'AHS: Hotel' Star Matt Bomer on Donovan's Mommy Issues

Matt Bomer American Horror Story Hotel - H 2015
Courtesy of FX

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode three of American Horror Story: Hotel.]

During Wednesday's episode of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s American Horror Story, aptly titled “Mommy,” Alex (Chloe Sevigny) faces old demons as she’s reminded of the horror of losing her son Holden (Lennon Henry). Holden, however, isn’t dead, like his mother and father, Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley), believe. Rather, he’s a blood-drinking, undead child living in a creepy playroom at the Hotel Cortez.

“Mommy” also introduces Angela Bassett’s Hotel character, Ramona Royale. Donovan (Matt Bomer), heartbroken from his recent breakup with The Countess (Lady Gaga), who replaces him with a new plaything played by Finn Wittrock, goes on a bender and targets Ramona to feed on. However, she quickly turns the tables on him, and he ends up being the one tied up. It turns out Ramona knows a thing or two about being dumped by The Countess. She has something very important in common with Donovan: They both want revenge on their taloned ex-lover.

Donovan has some mommy issues of his own. He already has a complicated relationship with his birth mom, Iris (Kathy Bates), who runs the daily — and slightly bloodier nightly — operations of Hotel Cortez. But he has an even more complicated relationship with The Countess, both his lover and a maternal figure, as she's the woman who gave him the vampiric virus that gave him a second chance at life. His breakup with The Countess awakens his addictions, as well as some of the darkness from his past that he managed to escape from in his relationship with her.

Here, Bomer talks with THR about Donovan’s “nightmare mother” (Iris) and “dream mother” (The Countess) and also sheds some light on his character’s shared psychology with Ramona Royale.

Up until this point, we’ve mostly seen Donovan in scenes with The Countess. What has working with Lady Gaga been like for you, especially in some of these really intense scenes?

Working with Stefani has been great. It has been one of my favorite experiences. She brings such an intelligence and a work ethic and, at the same time, brings a joy to the work. It’s really infectious. We’re able to really just relate to each other in character and focus on being Donovan and The Countess. You don’t really get a sense of any of the extraneous trappings of her being a global icon. We just have fun and focus on the work. It’s only when we’re doing press events that I’m really reminded, "Oh, my goodness, this is someone who everyone wants to know every detail about." It makes me miss the days when we’re just creating on set.

In this episode, Donovan is dealing with the direct aftermath of his breakup with The Countess, and he doesn’t seem to be coping very well. Why do you think he’s taking this so hard?

To me, so much of Donovan is the relationship between him and his real mother and the relationship between him and his sort of dream mother-slash-lover, who is The Countess. His real mother, Iris, being more of his nightmare mother, from his point of view. He has had this incredible love [The Countess] who has educated him and cultured him and taught him so much about life and love and art and survival. He has relied quite heavily on her, and now he’s left to his own devices. So he goes back to the only thing he knows, which is going to the streets and trying to get high. So he’s in a particularly low place. And certainly when he and Iris get in their confrontation, he’s in a very raw state emotionally, which I think exacerbates that whole arc and brings to light a whole lot of issues from their past that they haven’t been able to talk about for the past 20 years. He has always had The Countess to hide behind, and now he has to deal with all the things that he has cast aside for the past two decades.

Can you elaborate on why you described Iris as Donovan’s nightmare mother?

Donovan is an addict. As cultured as The Countess has made him, she certainly hasn’t curtailed any of his recreational activities. She has just refined him, in a way, to make him more functional than he was. A lot of times, the addict’s point of view is very much one of being a victim of their circumstances. The drugs, the heroin, the blood high, whatever it is that Donovan could crave at any given moment is really a means of escaping the pain of his past. He perceives his mother as someone who was there and around when she needed him. When she didn’t, he was cast aside for whoever was her lover at that time or whatever type of cult she was a part of. He really perceives her as a narcissist who never truly loved him in a pure way outside of love purely for her own means and needs.

He definitely has some mommy issues, to say the least.

Yeah. He has this really dreamy, fantasy idea of who his father was. And she cast him out of the house. And the last thing the father said was, "Don’t let her castrate you the way she did to me." That was the last thing his father, who was this idolized figure in his life, said to Donovan. Those were the last words of wisdom he gave before he left. So Iris has always been the enemy. They have a very tortured relationship and one that, in his mind, in the beginning of tonight’s episode, he never thought would be able to be fixed.

Are we going to see more of their relationship moving forward?

Where this episode left off, you have to see more of what’s going to happen with him and Iris moving forward. There has to be a further resolution beyond where we left him in this state of extreme. The reunion and grieving that they’re in when we leave them opens more wounds. There will be future scenes with Iris and Donovan. One of the things I like about the show is, it is a bit merciless in its portrayal of the darker side of humanity. And that’s what we all experience. You would think after a reunion like this, everything would just be a bed of roses, but that’s often not how life works. We’re sometimes the most cruel to the people who are the closest to us. And when things get really dire, we’re reminded of our love for these people. But once they’re back in our orbit again, oftentimes we revert to our old habits of treating them in an inhumane way.

How would you describe the dynamic between Angela Bassett’s Ramona Royale and Donovan?

Donovan and Ramona are kindred spirits in that they both have been burned by The Countess. They’re both spurned lovers for very different reasons and in very different ways. Because of that, they both have a shared interest in exacting some type of revenge or getting her attention or getting back into her world, into her orbit, in some kind of way. Ramona’s got probably an even bigger chip on her shoulder than Donovan does.

Should The Countess feel threatened by her exes joining forces?

I would be scared of Ramona Royale for sure. She means business. She does not play around. She goes after exactly what she wants, and she will take no prisoners, and she is merciless. I can’t really speak on behalf of The Countess, but she doesn’t seem to be one who is threatened very easily. She has survived long enough that she has that wisdom to be able to handle a situation like that. We’ll have to see going forward. I still don’t know what’s going to happen.

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