January 29, 2014 11:11pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'American Horror Story: Coven's' New Supreme Speaks -- Plus Who's Returning for Season 4?
[Warning: Spoilers ahead from the season finale of American Horror Story: Coven.]
The writing may have been on the wall all season long, but FX's anthology American Horror Story tapped a new Supreme and tied up Coven during Wednesday's season finale.
During the hour, the surviving witches -- Zoe (Taissa Farmiga), Madison (Emma Roberts), Misty (Lily Rabe) and Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) -- all performed the Seven Wonders in a bid to fill the void created after Fiona (Jessica Lange) was killed off in the penultimate episode without naming a successor.
However, not everyone survived the process and Fiona's daughter -- and the coven's biggest advocate -- Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) wound up joining the competition after Misty and Madison ultimately perished. Cordelia, whose goals all season have been to step out from behind her mother's shadow and see Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies flourish with a swelling enrollment of young witches, winds up becoming the new Supreme. The twist, however, was that Fiona faked her own death so she could return to kill off the new head of the coven and regain her eternal youth and hold over the house. The plan, however, backfired after Cordelia inherited all of her mother's powers, thus rendering Fiona free of magic and setting up one last scene between mother and daughter. (Click here for a full recap.)
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Paulson to discuss the events of the finale and whether she'll be back for the already renewed fourth season of AHS.
How soon did you know that Cordelia was going to be the new Supreme?
I did not find out until Ryan Murphy called and told me the entire plot of the last episode. I sat in my car and it was on my birthday -- I had a birthday brunch and the whole cast was getting together at my favorite restaurant in New Orleans and I had to pull the car over. I was so surprised; "What do you mean I have to burn Myrtle (Frances Conroy) at the stake?!" I was less interested in my being the Supreme and more concerned that I had to burn her at the stake.
Do you think Cordelia deserved to be the Surpeme?
I do. She was on the sidelines for so long and had everyone usurp her in every way imaginable -- both in powers and in the attention they got. I feel like it was still waters, they run deep and there was a lot going on there that we didn't get to know about until the end.
How did the cast react? Did you get to tell them?
I was sworn to secrecy. Everybody had theories and was taking bets on who it would be. I was really sure it would be Queenie for a long time. I didn't think it would be Zoe because when you set something up like that up from the beginning of a show like AHS, it tends to not be the thing you think it's going to be. We were all taking bets. More of the crew thought it would be me. A lot of the girls in the wardrobe department thought they knew it. I didn't really see it coming but they did somehow.
Do you think Fiona got what she deserved, stuck in purgatory with the Axeman in this awful fish-scented hell?
You reap what you sow, what can I say! (Laughs.) The difference between Cordelia and Fiona is Cordelia was much more selfless and Fiona was more selfish. To have Cordelia end up having the "brass ring" and to have everything she always wanted -- many girls in the school and to teach as many people as possible -- her goal was never to be powerful, in terms of the world's view. Her goal was always to have witches be empowered. Through all that, that goal, she found it in herself. The more she pushed her mother away and stopped trying in her soul to please Fiona -- even though she spent a lot of time pretending she didn't care -- it was a case of "The lady doth protest too much." The more you profess a desire to be distant from something, the more you fight against something, the more it matters to you. Once Cordelia finally let it go when Fiona says to her, "You've always had this power, it's always been in you and it's not mine, it's yours," and she gained her sight back again -- that was the minute she allowed herself to let go of her mother.
That's a very universal moment.
She realizes she's her own person and she can let go of her mother's hand when she crosses the street. It was time to let go, and it was a beautiful metaphor. The scene when Cordelia tells Fiona that, "The only way out is through you, and you have to let it in and then let it go," was a very beautiful and poignant moment between them. That was my favorite scene to film all season, and having seen it now, it's what I'm most proud of.
With Asylum and now Coven, your character has been the last woman standing for the past two seasons now. Has it become a running gag with Jessica?
(Laughs.) I'm the literal Supreme, Mofo! No, it hasn't. The truth of the matter is for the last two years, she's more of played the villain and I've been the one taking the beating again and again. Ryan, in his wonderful way, celebrates the underdog. Even though Jessica got the most delicious shit to do all season -- it was funny, wicked and sexy -- and I had to be much more contained. I end up being the last lady standing and I like that. I feel like Cordelia earned that ending.
How do you think Cordelia's journey compares to Lana's story in AHS: Asylum?
They're both the last image of each season, too, and they were both shot by [director] Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Next year, we'll have to come up with a different way to end it without it being a close-up of my face! (Laughs.) Lana Winters was one of the greatest parts I've ever had and probably ever will have. It was something that was close to me personally and I feel a kinship with her in having endured all that she did. Having to perform all that she had to endure made me feel as if I'd gone through it. At the end of Asylum, it was hard for me to let go of her because she was such a part of me. This year, every episode had a different leader; it wasn't always the same thing whereas Lana became the focal point of the show last year along with Sister Jude (Lange). I had an easier time saying goodbye to Cordelia. That doesn't mean I didn't love playing her, it was just a different beast altogether.
Ultimately, do you think Cordelia would have retained her integrity as Supreme or would she have become more like her mother?
I don't think she will ever become like her mother. She was never enough like her mother to please her, and now that she's come into her own power, she realizes that she never needed to be that person. That is not who she wanted to be. She got everything that she wanted at the end by sacrificing herself -- her sight and her vision -- for the sake of the coven, and she did all that in the name of trying to find Misty Day and all for others. It wasn't about self-aggrandizement; it was about her selflessness for the good of the coven. Fiona never operated that way, and no amount of power could corrupt Cordelia Fox.
How was this season different as a whole for you? What's your takeaway?
The thing I love about both seasons is that thing that runs through a lot of Ryan's work, about celebrating and empowering those who have been forgotten and finding one's own personal inner strength and [fighting] to the end and never giving up. It's a beautiful theme that is part of this show that he does so well. You come away with that from Coven and Asylum.
Will you be back for season four? How much do you know about what next season is about? Ryan mentioned he'd likely include a few clues in the episodes. Do you know what they were?
I'm on track and that is the plan. I don't know how many clues were in it; there was one clue a few episodes back. I know what Ryan is thinking but until he announces it, I feel like anything can change. Last year, he announced [the theme] at PaleyFest, so he might do that again. The thing about Ryan is he's nothing if not surprising. The minute you think you know what he's going to do, he changes it. I know what he has in mind but I don't know the whole scope. I know what he has in mind for me, and I hope it happens because it would be one of the more exciting things that I've gotten to do.
How does who you'll play in season four compare to Cordelia and Lana?
I know it will not disappoint and it will be, for my money, one of the more exciting themes.
Were you happy to see Cordelia become the new Supreme? Hit the comments below with your thoughts.