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American Horror Story – Ryan Murphy on horror without the blood

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American Horror Story - Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott and Taissa Farmiga
Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton), Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) and Violet Harmon (Taissa Farmiga) © 2011 FX, Photo by Robert Zuckerman

Going back to his edgy cable roots, Ryan Murphy is taking a short break from the PG antics of Glee to return to FX for his new series American Horror Story, which follows the Harmon family, Ben (Dylan McDermott), Vivien (Connie Britton) and their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), who move from Boston to Los Angeles after Vivien’s miscarriage and Ben’s affair with one of his students. But their attempt as a new life is disrupted when they discover the house they have moved into is haunted.

You use a lot of horror story tropes in this series, but I know you want to subvert that. Can you talk about that process?

American Horror Story - Ryan Murphy
Co-creator/executive producer/writer/director Ryan Murphy © 2011 FX

I think that a lot of them, when you put them through a prism of sexuality and emotionality they become more interesting. I love horror movies, but I don’t like bloody horror movies. So, there’s not a lot of blood in this thing, and if you look at the first episode there’s almost none.

There’s a ripped out throat or two with dried blood, but it’s never going to be a blood bath because I always felt that it’s interesting to write a horror show for women, in a weird way.

Not that that’s the only people that it will appeal to, but my mother doesn’t want to see blood and guts. But she does like scary movies that aren’t so in your face. So, that’s what we’re aiming for.

Is the real reason that they stay in house just LA home prices?

Well, I’m glad that you bring that up because one of the things that I thought in this economic downtime is one of the big the story points. The question is, what would you do if you put all your money you had left into this house and then suddenly you wanted to get out, but you couldn’t sell it. What would you do?

I’ve never seen a haunted house horror [film] take an economic, real life [situation] that we’re going through and put that into the genre. It’s not the only reason that they stay there, because Lord knows they try to escape early on.

They’re a very smart group of characters and I thought you have to very early on have them say, ‘We need to get the [hell] out of this house,’ and then they do in episode two and then all these things happen to work against them. Connie Britton is not going to stay in that house. She’s too smart. So, we deal with that.

Is there a hero in American Horror Story?

American Horror Story - Poster
Poster © 2011 FX

I think Connie Britton is pretty heroic in terms of where we’re going, yeah.

Is she the one we’re going to be rooting for?

She is the moral center of the show. If you have Connie I think you have an obligation because I think that people want to see Connie Britton be strong and kick ass and not weak and not a victim. So, we’re writing her that way.

There were a lot of horrible moments in the first episode, can you keep that up?

No. I don’t think you can do that. I think that you have to pick and choose, but it is a house of horrors. I will say that. Also, the show examines other horrors in society, not just the horrors that happen in this house.

Will there be a high body count by the end of season one?

No, I don’t think so.

Do we find out more about the genetic creature in the basement?

Yeah, there’s a whole mythology about that which is actually a story that I’ve always been obsessed with, and so that’s what that thing in the basement is.

Could this series have been done on a network?

No.

Are you thrilled to be back on cable again?

American Horror Story - Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
Co-creator/executive producer/writer/director Ryan Murphy and co-creator/executive producer/writer Brad Falchuk answer questions from television critics © 2011 FX

I’m thrilled to be back with John [Landgraf] on FX.  I don’t think you could push the envelope in terms of what we’re doing with the content. I don’t think the show is as in your face as Nip/Tuck. I don’t think sexually, not at all, and blood is certainly not.

I was sort of interested when people who’d seen it thought that it was more than Nip/Tuck because I don’t think it is.

Why did you want to work with Jessica Lange and why is her character southern?

Well, there are two reasons for that. One is that my favorite stage performance of all time was Jessica doing Streetcar Named Desire in New York. I went and saw it three times.

I loved her in that part, and before we spoke to Jessica I knew that I wanted her to be Blanche-esque. So, that’s where that came in, and there’s a story that’s coming up about her southern stuff.

Can you talk about finding that actual house?

It was just like love. You walked in and you were like, ‘Oh, okay. This is the one.’ That’s how I felt when I saw it and a lot of things that we wrote in the pilot, we put them in there based on the house. The Tiffany chandeliers and the stain glass fixtures, all that was there. So, I was excited about that, that we could have that.

I heard you had a supernatural experience. Was that in your home?

American Horror Story - Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Taissa Farmiga, Jessica Lange, Denis O'Hare, Frances Conroy, Evan Peters and Alexandra Breckinridge
Co-creator/executive producer/writer/director Ryan Murphy, co-creator/executive producer/writer Brad Falchuk and cast members Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Taissa Farmiga, Jessica Lange, Denis O'Hare, Frances Conroy, Evan Peters and Alexandra Breckinridge © 2011 FX

It’s a really beautiful house that I live in. I feel very lucky to live there, but there’s this one area of the house that whenever I go into I have a presence. I feel something, and it’s not a bad presence. But then I’ve talked to other people who have lived in that house who say the same thing. But I believe in that, and so maybe it’s me being gullible.

Is there a history to the house?

No. I don’t think it’s a murder or anything bad like that, but I just feel something that I can’t explain.

Is this story contained in the thirteen weeks and then it’s over and a new one will be on next year, or does this story continue into next year?

I can’t say. That’s part of the fun of it. People keep saying that and I don’t know where they get that idea.

It’s explained in the last episode what we’re doing.

The second episode of American Horror Story airs on Wednesday, October 12 2011