'American Horror Story's' Jessica Lange: Sister Jude Is Descending Into Madness

"She does now try to right the wrongs that she's done but she's totally trapped within her own making in a way," the Emmy winner says.
"American Horror Story's" Jessica Lange as Sister Jude, left, and Constance

Constance was a puppet master, but Sister Jude is descending into madness on FX's American Horror Story.

Emmy winner Jessica Lange told reporters Friday that the two characters she has portrayed on the anthology series both have Tennessee Williams-like attributes, despite the fact that Sister Jude is quickly transforming from a Constance-like manipulator into the hero of Asylum.

"The thing that I found to be the spine of Constance was that this was a woman who has lost everything and had nothing left to lose and was extremely unafraid," Lange said. "She manipulated her way and put herself in situations that probably other people would not have."

Sister Jude, meanwhile, started the season as the iron fist that ruled over the inmates at Briarcliff in an attempt to find redemption for what she thought was a fatal hit-and-run accident in her past. That, however, was quickly revealed to be untrue, and Jude now is becoming the one who is being manipulated.

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"With Jude, she has a lot to lose: she's holding on to something she feels has saved her life and redeemed her," Lange says. "When it all becomes clear that everything was false -- from the idea that she did not run over and kill this child, which is what sent her on this whole path to trying to find some spiritual life and redemption -- when she discovers everything is false from the beginning, there's a decent into madness that is completely different and more interesting to play."

In season one of the series, from Glee co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, Lange played Constance Langdon, the meddling next-door neighbor who manipulated everyone around her until she got what she wanted: a child -- in that case, Vivien's (Connie Britton) devil baby.

"Constance was throwback to the 1940s tough dame -- a sweet-talking woman with a real edge," Lange said. "She didn't suffer fools, and nothing went past her. She had a way of moving through everything and getting what she wanted."

Jude, she noted, "is much more vulnerable and tragic.

"She's destroyed her life," Lange added. "She's an alcoholic, she's had bad luck with men, and she's come to the end of the road with the hopes that this church, the monsignor (Joseph Fiennes), is going to save her. That she's become something else and will have her life worth living -- that all comes down crashing down, and she's left absolutely alone."

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Things come to a head this week when Jude -- who tortured anyone and everyone inside the walls of the twisted asylum, from Kit (Evan Peters) to Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) -- comes full circle, becoming an inmate at Briarcliff.

"She does now try to right the wrongs that she's done, but she's totally trapped within her own making in a way," Lange warned.

As for the newly announced third season of American Horror Story, Lange noted she can't imagine Murphy creating a character she wouldn't want to play.

"Sometimes, episode to episode, I think: 'What the hell are we doing? We shouldn't be doing this?' Nothing we do on this show is not somehow founded in some reality somewhere," Lange told The Hollywood Reporter, noting that even the Bloody Face story line with the killer wearing his victims' skin is grounded in reality. "Unless we really sink the ship, I can't imagine there'd be something Ryan came up with that I'd not want to be involved with."

American Horror Story: Asylum airs at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on FX.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit