Scream Queens - Emma Roberts and Jamie Lee Curtis
Scream Queens - Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) and Dean Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) ©2015 Fox Broadcasting, photo by Matthias Clamer

From the brilliant minds of Executive Producers/writers Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk (Glee, American Horror Story) and Ian Brennan (Glee) comes the new comedy/horror series Scream Queens on Fox.

All hell is about to break loose at Kappa House, the most sought-after sorority at Wallace University, which is ruled by Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) and her minions.

But Chanel’s authority is about to be challenged by Dean Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) who decrees that Kappa pledging must be open to not only the school’s elite, but to everyone, including the incoming freshmen.

Hell Week at Kappa takes on new meaning when it falls on the 20th anniversary of a deadly tragedy, and a killer, wielding a knife and dressed in the school’s Red Devil mascot costume, begins to murder the sisters of Kappa, and the brothers of golf fraternity Dickie Dollar Scholars.

Ryan Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis and Emma Roberts came to the TV Critics tour to discuss their new series, which premieres on Fox on September 22nd 2015.

Scream Queens – Emma Roberts, Jamie Lee Curtis and Co-Creator/Executive Producer/Writer/Director Ryan Murphy at the 2015 TCA, Thursday, Aug. 6th at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting, photo by Frank Micelotta

How did this get started?

Ryan Murphy: We pitched it. Brad, Ian and I, of course, are big horror fans. And I asked to have a meeting with Jamie Lee, I had always loved her for years and years and had wanted to work with her. She came in, and as it is with our company, usually there’s no script to read, so we simply told her what the story was and we just led with our love and passion for her, and said in the meeting, ‘If you don’t do it, we’re not going to do the show.’

And the next day we got the great news that she was in. It really was a leap of faith, because at that point we were still writing the first episode. But she is the original scream queen, and she brings such a great sense of largesse, strength, feminism and –

Jamie Lee Curtis: Humor, it is a comedy.

Ryan: I’ve loved her work where she has been funny, and we write to that as well.

There is quite a lot of horror on TV now, including Scream on MTV. Do you feel that’s an issue?

Ryan: I think that this genre has really exploded in the years since The Walking Dead came on and made a huge impact. That show really made an impact on us when it came out, because it brought horror back on to television in a major way.

I do think the more the merrier. I think that show is a success in its own right, and that cast seems to be having a great time.

I think the shows (Scream Queens and Scream) are very, very different. Ours is more comedic and more satirical, and visually they look very different.

So I think that people can easily figure out that there are two different shows with ‘scream’ in the title.

Scream Queens , 103 “Chainsaw” – Dean Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) ©2015 Fox Broadcasting, photo by Skip Bolen

Many of the characters say really horrible things in this, is that fun?

Jamie: I think what’s so fantastic about the show is it is a social satire. And actually, we say what people think.

We all live in this protected bubble where we’re all trying to behave and look a certain way. And the thing that’s so brilliant about this show is it strips away the imagined behaviors of human beings, and it actually show what people really are, which is inherently dark, inherently unhappy, angry, frustrated human beings, who are trying desperately to hold it together. And what’s so fun about this show is that everything you think about every single one of these characters, you don’t know shit about anything.

Everyone is wearing a mask. And this show peels off those masks each week, and it’s brilliant.

Scream Queens , 101 “Pilot” – Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) ©2015 Fox Broadcasting, photo by Skip Bolen

Emma Roberts: What she’s saying is true. You read (the lines) sometimes and you’re thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is insane and crazy. Who talks like  this?’

But once you start you have to accept your character and come from their point-of- view. It’s this imagined world and it’s insane, crazy and fun. There are definitely times when I had to apologize to the girls when cut was called.

In the pilot, Chanel comes off as a completely horrible person. Going forward, does she need to have any redeeming qualities, or can she be completely irredeemable in this particular show?

Emma: Something that the guys do so well is making characters that aren’t necessarily good or bad or who seem good, but aren’t, or who seem bad, but aren’t.

There are so many different layers to everybody. Nobody is black and white, and you’ll see that as the season goes on.

Ryan, carnage-wise, it looks like you’re doing pretty much everything on this show that you could do on American Horror Story on FX. How are you getting away with that?

Ryan: They’re totally different. I think that Scream Queens has a much more satirical, cartoonish quality to the attacks than American Horror does, which is much more sexualized and darker at times.

We have had healthy discussions with the broadcast standards. Shockingly, more about the language and the girls having an empowering sense of their own sense of sexuality.

I find it upsetting that violence is cool, and that’s very easy to get through in my job. It’s language, it’s trying to really reflect how people talk.

It’s trying to write characters who are open about their sexuality, that gets the most attention and the most push-back.

Scream Queens , 103 “Chainsaw” – Gigi (Nasim Pedrad), Dean Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) ©2015 Fox Broadcasting, photo by Skip Bolen

Scream Queens Soundbyte

Jamie was asked if the cast knows who the killer is – click here to listen to her amusing reply.
Jamie on if the cast knows who the killer is
Scream Queens – Jamie Lee Curtis at the TCAs, Thursday, Aug. 6 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting, photo by Frank Micelotta

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane