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Between playful quips about Dylan McDermott‘s derriere and Ryan Murphy‘s “seduction” in wooing Jessica Lange, the cast and creators of FX’s American Horror Story looked back on the freshman season and dropped hints about what the horror anthology series will look like when it returns in October during Friday’s opening night of PaleyFest 2012.
The sophomore season of the drama — which Murphy revealed would reboot itself every season with a new central plot and different characters and cast members — will feature Golden Globe and SAG Award winner Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe but as new characters that are the complete opposite of their initial roles.
“It’s very fun to take a group of actors that you love and say, ‘come play again,’ ” co-creator Murphy said after announcing Peters, Paulson and Rabe’s return. “Every year in the series is about a different haunting, so everybody will be playing the opposite of what they played, which is fun.”
Murphy joked that the Harmons — played by Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton and Taissa Farmiga — would not be featured in Season 2 and were exhausted after the intense year that culminated with their sad deaths and yet poetic reunion as a happy family trapped inside the bizarre abode.
While Friday’s lively and often funny session didn’t flush out exact details beyond the “horror institution” setting on the East Coast, Paulson hinted to The Hollywood Reporter beforehand on the red carpet that a big clue exists in the “Birth” episode.
“It is something I said,” she told THR of the “Birth” teaser. Paulson played medium Billie Dean, who in the episode in question explained to Violet (Taissa Farmiga) that the house had a paramagnetic grip — like a battery, with negative energy that feeds on trauma and draws things to it. Pressed if the scene in question involves the energy that’s often found in prisons or asylums, Paulson added: “I can’t say the answer to that but I think you’re warm.”
As for the “rules” of the second year drama, co-creators Murphy and Brad Falchuk noted that the supernatural would likely be a component but that the ghost trope wherein if you died in the house, you remained trapped there, would not likely be further explored.
“There are so many great genre subsets of horror. Our only rule on the show is no werewolves and no vampires,” he said to applause from the packed Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. “I feel that a supernatural element will always be a part of the show but I don’t think we’re interested in that the same way. We’re trying to do something much more historically accurate.”
“From where we are now, I’d say that [we’re going for] a very equally terrified but very different vibe,” he said. “I loved the ghosts … but the fun part of the show, the gift of the show, is reinventing it every year. So I don’t think we’ll go back to a trope that we did.”
Also set for a reinvention in Season 2, Murphy noted that the opening credits — which were inspired by David Fincher‘s 1995 thriller Se7en — will also get a makeover while still offering clues as to what’s ahead.
“For a horror show that was going to air in October, I wanted something to be scared about,” Murphy said of the sequence, of which only one clue was left out of the season — a guy with bloody hedge clippers — because the story line wound up being dropped.
Murphy and Falchuk also noted that another dropped story line — Constance’s (Lange) unexplained fourth child — could be something that viewers see down the line. (Constance’s three other children were revealed to be Tate, Addie and Beau, whom she kept chained up in the Harmons’ attic.)
“We know who the fourth child is, it was something that we had written and talked about and removed,” Murphy said. “But we have not lost sight of the fourth child. In a fun show like this, that could be Season 4, I don’t know. But we do have that story and that’s something we’d talked about. That was the one thing that we did not answer but we want to answer that.”
“We will eventually deal with that, even though Jessica is not playing Constance,” Murphy said with a laugh.
Still, Lange isn’t opposed to reprising Season 1’s nosy, know-it-all neighbor, if only to learn the fate of Vivien and Tate’s devil child. “I think Constance was a strong enough character that you could revisit her,” Lange told THR. “I don’t know what [Ryan’s] going to do about that [devil baby]. It was certainly left that we should follow up on it, right?”
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