Mark Consuelos Talks AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM, How He Got Involved with the Show, Its Dark Subject Matter and Working on the Asylum Set

     December 5, 2012


On American Horror Story: Asylum, guest star Mark Consuelos plays Spivey, an inmate at Briarcliff who was first introduced during a rough encounter with Kit (Evan Peters) in Episode 1, and then recently reappeared again in “The Origins of Monstrosity,” where he revealed a perversion towards the seemingly innocent Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe).

During this recent interview to promote his work on the show, actor Mark Consuelos talked about how he came to be a part of American Horror Story, having been a big fan of the first season, how he deals with the dark subject matter, getting into character, what it’s like to work on the asylum set, how his family has reacted to the role, and how much he’d love to return for Season 3.  Check out what he had to say after the jump. 

mark-consuelosQuestion:  How did you get involved with this show?

MARK CONSUELOS:  (Show creator) Ryan Murphy wanted to talk about this particular project, so over dinner, he explained the role and how Spivey was going to look.  We really got into the physical characteristics of Spivey, and he did warn me that he’s going to be a super dark character, who’s extremely demented.  I said, “You understand that’s exactly why I would want to play Spivey.”  I literally said, “Whatever you’re about to ask me to do, Ryan, the answer is yes.”         

Had you been a fan of the first season?

CONSUELOS:  Yes, a big fan.  I thought it was really interesting how they classified it as a mini-series, and that each year would be a little bit different.  I thought that was super smart.  It’s really interesting, for an actor, that you can continue to do season after season and not play the same role.  As an actor, you always want to try new things, so the fact that they set it up so that you can be doing different things each season is great.

With this being such a dark show, how do you protect yourself from taking that character and the tension of the storytelling home with you, every night?

CONSUELOS:  That’s a great question.  As dark as you think the stuff that you’re doing as an actor on the show is, once you watch it, you’re like, “Oh, man, that could have been a lot darker,” having seen some of the other things that people were doing.  I don’t know.  I saw it as such a great opportunity.  I literally had so much fun doing it, and there was excitement about doing it.  I didn’t have that much trouble separating myself from what was going on, on set.

How did you get into character with this guy?

CONSUELOS:  I don’t know.  You just get into it a little bit.  The sets are so amazing, and the make-up and wardrobe are also really specific, that it really, really helps that suspended belief and you get into character pretty easily, on set.  And then, you’re working with some of the greatest actors, ever.  They’re so fantastic.  That helps.  And the directors were great.  What they do on the show, specifically, is set you up to do really good work.  You’ve got a lot of support, all around.

How long did it take you to get that make-up on for this last episode?

CONSUELOS:  It took anywhere from two and a half to three and a half hours, depending on what’s going on.  Whenever they say it’s going to take that long, I’m like, “There’s no way!  What’s so hard about that?!”  But, these guys are definitely artists.  They’re amazing at what they do.  And then, once they get the prosthetics on, they touch them up and paint them and adjust them.  

With the asylum being such a character itself within the show, what’s that like?  Is it intense to act in that environment?

CONSUELOS:  I’ve never been in an asylum, but you always feel like they’re creepy and that there’s this lore about them, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  I tried to watch and do as much research as I possibly could.  I watched this one documentary called, Titicut Follies, that was shot in the mid-‘60s, at the same time this show was set, and that informed me a lot.  It actually made me even more afraid, after watching that documentary.  But, the production designer has done such an amazing job.  Everything looks so authentic and substantial, and it really sets the mood for the show. 

mark-consuelos-american-horror-story-asylumWhat’s the atmosphere like between takes, on set?  

CONSUELOS:  It’s super professional.  The directors have been amazing.  For the days that I’ve been there, the crew is outstanding.  And you can’t get much better than that list of actors.  Everybody’s super professional, and I think they have a good time as well, but they’re there to work.   You would think it would feel super heavy sometimes, but when those moments are happening, everybody is super respectful.  

Were you allowed to give your own input, in the developing of this character, or was it pretty set?

CONSUELOS:  With most good scripts and good shows, they expect the actor to bring some of their ideas to the backstory of the character.  It’s always a good collaboration between the actor and the writer and the director to try stuff out, during the process.  What was really great was that people were open to certain things and they would let you know if that was something they wanted you to do more or less of.  But, on any really, really good show, I think everybody comes with their own stuff and you want to try as much as you can.  I would say that the character was really clear in some of the things that he did and some of his actions, so it made it easier for me, as the actor.  It informed the character and what I thought he would be going through.  There wasn’t really a lot of gray area there.  They wrote him very specifically, which I really appreciated.  But, just because they are very specific about those things, it doesn’t mean that it limits you.  Actually, it makes those possibilities and some of your choices even greater.

Are you a fan of that type of direction, or do you like to have a little bit more definition in a role? 

CONSUELOS:  No, I love the collaboration.  I think every actor would probably say that it’s always a collaboration.  And if you ask directors, they’ll tell you that they expect the actors to bring something.  They don’t want to be thinking for everybody.  This was a hybrid of both.  There was a lot of collaboration, but it was also very, very specific, with an extremely specific view, especially from Ryan [Murphy], on certain things that I thought were really good.  You have to have a specific view and you have to be pretty precise about that.  As an actor, it’s always great to have a little bit of both.

With a third season already scheduled to happen, would you be interested in being on the show again?

CONSUELOS:  Absolutely!  It’s been so fun, just to be part of it.  The whole buzz around the show is exciting.  And then, when it actually starts airing, people absolutely love it.  I got extreme street credibility from my high school-aged son.  He’s like, “Dad, the fact that you’re in American Horror Story is absolutely cool!”  I was like, “Okay, but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for you.”  And he was like, “Dad, come on, I’m a New York City kid, in high school.”

Are you hoping that American Horror Story will change how people think about you and that they will offer you more dramatic roles? 

CONSUELOS:  I really love the dramatic roles.  The great thing about this job is that, although it’s extremely dramatic, it’s so much fun.  It is a drama, but it’s not necessarily a procedural cop show.  Typically, I wouldn’t be seen as, or given the opportunity to do, this job or play this character, so I hope that opens me up a little bit to more opportunities.

mark-consuelos-american-horror-story-asylumSince this is very different than what most people have seen you in, how have your family and fans reacted to this role? 

CONSUELOS:  I think it disturbed my wife a little bit, in a good way.  She’s hooked on the show and she finds it so disturbing, even though she can’t look away.  She wants to look away, but she can’t look away.  And I have one 15-year-old son who loves the genre and he’s been watching it, too.  I’m on the fence about whether or not he should be able to watch it.  And the fans have responded really, really well to it.  They’re appreciating and enjoying it. 

How does it feel, knowing that you’re doing a role that your son can really love and be proud of and tell all of his friends about?

CONSUELOS:  As a father, you immediately become uncool, especially the older they get.  The older you get, it’s inevitable that, as cool as you think you are, you’re probably just as lame in your kids’ eyes.  So, the fact that he really likes it, and he really likes the horror genre and some of the sci-fi stuff as well, it’s cool.  I’ve been enjoying the conversations with him.

You have an ABC comedy that you’re going to be producing with your wife, Kelly Ripa.  Do you prefer producing because it gives you more control over the final outcome, or do you prefer acting?

CONSUELOS:  Oh, gosh, I guess it depends on the project.  There are certain projects that you love to be involved in, no matter what the capacity, and there are certain projects that I probably wouldn’t even consider getting behind.  Just to come in and act is a lot easier, but I like aspects of both.  For a couple of years, I focused more on producing because I wanted to be close to home, after traveling a lot for work.  Now that the kids are a little bit older, I’m enjoying acting again and taking these jobs.  This particular job for FX, I would travel one day, work one or maybe two days, and then be on the red eye home.  A lot of the time, I was only gone for two to three days, which is perfect for having a family in a different part of the country.

American Horror Story: Asylum airs on Wednesday nights on FX.