It’s been a fun ride so far on American Horror Story: Asylum, which succeeded immediately in making us all forget the first season’s storyline and concentrate on the madness going on at the Briarcliff institute in 1964. Yes, some actors from the original run have returned — notably Jessica Lange as Sister Jude, Zachary Quinto as Dr. Thredson, and Evan Peters as Kit Walker — but the new blood among the cast has helped set it apart.
Two of those additions, Lizzie Brochere and Franka Potente, spoke with reporters recently about their roles, where the story is going, and what it’s like taking part in Ryan Murphy’s unique — and unmissable — creepfest.
Potente has a more limited role, but she looms largely in tonight’s episode, which is the conclusion of the “I Am Anne Frank” arc. She plays a woman who claims to be the famous concentration camp victim, whom history records as having died as a young girl. Instead, Potente’s character says Anne escaped and settled down for married life in the United States, unaware of her legacy until she believed that by revealing herself she would spoil it.
Speaking of spoiling things, don’t read any further until you’ve seen tonight’s episode. Important character details revealed during “I Am Anne Frank (Part 2)” are discussed:
On the Anne Frank element to her character: “I knew the outcome of my character, and obviously, Anne Frank is proven historically, even though there’s a tiny question mark, maybe a little window, she did not survive the concentration camp because she died of typhus or something. But I love the idea and this is what movies and movie magic are about that what if. What if she was still around? She would be my age and what would she be like, and to kind of indulge in that for a little bit until we learn well, too bad it’s not Anne Frank. It’s someone who took over that schizophrenic episode. I know actually a lot of women I guess at the time that did that, but for that moment, to indulge in the possibly, that’s what movies are made of, any movie for that matter.”
On the ambiguity of the characters: “Well, that’s the fun of it of course. It’s kind of the Hitchcock moment of is it possible and then you feed the audience in … so that you feed them some seemingly plausible reasons, and within all that madness, anything is possible and this is what I think is great. What that does [is] invites you into a world which the texture of it is like a nightmare, and that’s so well done, and then, we’ve already seen glimpses of an alien. We’ve seen weird creatures in the park and all these things and there’s a lot of things that seems to move around centuries. So, anything is really possible, and I think if you keep watching the show, you’re open to anything, which I think is beautiful. That’s what horror or suspense or this kind of supernatural environment, that’s what you want.
On reacting to Chloe Sevigny’s appearance at the end of last week’s episode: “I didn’t see much of her before I opened the door. I knew she was there. They had to wheel her in because of the nature of her prosthetics and all that stuff. She couldn’t even walk. So, I knew she was there, but I kind of avoided seeing her because I knew it was not going to be pretty and I kind of saved that. But it was horrendous. … It was kind of gross.
On being on the American Horror Story set: “The set is pretty eerie, which is great for an actor because we basically we need to step on and the mood is already created. We say our lines and that’s that. That’s definitely half the magic. They show cool and creepy … statues that they have, that’s all like a proper staircase and everything’s very solid and well built. So, you get to really play with everything that’s there. The first thing that came to my mind when I saw it, I was like if you’re a Catholic, kind of intimidating and dark and strict and regal, very impressive.”
The French actress plays Grace, who takes a shine to Peters’ character and, like him, leads the audience to believe she is yet another wrongly institutionalized patient in Briarcliff. But it turns out, hey, looks like she actually did murder some of her family members. As Brochere answered her questions, it was hard not to notice that her American accent sounds even better than it does on the show.
On what makes American Horror Story so “American”: “Everything is American about it. All the myths and legends and the mythology are very American. I don’t recall zombies as being very European — not zombies, but aliens are not American. All of the imagery is very American rooted. Even the thrill and the excitement of horror is not something that is very French, that we have in France; if that makes any sense. It’s great. It’s fascinating, which also you’ve exported a lot that in horror mythology. … I like it; it’s so exciting.”
On the uniqueness of the set: “It makes the scene. There’s no question about where you are. I remember one of the first days on the set, the first scene was something in the solitary, and I’d be visiting in the solitary cells. When you’re in that hallway with all the solitary cell doors — Ooh. You have no question of where you are. It’s such a particular asylum. It’s such a designed asylum. It’s such an interesting — I don’t know you can feel the whole weight of the metaphor that it represents, you know.”
On how she gets into character: “I think what I worked on the most was that back story you heard, because when we started shooting, we already had the first four scripts, so I had the back story of Grace in the fourth episode. I think that since she was based on this American character, Lizzie Borden, I read a lot about Lizzie Borden. I discovered a source book with her inquest testimony; I loved reading it out loud. I thought she was so smart and strangely fascinating, that character. I don’t know if it helped my acting, but it was necessary for me to know a bit more of that character who was a very important American figure. I had no clue who she was, in fact. I did a lot of — this is going to sound weird, but I did a lot of stretching, yoga and dancing, almost ballet. I felt, you know, you want her to be moving very smooth maybe, and she’s very sexy, so you want her to be moving in a smoother way than I do. So that was a little job, and Grace, I don’t know she’s somewhere in me — apart from that big back story and all that; her sarcasm, her way of seeing life and that little liveliness she has. You know, how she always says amazing lines when you feel like she’s young little Tibetan monk.”
Photos: (Franka Potente) Credit: Byron Cohen/FX; (Lizzie Brochere) Credit: Frank Ockenfels/FX