murphy said. “What you saw in finale was the end of the Harmon house and the second season of the show will be a brand new home or building to haunt. Just like this year, every season of the show will have a beginning, middle and an end.”
Murphy noted that he’s currently in negotiations with “a handful” of actors from the series, declining to name names, to return for the sophomore season of the FX drama – but playing new characters.
“There will be some new and familiar faces, playing new characters and new monsters,” Murphy said, touting the stand-alone season format that will typically feature horrors like infidelity. “It’s a fun idea to do an anthology show. That was the design of the show from the beginning; it’s a really cool and interesting way to tell a horror show: every season being what an American horror is.”
While the first year revolved around the horrors that exist in a marriage involving infidelity, the second season will also feature a different theme and include timely references similar to the way in which the Harmons were unable to sell the home because of the implosion of the housing market.
“Every season along with being a new haunting will have a new theme; the second season will have a different theme and cast of characters to go along with it,” Murphy said. As to what the theme will be, Murphy teased that there was a “clue in the last few episodes” as to what next year’s theme would be.
While touting the ratings success of the series – early numbers indicate the AHS finale set a series high – Murphy and Lansgraf noted that it was always the plan to try something different and intentionally kept the big reveal close to the vest.
“We didn’t want to tell the audience that basically all of the characters would be either be shuffling off this mortal coil or departing series at the end of season, we didn’t want to give that away,” Landgraf said, noting that the network is excited to be telling an anthology series.
While it’s unclear which of the actors will return, Murphy said the show’s design and feature-like three- to four-month production schedule has made it appealing to film actors looking to dabble in television, noting that a cast and theme announcement could come in February.
While he was sad to say goodbye to leads Britton and McDermott, Murphy noted he would have the entire cast back in a heartbeat and that were they to return, they “will not be playing the leads of the show.” “Connie and Dylan will not be playing the leads of the show but I would love for them to come back and do something, a smaller part a cameo or something,” he said before adding that “their stories [as the Harmons] are done.”
“For Season 2, it was always our plan all along to have Dylan, Connie and Taissa no longer remain,” he noted, adding that the clues to the ultimate ending of the series were included as far back as the pilot – when Adelaide tells Vivien, “You’re going to die in there,” and several noose references surrounding Ben.
Noting that Britton was fresh off five years of NBC/DirecTV’s Friday Night Lights, Murphy said the format of the show was what helped attract cast including SAG and Golden Globe-nominated Jessica Lange. “Connie wasn’t interested in going back to the grind and the possibility of five-year commitment. When I told her she only had to do a one-year run and Vivien Harmon’s story, she was very excited.”
Asked by The Hollywood Reporter if they were afraid of alienating viewers who have become attached to the Harmons and are interested in seeing their story continue, Murphy said he felt the finale was “a great goodbye to those characters.”
“I felt a lot of peace with how they ended up and I hope other people felt that as well,” Murphy said. “We weren’t interested in doing another season with all those people trapped in that house. The criticism would have been that it’s always the same old thing.”
Among the differences set for next season, Murphy noted the story would move from its Los Angeles setting and create a new opening title sequence that is unique to the new property. Meanwhile, things that will remain the same include the writing staff, Halloween premiere date (possibly as early as September), as well as the inclusion of true crime stories like the Black Dahlia – in addition to a new set of creatures and horror monsters similar to Rubber Man and the Infantata, with new ones appearing “very early in the second season.”
“There are all different types of American horror stories to tell … serial killers, true crime stories, prison stories,” Murphy noted. “Every year of the show is almost like a miniseries and could be completely and radically different show. I wouldn’t do a season about vampires, but other than that everything is fair game.”
“The season we’re planning now is very different from the California house approach,” he continued, noting that the writers are also looking for topical themes affecting society as well as other haunted properties “filled with demons and ghosts.”
Once production wrapped last week, Murphy noted that it was a sad day on set when the Murder House was torn down on the Paramount lot, and noted it was a “weird but satisfying moment.”
“Onward and upwards to a new haunting with American horror themes,” he said.
Noted Landgraf: “Clearly there was something in the work that Ryan and Brad did that struck a strong chord with our viewers. … We expected it to do well but it exceeded our fondest expectations from ratings standpoint.”
Final ratings will be out late Thursday.
What did you think of the finale? Are you excited for a completely different American Horror Story next season? Which cast members would you like to see return? Hit the comments with your thoughts.