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The first season of Fox’s Scream Queens concluded on Tuesday with a two-part finale that finally revealed the truth behind the Red Devil killing spree and what happened in the Kappa house in 1995.
After it was revealed earlier in the season that Boone (Nick Jonas) and Gigi (Nasim Pedrad) were two of the Red Devils, additional murderers were uncovered in the finale, starting with Pete’s (Diego Boneta) confession to Grace (Skyler Samuels) that he donned a Red Devil mask in order to get closer to the other killers and learn more about their plan. As he’s confessed though, yet another Red Devil attacked and killed him.
Suspicious of Hester, a.k.a. Chanel #6 a.k.a. Neckbrace (Lea Michele) — who had been giving everyone plenty of reasons to suspect her — Grace devised a plan to have her father (Oliver Hudson) sleep with Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) so that she and Zayday (Keke Palmer) could hack the dean’s computer and find out more about Hester. When Hester’s records proved to be very obviously fake (her transcripts note that she attended the fictional Sweet Valley High), Grace and Zayday have reason to believe she could be the baby in the bathtub.
Flashbacks indeed confirm that Hester is Boones‘ bathtub sister and that the two were raised by Gigi, growing up in a mental hospital. They eventually became the Red Devils in order to get revenge for what happened to their mother. Desperate to make the others believe she’s still innocent, Hester stabbed herself in the eye with Chanel Oberlin’s (Emma Roberts) shoe and framed Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin) for it. Ultimately, Hester got away with everything, while the Chanels were locked up for crimes they didn’t commit.
Hester’s devilish turn only further emphasized the creative leap Michele took on Scream Queens, which marked her first major television role since Glee ended in March. Over the course of the horror comedy’s first season, Michele has had a chance to show a bit of a markedly different side than she did as earnest underdog Rachel Berry. The actress spoke with The Hollywood Reporter spoke about the finale, Hester’s dark past, the Red Devil reveal and what she thinks the future holds for Hester.
THR: When were you told the truth about Hester?
Michele: I was literally told when the script came out. And actually, I was in New York with Emma [Roberts] and Keke [Palmer] doing a press event for the show and I was at this event and I hadn’t gotten the script yet because I wasn’t in New Orleans. And Keke had just gotten to New York from New Orleans and she had gotten the script, so I was like, “Oh, did you guys get the final script?” And Keke was like, “Yes, did you not read it?” And I said, “No. Who is it?” And she said, “It’s you!” I was like, “You’re lying.” “No, it’s really you and you get away with it.” Are you kidding me? And then I had to ask [creator-showrunner Ryan Murphy], obviously, and he was like, “Are you happy?” I said, “Oh my God! I can’t believe this!” He approached me with this role a year ago now, and he said, “Yeah, I think this will be good for you. And I think it will give people a chance to see you in a different light. You’ll get to be really funny.” And he didn’t give me a clue about what would happen. Not a clue.
So you were genuinely surprised by the reveal?
Yes. I had a feeling that I was in some way involved but not that it was all me. I really thought it was all Oliver. …
Was that your theory the whole time?
Him or Skyler.
Do you think a lot of people underestimated Hester because it was almost too obvious that there was something wrong with her?
I feel like she was too obviously suspicious that it couldn’t have been really real. But I started to think, ‘Well, I could be related to Jonas.’ I thought, ‘Maybe I’m related to him and I’m the other baby, but that I was left for adoption and I had nothing to do with anything.’ That’s what I thought was happening. But then I found out the extreme of it, which is that it was all really me.
At any point when you did think it could maybe be you, did that ever inform your performance and choices?
I mean, I really didn’t think that I was. I honestly did not think that I was. There were a couple moments. One moment that stood out the most to me was when I had the knife in the Thanksgiving episode, and it said in the script, “Hester comes in devilishly, holding a knife, saying that it was easily going to cut through roasted flesh” or something like that. And our director said, “Say that really intensely.” And I was like, “Well, that’s weird.” If you’re asking me to do that, that’s kind of weird. But other than that, I was really just focusing on her being real. All season, I had the potential to go a little too over-the-top, so I wanted to really focus on making her a real character that wasn’t unbelievable. Every single thing with the neck brace became extreme. Even when I would just look to my right, it looked so much bigger and funnier than I thought it did. It was really about trying to tone it down and finding the little funny moments and using my eyes and my face and finding that balance. That’s where my head was at — not, ‘am I the killer or not?’ I figured they would just handle that in editing.
How did the rest of the cast react?
Everybody was just so shocked that I got away with it. I think that’s the greatest twist of the finale. It means really interesting things for season two, hopefully. I think that we did start getting some clues. It was definitely narrowed down to me, Oliver or Skyler. I think that maybe they were less shocked that it was me. I guess from an outsider’s perspective, she was a clear suspect. But for me, just knowing [co-creators] Brad [Falchuk] and Ryan and Ian [Brennan] so well, I really thought that if it were me, then I would get some kind of feeling from them. But they have really good poker faces.
It’s really surprising that she gets away with everything.
It is! And it’s also just so cool getting that whole storyline about why she did what she did, where she comes from. I haven’t seen it yet, so I’m really excited. But it was so fun to film her whole backstory.
So you haven’t seen the eye-stabbing scene yet? It’s really intense.
It was even more intense filming it.
What was shooting it like?
Oh my God, it was not fun. We had to tape and super-glue the high heel with the pointy edge of the shoe right at the corner of my eye. Oh my gosh, we had all these crazy prosthetics. I had never done anything like that before. But it was really cool! But when you have to do something like that, it’s definitely not the most comfortable thing in the world.
What do you think drives Hester? Just this need for revenge for what happened to her mother?
Unfortunately, she was raised surrounded by so much craziness and so much evil, with Gigi being so depressed and so angry and then growing up in such a wacky place. She had it all against her from day one. I don’t think she saw her life going any other way than just the revenge route.
You’ve had a lot of the funniest lines this season. Did you like being able to do such an all-out comedic role?
I did. I’m so grateful to Brad, Ryan and Ian for giving me so much freedom to play Hester. They let me play around with different levels of comedy, and I really got to go for it, but I also did some more toned-down things. To have that flexibility and that option as an actor is really such a blessing. And having played the same character for over seven years on my previous show and then coming to this and really getting to stretch my muscles and do totally different work was unbelievable. And also for people to see me right after Glee was great. I think it’s really easy for people to have just seen me as one character, and once people heard a few of those one-liners in Scream Queens, that definitely was no longer an issue.
Is that your favorite thing about playing Hester? Because it’s something different than Rachel Berry?
Definitely. I think that there are so many incredible things, but as an actor, coming from being involved in such a historic television show for so many years and then getting the opportunity to jump into something else right away and really show people a different side of who I am as an actor was such a blessing. I grew up watching Gilda Radner, Cheri Oteri, Molly Shannon. These are the women that I loved. They played these very over-the-top comedic characters — Molly Shannon as Mary Katherine Gallagher, anyone that Cheri Oteri did on SNL. All of these women were so free in their comedy. I did have that opportunity playing Rachel Berry, but even more so with Hester. I got to take it to such another level. This is a great learning experience and a great opportunity, and I can’t wait to keep spreading my wings.
The relationship between Chanel Oberlin and Hester really evolved over time. Do you think they really cared about each other?
Oh my God, definitely. The one time you really saw Chanel in her most real moment was at the Radwell’s house [in “Thanksgiving”]. She really saw how they were hurting Hester, and she came to her defense. Emma and I love playing those moments where we can just go at it with each other, and then we also love the moments where we could be best friends. We just got to do so many great things together. I was talking with her yesterday, and she’s actually back in New Orleans now working on a movie on the same stages where we did Scream Queens. And she was like, “Come here. I can’t be here without you.” We really bonded in this experience together, and I’m so grateful, because I’ve been a fan of hers for so many years. Working with her was just incredible.
Some of your best scenes were with Glen Powell. How did you like playing with him?
It’s so funny how the world works. I’ve known Glen for so many years. He’s actually roommates with Chord Overstreet, who I was on Glee with. So I would always see Glen as Chord’s roommate, and thought he was such a good guy. So when I heard he had gotten on the show, I was so excited that we would get to work together. Little did I think, years ago, that we would eventually be on a show together where we had to do all this insane stuff. I think he is so talented. He’s like Vince Vaughn and Brad Pitt in one guy. He’s obviously so handsome, but he’s also so funny. I loved working with him, and I really felt like Hester and Chad were incredible. I wish that they would have more to do together. Maybe if everything works out with season two, there will be a future for Hester and Chad.
What else do you think the future holds for Hester in a potential second season?
It will be interesting, because I know that Ryan has mentioned that there will be a new killer next year. And it’ll be really funny if everyone thinks it’s Hester, and she’s like, “Um, no, actually it’s not me this time.” And then I think she could be in the position of someone coming after her, which would be really fun to play. This year, it was interesting to have to always play things with it being in the back of your mind that you may be the killer. But to go into another season and potentially be a victim could be fun.
What did you think of Scream Queens‘ big reveal?
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