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American Horror Story co-creator Ryan Murphy was most happy that his freshman anthology could overcome the awards-season stigma typically attached to genre fare with its leading 17 Emmy nominations Thursday.
“In the tradition of the entertainment industry, horror stuff is usually not that well rewarded and has a stigma over it — if you look at movies, The Exorcist and Silence of the Lambs broke that mold a little — but on television, not that much,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I was thrilled that it could overcome the stigma and the voters can really see how great the production values were, how wonderful the acting was, how it was really trying to make a social statement about the world that we live in today.”
The FX series, which after its shocking finale was revealed to be an anthology in which the story, cast, location and time period would change for each subsequent season, tied with AMC’s Mad Men with 17 mentions, including nominations for stars Connie Britton, Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy and Denis O’Hare in the miniseries/movie categories. The series Thursday became FX’s most-nominated in history.
“As somebody who has a TV company, I’m getting pitched a lot more horror stuff now because with the success of American Horror Story, The Walking Dead and True Blood — all such popular shows that are so artfully done — I think people can see that genre is more than just blood and guts; if done correctly, it can really be haunting and powerful and about something profound, which is what we always tried to do. I do think it opens it up a little bit,” said a superstitious Murphy, who awoke to the news after swearing off getting up early for the nominations.
In a strategic move, the series was submitted (and received special approval from the TV Academy) in the miniseries category, where it landed a nomination against more limited fare including HBO telepics Game Change and Hemingway & Gellhorn as well as History’s mini Hatfields & McCoys.
“We’d always planned every season as a different story with a different beginning, middle and end,” Murphy said. “I always thought in my mind that it was a miniseries, but you don’t get to decide those things, the Academy does, and they validated what [FX president] Jon Landgraf thought and wanted. I would have been happy with any decision.”
While it was a big day for Murphy and co-creator Brad Falchuk‘s American Horror Story, the same could not be said for the duo’s Glee — which was largely shut out save for mentions for guest actress in a comedy for Dot-Marie Jones (Coach Shannon Beiste) and a pair of technical nominations.
“You can’t be excited about the ones that you get and then turn around and say, ‘But what about what I didn’t get?’ I choose to look at the glass as half full,” Murphy said. “Looking at that category, I’m thrilled that so many things that I love that in previous years you’d never think would break through did; I’m particularly happy about Girls, it’s my favorite show on TV. I admire it and think it’s really bold.”
“I have nothing bad to say about anything; I just feel grateful for what I got and happy for Dot,” he said, noting that the actress would indeed be returning for season four of the Fox musical series.
As for plans to celebrate, Murphy and company are back at work filming season two of American Horror Story — and breaking stories for Glee — but his day would primarily be spent with Lange. “She has a couple of brutal scenes,” Murphy hinted, noting that he called season two co-star Sarah Paulson early Thursday to congratulate her for her nom for Game Change in the mini category — where she’ll compete against the likes of Lange and Conroy.
Lange, meanwhile, was already deep in production on the L.A. set and issued a statement acknowledging her fourth Emmy nom. “I want to thank the Academy for honoring American Horror Story for all the incredible nominations. It’s been wonderful to work on a show with such talented actors and the fabulous creative team of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and all the brilliant writers who make Constance such an interesting character to play.”
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