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To say Thursday was a good morning for Ryan Murphy would be an understatement.
The prolific producer behind FX anthology American Horror Story, HBO movie The Normal Heart and Fox’s departing Glee received a total of 34 Emmy nominations — more than Netflix, Showtime and AMC each received. Among them: 17 mentions for AHS: Coven, the witchy third season of the FX anthology and 16 for HBO’s TV movie The Normal Heart. Fox musical Glee also received a directing nomination for Paris Barclay, who helmed its landmark 100th episode. Independently, Murphy and co-showrunner Brad Falchuk received writing nominations for Coven and directing for Normal Heart.
While the showrunner was over the moon for all the love from the TV Academy, he was beyond pleased for Larry Kramer, the lifelong gay activist and playwright who fought for 30 years to have his 1985 play adapted for TV.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Murphy early Thursday to discuss all things Emmy, what the Normal Heart attention could mean for a sequel as well as why anthology series — including FX’s Fargo (18 nominations) and drama series nominee True Detective (12) — are all the rage.
Congratulations! Did you know that you and your shows have more nominations than Netflix, Showtime and AMC each received?
(Laughs) That’s very interesting to hear. That’s crazy, I did not know that. Wow. I’m thrilled to be in that company! I’m just so grateful and feel so excited for Larry. I’m excited to be in the directing category with my friend Alfonso who was somebody that I’ve worked with for a long time and believed in for so long. I am so thrilled he got nominated for American Horror Story. It’s a good morning.
Were you up waiting for the nominations?
I was up but I was up because I have an 18-month-old baby, so I was up with the baby and my better half, David. I was really excited for my actors and my crews and I was really rooting for a lot of people and in most cases, it was all good news. I was so thrilled about so many of them. All of my ladies from American Horror Story, who are just so amazing and I was really excited about so many of the boys getting into the supporting category for The Normal Heart; four of the six, which is just an abundance of riches. It felt really sweet and exciting. I had not expected that abundance at all.
The Normal Heart received 16 nominations. Does that help the case for a second movie?
That’s really up to Larry. I know that Larry is writing it and is very excited about it. If Larry would do it, I know the actors are on board and I know [HBO’s] Michael Lombardo and Richard Plepler are excited about it, so yes, of course. There’s so much left of that story to tell. For a day like today for Larry Kramer and The Normal Heart to get these nominations is so exciting and justified for him because he fought to get that made for so long. Any recognition that that movie gets will perhaps lead more people to watch it and that is the great victory. Larry and I have such a passion for that story, so I’m happy about that.
American Horror Story is always up or near the top of all the nominees. What do you think it is about the show that continues to connect with the TV Academy?
I think that show is a very odd show and that you don’t expect actors of that caliber to sign on for “horror” because horror has always had this reputation of being beneath so much. The actors — those women — who we have are the best in the business and none of us look at it as a horror show; we look at it as an emotional piece. The horror is just the icing on the cake with that show because I do love that and it is fun. I just think that for some reason, I’ve been very lucky with my ability to land these actors and I land them because I love them and I tell them that right up. I’m so thrilled that Sarah Paulson got nominated. Jessica Lange, I think you can always expect! She’s such the queen of the universe that she’s always going to do well, but Sarah — I thought it was so great to see her in that [lead actress in a mini] category. I think that’s her first time in the leading category, so that’s amazing. I was so thrilled for Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett, who are new to us this year. I was super thrilled about Frances Conroy because sometimes a performance like that, which is so grand and carefully constructed, gets overlooked. I loved that character so that was a great thrill for me.
Fargo and True Detective — which was submitted in the drama series category — both had big years. What makes the anthology format so appealing for writers?
The reason I wanted to do one is that I love that form of storytelling. It’s such an incredibly fast-paced and busy world with so many options that if you can give someone a complete experience in a short amount of time — a beginning, middle and end to a chapter to a story — I think that’s very appealing to them. The way that people watch television now — I don’t know a single person in my life who watches television live except for big sporting events or Academy Awards or something like that. That sort of television lends itself very well to what’s really happening in our culture, which is a lot of binge-watching and people watching multiple episodes at once and then being done with it and moving on to the next story that they’re interested in. I think it’s really hard for people to sometimes commit to longform anymore; I still do because there’s so many things that I love. Everything comes in cycles and this was something that when I was growing up, I loved. I loved Roots, Thorn Birds, Rich Man, Poor Man. I love that way of telling a story so when I pitched AHS, that’s what I talked about. At that point, that form had really fallen out of vogue but I’m thrilled it’s back because it’s less of a time commitment and you can get these amazing actors who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in signing a seven-year contract. If you look at the actors who are now moving into television, it’s amazing to see [fellow Emmy nominees] Julia Roberts (Normal Heart), Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo), Mark Ruffalo and Matthew McConaughey. It’s pretty stunning, actually.
Any plans to celebrate? Sarah Paulson said there would likely be some drinking going on in New Orleans today.
I’m arriving Friday, so I’m sure this weekend we’ll all go do something fun.
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