June 11, 2012 11:09am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Emmys 2012: On the Set of FX's 'American Horror Story'
American Horror Story likely wasn't great PR for Los Angeles' real estate market. After all, the horror series' premise centers wholly on a haunted Victorian mansion in Hancock Park besieged by vindictive, psychopathic ghosts.
Never ones to settle for less than authentic, series creators (and Glee collaborators) Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk gave architect Alfred Rosenheim's 1908 mansion a serious "make-under" for the pilot's opening's scenes -- set in the 1970s -- through CGI enhancements that gave the house an appropriately decrepit look. But to shoot modern scenes in which the Harmon family -- played by Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton and Taissa Farmiga -- moves into its L.A. "dream home," Murphy, Falchuk and company took great pains to re-create a 6,500-square-foot, two-story version of Rosenheim's house on the Paramount lot in Hollywood, complete with Tiffany fixtures, where designers often had to redress the set to fit a story that spanned multiple decades — from the 1920s to the '90s — in a single episode.
For the talent, the haunted mansion — which Murphy used as a metaphor for adultery -- offered a sharp departure from a regular day at work. "If I didn't have the one-year contract, I don't know that I would have wanted to be in this world for an extended period of time," says Britton, who, as jilted wife Vivien, among many other unpleasant plot twists, gets raped by AHS' "rubber man" (an S&M-inspired ghoul who haunts the couple), goes nuts and dies giving birth. "The show is, make no mistake, a horror miniseries but also a commentary on Americana," says Murphy, noting the dark subject matter, which included a flashback to a violent school shooting, aborted fetuses in jars and too many murders to count.
But all this drama added up to a lot of buzz - so much that AHS was picked up by FX to series in July and rushed to get on the air in October. "It's not the best way to make a show, but it was amazing because everything had an urgency," says Falchuk. "Make one mistake, and the whole thing was going to blow up."
Check out The Hollywood Reporter's behind the scenes gallery here.