PaleyFest 2014: Celebrating ‘American Horror Story: Coven’

By March 30, 2014

This past Friday was the final night of this year’s PaleyFest, and what a better way to end the festival than with the cast and crew of “American Horror Story: Coven”? Our Senior Editor Ben Pearson covered the “Veronica Mars,”“Lost,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Community” panels earlier in the festival, so make sure to head over and read the coverage of those events – but only AFTER you’re done here! Because I’m about to get bitchy…I mean witchy. Yeah…

I headed down to The Dolby Theater in Hollywood late Friday afternoon and was able to grab myself a whiskey and coke and grab my seat in the theater easily. Soon enough, the audience was treated with a random clip from an episode of “Bewitched” from 1970. Soon, our moderator Tim Stack (from Entertainment Weekly) hit the stage and introduced the “Burn Witch Burn” episode of “American Horror Story: Coven.” It truly is one of the best episodes of the season, maybe due to it being the Halloween episode and featuring zombies, but also because it introduced the characters of Myrtle Snow and The Witches Council.

After the episode ended, Mr. Stack returned and brought out the cast and crew of “American Horror Story: Coven” which included: Gabourey Sidibe (Queenie), Evan Peters (Kyle), Denis O’Hare (Spaulding), Frances Conroy (Myrtle Snow), co-creator/executive producer Brad Falchuk, Sarah Paulson (Cordelia Foxx), co-creator/executive producer Ryan Murphy, Kathy Bates (Madame Delphine LaLaurie), Angela Bassett (Marie Laveau), executive producer Tim Minear, Emma Roberts (Madison Montgomery), executive producer Dante Di Loreto and Jamie Brewer (Nan).

When Angela Bassett made her entrance, she carried Madame Delphine LaLaurie’s head with her on a tray. This was pretty hysterical and alluded to Kathy Bates being a no-show but they saved her entrance as a surprise of sorts, and she got to sit next to her head for a few minutes which was entertaining unto itself.

PaleyFest AHS head

Unfortunately, Jessica Lange was on vacation with her grandkids and did not make the panel. Other cast members who were missing from the event were Taissa Farmiga and Lily Rabe, but that didn’t make the event any less entertaining.

Watching everyone interact on stage, you could see the family bond they all share by being involved with this crazy program that has grown in popularity each year. Honestly, I was not expecting the rabid fanboys and girls that filled the theater. There were gothy folks dressed in their best witchy hats, there were middle aged cat ladies, and there were more young girls in the audience than I had thought there’d be. The crazy screams of approval that erupted throughout the event was reminiscent more of, say, a One Direction concert than anything else! Upon seeing the fan reaction, I suppose it makes sense that Ryan Murphy doesn’t break his schedule of filming over the summer to bring the cast of “American Horror Story” to San Diego Comic-Con because if he did, that sh*t would be bonkers!

With the majority of the cast there, it also served as a reunion of sorts and given that family vibe I mentioned, things quickly turned to some crazy stories they shared when on location in New Orleans. One of the stories in particular had Sidibe get up and re-enact a drunk night out with Paulson that turned into a street fight between them and some people dressed as “The Nebula” for Halloween.

Aside from that, it was mentioned that each member of the cast lived in a different part of the city so they all had different perceptions of their temporary homes. Angela Bassett praised the city’s food and cocktails. Kathy Bates shared a story about how she had a great view of The W Hotel’s pool next door adorned with all the men in Speedos while her hotel’s pool was completely empty. Needless to say, between these stories and those of the drunken debauchery, I kind of wanted to party with them after the event was over!

PaleyFest AHS laugh

When asked about their experience as the newbies to the “American Horror Story” family, Gabourey Sidibe, Emma Roberts, and Angela Bassett all had nothing but praise for Ryan Murphy and crew. Roberts explained how she had been a fan of the show since the first episode so when she got the call, she was jumping around in her house. Sidibe expressed similar enthusiasm and pointed out she really didn’t know what she was getting herself into. Angela Bassett chimed in and stated what an amazing opportunity it is to work with all these great actors and praised the writers.

Reading the script, you’re excited about what you’re going to be doing, but you get jazzed about what others are doing when you’re not in the scene with them. It’s like three shows in one to me.

When asked why he chose witches as the focal point for the third installment of “American Horror Story,” Murphy said that each year they always do the opposite of the year before. So since “AHS: Asylum” was “dark and grim”, they decided to go a more modern, contemporary and glamorous direction with season 3. Co-creator Brad Falchuck agreed and expanded on this statement by saying:

Each season is about something behind the genre. This season, the idea became about women and mothers and daughters.

PaleyFest AHS group

Ryan Murphy then said what everyone has been saying all along, they put the most amazing group of women together that has been seen on TV. Sure, that’s an opinion, but when you look at the cast, it’s hard to argue with it. While the majority of the cast is women, the two actors who play Kyle and Spaulding were also in attendance. It was pointed out that both characters, for the majority of the show, cannot speak. Ryan Murphy admitted that was a simple coincidence to the story. Denis O’Hare commented on this rather poignantly.

Half of acting is not speaking. The hardest thing to do is reaction shots. Not speaking is one of the great ways of communicating. I loved it and had the best time.

The conversation then moved onto the new season. As everyone has reported, season 4 will be titled “American Horror Story: Freak Show.” Interestingly, Murphy went on record saying that it is not a circus or a carnival! I guess that may have been in response to the annoying woman behind me that kept repeating throughout the entire event, “Why clowns?”

In what is now a PaleyFest tradition with “American Horror Story,” details for the new season were revealed. “Freak Show” will be shot in New Orleans but the show will be set in 1950 Florida. Jessica Lange will be returning as a German woman managing one of the last freak shows in America. Along with this confirmation, he stated everyone up on stage with him would be returning in some aspect. And along with said PaleyFest tradition, Mr. Ryan Murphy made the big announcement of the night that Vic Mackey…err…I mean, Michael Chiklis, will be joining the cast. His role will be that of Evan Peters’ father and Kathy Bates’ ex husband.

PaleyFest AHS Mike

Chiklis was humbled by the audience’s response to this announcement and commented on how amazing it is to return to his home network. This is of course a reference to FX’s first amazing hit show “The Shield.” Vic Mackey is back, baby!

An hour had gone by and the question and answer segment passed rather quickly. One thing I quickly re-confirmed from this portion of the night is the crazy fandom the show has inspired. The majority of the questions asked were merely requests for hugs from cast members, one woman asking Sarah Paulson to call her. The screaming kids seated behind me had traveled from Mexico and they brought a screen printed t-shirt of a tweet Paulson posted to them some weeks back. When she invited them down to sign it, things really started unraveling.

As soon as Tim Stack made the announcement that the panel was to end, a stampede of sorts occurred. The people in the first three rows of the theater bolted to their feet and rushed the stage. The kids from Mexico joined what seems like at least a hundred more fans as they pushed their way to the front of the theater with hopes to meet their idols and get their stuff signed. Like I said, things got a bit bonkers!

Regardless, the event was amazing and further whetted everyone’s appetites for the season 4.

So now I ask you, dear readers…aside from the cast officially announced to return, who else would you want to see in “American Horror Story: Freak Show”? I have my wish list. Let’s share!

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Aside from throwing words onto your screen here, he has written for the likes of FEARnet, Examiner, Dread Central and MTV Movies Blog. And yes, he was Percy on VR Troopers.