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Sarah Paulson has played many characters on American Horror Story — nine when counting the current cycle, Apocalypse. With the highly anticipated sixth episode (airing Oct. 17), the actress will add director to her AHS repertoire.
The eighth season of the FX horror anthology is indeed about the end of the world, but the Apocalypse cycle has come to be known more commonly as the Murder House–Coven crossover season. By exploding the AHS mythology and returning to both seasons one and three, respectively, several of the actors in co-creator Ryan Murphy’s arsenal are being given the opportunity to revisit characters they have played in the past, a rarity when starring on a show that reinvents itself and its story with every season.
Paulson, who has appeared in all AHS seasons, unveiled a new character named Ms. Venable at the start of Apocalypse. That character’s fate was quickly revealed in the third episode of the season and with the demise of one of Paulson’s characters, another rose in her place: Cordelia Foxx, the all-powerful Supreme witch and headmistress of Miss Robichaux’s Academy from Coven.
Cordelia’s empowering entrance has given Paulson a new favorite line.
“I love nothing more than shouting, ‘Because I’m the fucking Supreme,’ as the answer to the question,” Paulson tells The Hollywood Reporter ahead of her directorial debut. “That is one of my favorite lines I have ever been able to say. I thought it was so great. Just as many men have said, ‘Because I said so.’ That is the answer: ‘Because Cordelia said so. Because I’m the fucking Supreme.'”
The line was spoken when the female witches faced off against the male warlocks for the right to claim the title of the Supreme, the all-powerful being who rules over both factions. Apocalypse has set up a world where women have always reigned, and men have long been inferior. “In all recorded history, no man has ever approached the level of Supreme,” Cordelia had womansplained to the warlocks. “I have humored you men and coddled your fragile egos, but in no way does that mean you actually have a say. I outrank you. I could destroy you. So I suggest you fall in line.”
— AmericanHorrorStory (@AHSFX) October 9, 2018
With her arrival, Cordelia brought a handful of recognizable witches, though some were ultimately conjured up by the season’s villain, Michael Langdon (Cody Fern), a name that hails from Murder House and a character who carries a lot of weight in the AHS universe. Nonetheless, the return of Cordelia, the head witch in charge, has given the fan-favorite Coven witches the chance to play out a supernatural gender war in the #MeToo era.
Indeed, the Coven season took place in the year 2013. In the present-day timeline of Apocalypse, the witches have arrived at a bunker of survivors from a nuclear holocaust in the year 2022. The supposedly world-ending event took place in October 2019. But, as Paulson points out, AHS women have long been powerful.
“These were themes and stories being told on this show prior to everything happening culturally, which is a testament to Ryan and the importance he places on inclusion and equality and telling stories of women,” Paulson tells THR. “I don’t feel a tectonic shift at work because I’m one of the lucky ones who has had that from Ryan from the get-go. It’s always been very important.”
Now, Paulson has been entrusted to step behind the camera to direct the biggest AHS episode in recent memory, in both length and magnitude. The extended 78-minute episode, titled “Return to Murder House,” will go back to the place where the FX anthology began in season one, the haunted Hollywood mansion dubbed Murder House because of the level of tragedy that has occurred on its premises.
“I think the thing that was so extraordinary about it is that [Ryan Murphy] really trusted me.” says Paulson, who will be playing double duty to also reprise her season one character, Billie Dean Howard, a “medium to the stars.”
Murphy waited several years before confirming that all of the AHS seasons do indeed exist within the same universe, and “Return to Murder House” will be the biggest crossover to date. Many beloved Murder House characters will be making their returns when Coven witch Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) and Apocalypse warlock Behold Chablis (Billy Porter) return to the home in hopes of discovering more about Michael Langdon, including Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange), the entire Harmon family (Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott and Taissa Farmiga), Tate Langdon (Evan Peters) and Moira O’Hara (Frances Conroy).
“It’s always exciting and also terrifying when there’s a dynamic shift,” says Paulson of directing the episode. “I’ve been an actor on that show for many years and then all of a sudden, I’m now in a position where these people who I work with are now going to have to, for lack of an articulate way of saying it, help execute my vision.”
“Return to Murder House” airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX. Head here for a primer on what to expect.
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