Brad Falchuk, Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott & Ryan Murphy
Glee co-creators Murphy and Falchuk never set out to reinvent the horror genre with FX's stylish, spooky and occasionally campy American Horror Story, but Murphy says the show has "reinvigorated the non-vampire, non-zombie, monster-free horror subset genre." It was a risky move, one the duo didn't make easier when bringing on Britton, then best known for her portrayal of saintlike Friday Night Lights matriarch Tami Taylor, for a role that required a risque sex scene with a man in a rubber suit.
The horror-thriller -- which revolves around a family (McDermott, Britton and Taissa Farmiga) who moves into a haunted house and is tortured by the twisted ghosts of the estate's former residents -- has been a ratings standout since its Oct. 5 bow. It became the male-skewing cable network's No. 1 series premiere in history in three key demos, including the coveted adults 18 to 49, averaging 2.8 million viewers through 10 episodes and earning a second-season pickup, fittingly on Halloween. The series picked up two Golden Globe nominations (for best drama and supporting actress for Jessica Lange), and Lange snagged a SAG nom for drama series actress.
Murphy, 46, who began working with creative partner Falchuk, 40, on FX's 2003 to 2010 drama Nip/Tuck, notes that AHS arrived as audiences worry about the uncertain economy. Adds Falchuk: "It's the fear of home foreclosure, the fear of losing your job. They look for a manifestation of their fears, and we've been able to give people some images to hold on to instead of having to hold on to this amorphous blob of fear, like our Rubber Man or the thing in the basement." McDermott, 50, who didn't shy away from the nudity, violence and sexual content that comes with playing half of the tormented couple, says viewers are responding to the risky nature of the series. "We're being honest, and people are responding to it," he says. "It's breaking new ground."
Meanwhile, Britton, 44, says that after a beloved five years on FNL, the lure of doing something as different as AHS was a choice she needed to make. "I was a little nervous," she confesses. "I thought, 'People aren't going to like Tami Taylor having sex with a rubber man.'"
It's unclear what season two will look like, and Murphy is cryptic about what's to come. "We knew what the cliffhanger of this year was and what the end episode was," he says of the series, which saw Britton's character die and become one of the house's undead in the penultimate episode. "We haven't been able to say how we can sustain it, but I think the last episode shows you what we're going to do. Maybe not."
Photographed by Smallz & Raskind on Dec. 6 on the set in Hollywood