American Horror Story: Coven is the upcoming third season of the popular and critically acclaimed FX horror anthology series, starring Jessica Lange. Set in both modern day and the 1830s, this new season centers on a coven of witches that relocated from Salem, Massachusetts to New Orleans, Louisiana before the Salem Witch Trials. Kathy Bates will be portraying infamous serial killer Madame LaLaurie, while Angela Bassett is voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau.
During the FX portion of the TCA Press Tour, co-stars Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett talked about how much Jessica Lange influenced their decision to join the show, who the women are that they’re portraying, what made them want to do television, and what it’s like to work with such talented people. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
Question: How much was Jessica Lange’s run with this series and the variety she’s been able to have with it an influence for you to come on board now?
ANGELA BASSETT: It was a tremendous influence for me. I’m a big fan of her work. She’s incredible. Watching the first two seasons, the work of all the actors, in addition to Jessica, was just an actor’s dream.
KATHY BATES: Same here. And seeing Sarah Paulson’s work, especially last season, you just get like a little kid. You just want to play, too.
What can you say about your character, this season?
BASSETT: Well, I play Marie Laveau. It’s been interesting, being in New Orleans, because there’s such a regard and respect for who she was. She lived to about 80 years old, and she was a very influential person in the city. My character is based loosely on her.
BATES: My Southern accent has come roaring back. Now that that cat is out of the bag, one of the things I enjoyed reading about Madame LaLaurie is that my great-great-grandfather came from Dublin to New Orleans in the 1830s, and he became personal physician to Andrew Jackson. And I read in the book on LaLaurie that his plantation was next door to theirs. So, I was very curious to know whether my grandfather ever met her because I think he would have been there just before she left. I thought that was interesting.
Angela, did you do research into Marie Laveau? How close is this incarnation to the real woman?
BASSETT: I read a fictional novel by Tallant, called The Voodoo Queen. I’ve read two books about her, one that’s more historical and one that’s her life, but put into novel form. It’s just very interesting. We’ve been filming in the French Quarter. But, I don’t know exactly where it’s going, so I’m remaining open and just picking up little things. Her father was French Creole, and he gave her gold earrings. Spain occupied Louisiana longer than the French did. I’m also talking to folks from there and just getting a take on how they see her or what they feel about her, to get a sense of who she was and her power in the 1800s, as this black Creole woman.
Kathy, your last series experience, with Harry’s Law, had its ups and downs. What did it take to make you want to do a series again?
BATES: I don’t want to give them any airtime. I think they treated us like shit. They kicked us to the curb. I think they disrespected us, and our seven to 11 million viewers, every week. And I think they’re getting what they deserve. Thank you. On a positive note, I went out for a drink with my friend, Jessica, after seeing the first season. And I said, “You’ve got to get me on that show.” I thought it would be maybe a couple of episodes. So, I went in and sat down with Ryan [Murphy], and when he pitched this show to me, this little kid that lives inside all of us just started jumping up and down and running around. I said, “I want to do it!” It just got me so excited that it washed most of the crap away. Clearly, there’s some residue. But, it’s delightful to be among such a glorious group of actors and have such magnificent material to play. I’m going on the record to say that we’re going to knock your socks off.
Angela, what got you to return to TV again? Was it just this show, in particular?
BASSETT: This was just perfect. I just got a call to come in and meet Ryan. I watched every single episode, but to hear him talk about it, and knowing who would be joining the cast, and that it would be shot in New Orleans, which is one of my favorite cities – for the music, the food, the character and their love of death – and people from different strata live within 10 to 15 minutes of each other, it’s just very unique. There is such a history of that town, with free people of color, slaves, whites and Haitians. That I would be able to be in a city that I love, working with artists that I love, that obviously write for women, and to be able also to come home and not neglect my family for six months straight, it had everything going for it, as far as I was concerned.
How is it to be able to work with such a group of people, at this level of talent?
BATES: It really raises your game. It’s something almost unconscious that, when you get out there, you know who you are going to be with, even if you are not in the same scene with somebody, and you just want to bring your triple-A game and work at the highest level that you can do. You want to push yourself. And we have a wonderful director who is going to be down there all season, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. He’s a magnificent director, and he’s got such an amazing eye. That’s what I loved about some of what I saw last season. It’s just something that you don’t see on television. He likes high, wide shots. He really has that artist’s eye to create a painting. I can’t wait to see it.
American Horror Story: Coven premieres on FX in October.