One might have thought the biggest piece of news American Horror Story: Coven had for us this weekend was the casting addition of season one’s Alexandra Breckenridge, but that was completely overshadowed by the series’ Friday panel for the Television Critics Association summer press tour, where a slew of details about the upcoming seasons were finally revealed, covering everything from characters to the overall tone. Luckily, The Hollywood Reporter summed it all up nicely.
Ryan Murphy wasn’t present for the event, as he is caught between the New Orleans production for AHS and a New York production for the AIDS drama The Normal Heart, but producer Tim Minear was on hand with stars Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett. While much attention has been given to Bates calling out NBC for treating her highly rated dramedy Harry’s Law “like shit,” we’re more interested in fictional horror stories.
Bates will play Louisiana socialite and serial killer Marie Delphine LaLaurie, or Madame LaLaurie as she was more commonly known, notorious for kidnapping and torturing a number of black slaves to death in the first half of the 19th century. Coincidentally, Bates’ grandfather was a personal physician to Andrew Jackson, whose residence was next door to LaLaurie. I don’t know what to say about that.
Lange will play a witch named Fiona, the mother to Paulson’s Cordelia. And yes, Minear says it’s a direct reference to Shakespeare’s King Lear.”We move back and forth in time,” Lange said. “It encompasses a lot of different stories. I’ve shot two days so far…I don’t know who the character is yet. It comes in dribs and drabs.”
Angela Basset will be playing another real-life character, Marie Laveau, the famed New Orleans voodoo practitioner. “It’s been interesting being in New Orleans, there’s such a regard and respect for who she was,” the actress said, noting that a handful of voodoo enthusiasts have offered their assistance in helping her understand the character, should she need it.
Minear points out there are two kinds of witches in the world, and says this series will also focus on witches fleeing Salem and migrating south, creating about as many mainstream roles for females as any show I can think of. (This season's cast also includes Frances Conroy, Gabourey Sidibe, Lily Rabe, Taissa Farmiga, Emma Roberts and Patti LuPone.) How will that reflect the tone?
“While there is a strong feminist theme that runs throughout Coven this year,” Minear said, “there are also themes of race, oppression and there is a very strong theme of family, specifically mothers and daughters.“ And even with all of those heavy, serious elements going on, Minear still declares this season will be fun. “This year is a drama but there is a lot of humor, and we are embracing a kind of velocity and fun with the series,” he said. “It’s not the same as it was the past two years, but I think it can be more fun for the audience.”
Having covered both seasons of American Horror Story for this site, I can attest to there being some hilariously macabre moments that occur on a regular basis, but I’m not sure I’d call most of it “fun.” But if anybody can make slave torture funny, it’s probably Ryan Murphy. Catch a peek at last season’s most gloriously over-the-top scene below.