Set in 1964, the FX drama series American Horror Story: Asylum takes viewers into Briarcliff, a haven for the criminally insane, ruled with an iron fist by Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), a nun with a troubled past. Inside this locked down facility, danger lurks around every corner, whether it’s a doctor who loves to torture, flesh eating creatures in the forest, alien experimentation or the serial killer Bloody Face, and no one is safe.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Chloe Sevigny, who plays the resident nymphomaniac, talked about how exciting it is to be a part of event television, what a big fan she was of Season 1, what attracted her to the role, how she’s more frightened by realistic violence than straight out gore, how amazing it was to work with Jessica Lange, just how much crazier things will get this season, and how she’d love to return for Season 3. She also talked about her work on the TV series Hit & Miss, playing such unexpected roles, dabbling in comedy, and her desire to do a sweeping romantic period drama. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Collider: Before the season premiered, it was already a trending topic on Twitter, proving that its’ more like event television than just a TV show now. Is it exciting to be a part of something like this, where people are so eager to talk about it?
CHLOE SEVIGNY: Yeah! When I heard the numbers, I was like, “Wow!” I’m flattered to be a part of it and excited, of course. I was on Big Love for five years and we had our fans, but it didn’t feel like it was a crazy event thing. There wasn’t a frenzy surrounding it. People weren’t having viewing parties, like I’m hearing they are for American Horror Story. So, yeah, it’s super exciting! I just hope people enjoy it and are frightened.
Were you a fan of Season 1?
SEVIGNY: I loved last season, so much. I watched it all on DVD in two days straight. I couldn’t stop!
Is it fun to be a part of something that’s so secretive, or do you have a hard time not revealing stuff to your friends and family?
SEVIGNY: The hardest part is that I’m only in the first six episodes, so now I don’t know what happens. They’re not sending me any more scripts, so now I have to wait like everybody else to find out what happens. It’s really pissing me off. I was like, “You can still send me the scripts, even though I’m not in it!” So, I’m waiting like everybody else with baited breath, to see how things go.
When this role was presented to you, what was it that made you sign on? Was it the character specifically, or was it the people behind the show?
SEVIGNY: It was more watching the first season. I talked to Ryan [Murphy], and I hadn’t seen the show. He was like, “Would you do the show? I can’t show you any scripts, but I can tell you a bit about the character.” There was this feminist statement that he wanted to make with this character, about how women were persecuted back then, and throughout time, when they were promiscuous. That was all appealing, but really, it was watching the first season and seeing how much thought went into it. I also spoke to a lot of people who were in the first season. My friend, Matt Ross, was in the first season, as the jealous doctor who had lived in the house. He told me about Ryan, and how he was there for every decision and every hair clip. His eye was on everything. So, I knew I was going to work with someone who would really take care of me and was going to be on top of every decision. It was like eye candy, watching it. It was just amazing!
For a lot of people, mental illness and insanity is much more horrific than just straight out blood and gore. Is there one that typically scares you more than the other?
SEVIGNY: That’s a difficult question. It depends on how it’s shown, I guess. Real mental insanity, of course, if more terrifying. When you see people who are troubled, it’s a mixture of things. I think gore, on its own, is just gross. They’re just so different. Violence and realism, like on Breaking Bad, is frightening. That episode where they go through the jail, killing everybody, I found so disturbing. I had to turn off the computer and walk away because it was just way too disturbing for me. The realism frightens me more than the bubble gum-y, heightened stuff.
SEVIGNY: Oh, it was amazing! I’m so in awe of that woman. She has this really commanding presence. She’s very still, yet very commanding and very sexy. It’s a really powerful thing to be able to have. Just being around her and being in that scene with Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe and Jessica just made me feel so powerful, as a woman and as an actress. It was just very palpable. That pretty fun. And Jessica really shaved my head. She was rubbing my head with her nails, and I was like, “Oh, you can touch me, all day long!”
Your character is the nymphomanic of the asylum, but she hasn’t been too wild and crazy yet. So, on a scale from 1 to 10, how crazy would you say your character gets, during your time on the show?
SEVIGNY: Probably a 10, but not in the way you’re expecting. You have no idea! It gets really insane! I couldn’t believe it! I would find myself sitting there thinking, “Is this happening, right now?! Am I here?!” It gets really crazy!
What can you say to tease what’s coming for your character arc?
SEVIGNY: I don’t know how to reveal something, but not reveal something. That’s so hard. But, she goes through a very huge transformation. I’ll put it that way.
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have explored themes of homosexuality quite a bit. Is your character’s behavior restricted only to the male orderlies and patients, or does she have interactions with the women, as well?
SEVIGNY: No, just the men. She likes some you know what.
How did you react when you saw what the Bloody Face make-up would look like?
SEVIGNY: I never saw it in person. I saw some photos. The whole serial killer thing is pretty disturbing.
Obviously, the way this show is set up, no matter what happens to your character this season, you could come back as an entirely different character next season. Would you be interested in returning?
SEVIGNY: Oh, my god, I hope so! Ryan teased that, and I was like, “Don’t tease me, unless you’re going to come through on your promise!” I want to come back and work with this cast again, or at least some of them. It’s a great gig. What actress wouldn’t want to do it? It’s so much fun! You get to be in this heightened environment. It’s a dream.
SEVIGNY: No, I never would have. That was part of the appeal. I read it and was like, “I could never have seen this coming, or envisioned something this outrageous and crazy,” and yet it was still so grounded. Her relationship with the children was so real and it was so moving. There were all these different elements that just made it so great. I couldn’t resist trying. Those kinds of roles are once-in-a-lifetime. It’s a shame, but it’s true. They don’t come along that often. It was so challenging, being in England and the accent and pulling off being a boy and doing all the physical stuff. It was all these elements together that made it this challenge that I couldn’t resist.
Have you intentionally worked to find some of the really unexpected roles that you’ve done?
SEVIGNY: It’s just how things have played out. They came to me with Hit & Miss. I don’t know why. But, I’m really proud of my career, thus far, and how it’s gone. Now, I’m afraid that all of this unexpected stuff has become expected. I should do something that’s totally straight and down the middle, and that will really shock people. I have to do the reverse now.
What attracted you to doing a role in Lovelace?
SEVIGNY: That’s just a cameo. That’s not really even a role. It’s one scene with Amanda [Seyfried]. Amanda’s my friend and it’s her movie, so they asked me to come do it to help them out. It’s a great part for her. I’m excited to see the movie. I think she’s going to be great in it.
Do you know what’s next for you?
SEVIGNY: Well, I just did Portlandia, which is a show I love. I’m doing this show, called Doll and Em, for Sky in the U.K., that’s a comedy for Emily Mortimer that she wrote with her friend, Dolly Wells. That’s just a one episode thing. And I did Louie, for one episode. I’m doing a small part in this indie movie, called Electric Slide, with Jim Sturgess. And I’m just trying to find the next thing.
Are you enjoying getting to do some comedy?
SEVIGNY: It’s super fun. Although, I think (my character) on Big Love was really comedic. They wrote her a lot of the zingers. But, it was super fun doing Portlandia. It was really light and everybody had fun on the set. It was a real nice break after Hit & Miss, I’ll tell you that much.
Is there a dream role that you’d love to do, if given the opportunity?
SEVIGNY: I would love to do a sweeping romantic period drama, like Jane Eyre. That would be my dream. It’s always been my dream, as far as acting. It just hasn’t come to fruition yet.
American Horror Story: Asylum airs on Wednesday nights on FX.