Of all the new actors who have joined the second season of Ryan Murphy's hit FX series American Horror Story, Chloë Sevigny might have the most intriguing role. Sure, it's fun to see Maroon 5's swaggering front man Adam Levine lose his arm and Babe's gentle farmer James Cromwell act like a scumbag psycho, but with her troubled upbringing and lusty attitude (a no-no for the straight-laced '60s), Sevigny's Shelley is one of Briarcliff Manor's more complex inmates. The actress participated in a conference call with reporters last week and spoke about how this role came her way, how spooky it is to shoot on the Asylum set and whether she considers American Horror Story to be a guilty pleasure... or just a pleasure.
On How She Landed the Role
They just called and said they had this guest spot and they had me in mind for it. Thank God, because I'd never gotten the role auditioning, I'm terrible at it. Actually, Ryan Murphy called me and we spoke for about an hour about the character and about the season and what he wanted to do with her. I'd never seen the show before, and I had to sign on without having read any scripts and I said I already know how to make a decision solely off this conversation. So they sent me the first season and I watched that and I loved it. I was hooked right away and that's when I signed on. I just thought [the first season] was so rich -- the production design and costumes and how much detail went into it -- and I just thought it was wildly entertaining. I was hoping the second season would be as much so. I didn't get to read any scripts prior to signing on, so I was kind of going in on blind faith hoping that it would be what I wanted it to be and it's proven so.
On Working with Ryan Murphy
He came to the set a bunch and I think he is very much behind the scenes, [picking] every outfit, every hairdo, everything. We always have to send photos to Ryan and make sure he approves or if we want to change a line a little bit, it always had to go by him. So yes, every decision kind of goes through him. If we had trouble with a scene, he would come to the set and help us block it and figure out -- always make it more interesting or make it work. I don't know how he does it, shooting three shows at the same time. That guy has more energy than anyone I know, but he was really present.
On The Spookiness of the Set
It is very eerie. They built it on the Paramount lot where Ryan shoots all of his shows. It's really creepy, especially the way they light it, with spooky long shadows and all that. Nobody in my family is watching the show. I know my mom couldn't watch it. She's too much of a scaredy-cat, but my friends are all loving it. I have some friends come visit me on the set and stuff and I share photos that I secretly took them on my BlackBerry and everybody is really excited about it.
On Her Character's Nymphomania
I think that she was a little wild and her husband had it within his power to commit her and I think kind of once she's in there, she kind of goes with it to come to who she is and how she identifies herself. So I think that she probably really likes sex [but] I don't know if she's quite a real nymphomaniac. I'm not comfortable doing [sex scenes]. I don't think anybody ever gets comfortable doing those kinds of scenes. [But] it's what the part called for and you just have to kind of stay grounded in it and think about her and why she's there and what the circumstances are and, you know, you just try and ground things and think about the reasons for why they're happening.
On Acting with Prosthetic Legs
The prosthetic pieces that they put on made it impossible to straighten my legs, so I had to keep my legs bent all day and I had to be wheeled around in a wheelchair and I was feeling quite helpless. It was a strange feeling to have to need assistance to do lots of different things. And that was probably the most challenging part, feeling kind of helpless in that way.
On Why the Show is a Hit
I think in general people like to be spooked out. I think horror movies have always done really well at the box office and I think it's kind of a new thing on television. I think that since Hitchcock and whatnot, there haven't been that many scary shows. But then Walking Dead was huge and now American Horror Story, so I think just people are tapping into that.
On Working in Television Versus Movies
Television is a real writer's medium and it's not so much collaborative. It's not like a film; it's pretty much all on the page. There were some bits where I asked Ryan for more lines, so that seemed to beef it up here and there and they tried to do that for me. I find it pretty easy. I've already wrapped American Horror Story a couple of months ago. I think they might have me come back for something else. While we were shooting American Horror Story, I was also shooting Portlandia, so I was going from one set to the next, and I'd never really done that before. And Portlandia was so new for me because it's all improvisation and trying to be funny and all that, so it was quite difficult when you're shooting two at the same time.
On Her Louie Cameo
That wasn't so much horror, although it was horrifying; I was pretty scared about having to pull it off and be convincing and be funny and be everything that I wanted it to be. But he [Louis C.K.] really held my hand through the whole process and took care of me and helped me work it out and how to make it. I haven't seen that, yet, so hopefully it worked, but yes, he was very helpful in that. I would love to do more comedic stuff. I'd like to do some sort of period I don't know romantic comedy kind of thing, which people just don't make anymore. Every actress always says she'd love to do something like that, so it's pretty typical I guess, you know, like a Hepburn kind of thing.
On Whether She Considers American Horror Story a Guilty Pleasure
I don't think I would classify it as that. I think that's more like Honey Boo Boo and that kind of crap or something. I don't even have a TV, so I don't even watch any of it, but no, I wouldn't put American Horror Story in that category. I think why would you even be embarrassed or why would it be something guilty? It's great television. There are so many great actors. It has a little element of camp, sure, I'll give you that much, but I think it's a great show. Well crafted.
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