When you watch American Horror Story, from executive producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, you can pretty assuredly count on it to be crazy, wild and a bit of a roller coaster, with death, murder and mayhem, along the way. In its eighth season, Apocalypse, there is also an unsettling feeling about Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) and his desire to save society with a secret paradise and motives that can’t possibly be that simple. The season also stars Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Evan Peters, Adina Porter, Billie Lourd and Leslie Grossman, among many other familiar AHS faces.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Emma Roberts (who’s back as everyone’s favorite AHS: Coven witch Madison Montgomery) talked about why she’ll always say yes to working with Ryan Murphy, his initial pitch for this season, the fun of getting to return to her first AHS character, what it’s like to work with Stevie Nicks, getting to play emotional extremes, how inspired she is to direct, after watching Sarah Paulson take on an episode this season, and the types of projects she’d still like to do.
Collider: When Ryan Murphy first reached out to you about Apocalypse, what did he tell you the season would be? What was the initial pitch for this season?
EMMA ROBERTS: There had always been talk of bringing Madison back, but then it went away. When I found out that this season was Apocalypse, I didn’t even think that I would be asked to be on it. And then, Ryan called and was like, “So, it’s Apocalypse, but we’re also gonna do a Coven/Murder House cross-over.” And I was like, “Oh, my god, of course! Only you would have a vision for that and pull that off.” He didn’t really tell me anything, though. I asked questions and he was just like, “Do you wanna do it, or not?” And I was like, “I’m in!” It was a dream come true because I’ve wanted to bring Madison back for awhile now. We had so much fun doing Coven five years ago, and it’s crazy that it was five years ago. So, of course I wanted to be a part of it, and I’m still just taking it one episode at a time. I don’t know what will happen.
When you heard that this season would be Apocalypse, what were the questions that went through your head?
ROBERTS: I was just excited because I felt like that was something that I would love. I’d always thought, “Oh, my god, the end of the world is something that I would love to see be Ryan Murph-ified,” and it has not disappointed. I love this season so much. I think it’s so original and funny, but also so scary. I’m scared this season. It’s cool, weird and different, and it just gets weirder. The way that all of the worlds collide, my head was spinning. You’re gonna love it!
This season really feels very unsettling, I just keep waiting for something, around every corner, to jump out at me.
ROBERTS: Yeah, this season is scary. It is called American Horror Story, and this season lives up to the title. Some seasons are funny or spooky, but this one’s definitely scary and unsettling.
Madison was the first character you got to play on this series, so did she feel very familiar to come back to, so many years later, or is she somebody that you needed to find again?
ROBERTS: No, it was so fun, getting to fall back into it. It’s wild to get to bring her back. When I as originally on Coven, I was only supposed to be in a couple of episodes. It wasn’t supposed to be the whole season, or anything like that. They just were like, “Will you come and do three episodes?” And then, it just kept going and going and going. So, to be back now, five years later and playing Madison again, it’s just funny, and it goes to show that you never know what’s gonna happen on American Horror Story. You never know who’s gonna respond to a character.
When you started playing her again, what did you realize that you had most missed about her?
ROBERTS: For me, it’s nothing that I do. The writers just write such great stuff for us. I was just so excited to get the scripts every week, and to see what they had in store for her because the dialogue the writers write on this show, it’s like no other show. The dialogue they write for all of us young women is just so delicious and unapologetic, and I absolutely love getting to do it.
You first came to this show for the third season. Were you ever nervous about joining something like this, that had already been established, or was it just too much fun to ever worry about being nervous?
ROBERTS: Yeah, of course! I was such a fan of the show, so anytime you’re a fan of something, it’s so nerve-wracking. But I was more excited because the whole concept of Coven was just so amazing. I remember saying, “Thank you for putting me on the show because if I saw it, I would be so devastated that I wasn’t in it.” I just focused on that. I loved the show so much, and I just felt so lucky to get to be on it.
I love how hell for Madison is essentially working in and stocking shelves at Bed Bath & Beyond.
ROBERTS: Of course, folding towels is hell.
How do you think she felt about the monotony of what she was having to do before Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) showed up?
ROBERTS: I think she was pretty pissed about it. I remember I just thought that was so funny. I was like, “What’s her hell going to be? Folding towels.” My hell would be waiting to go through airport security, or waiting at the DMV.
What does Madison Montgomery think about Michael Langdon? Is she suspicious of his motives, or does she just care that she’s gotten out of where she was stuck?
ROBERTS: I think both. She has an inkling that something’s not right, but she wants to get out of hell, so she just puts her blinders on until she gets out of there.
This season brings all of the witches back together, including Steve Nicks. What was it like to not only have everybody back on set together, but to have them playing these specific characters again? Does it feel like a surreal sorority?
ROBERTS: It’s definitely surreal. When I walked into hair and make-up and saw Gabby [Sidibe], Taissa [Farmiga] and Sarah [Paulson] getting ready as their Coven characters, I was like, “Oh, my god!” It’s pretty wild. A lot of people are coming back, and it’s amazing. It’s so fun, and I think everyone will be really happy. I feel like we didn’t get our fill of Coven, so there’s more closure this season.