How American Horror Story: Freak Show Created The Conjoined Twins

It’s been five months since American Horror Story: Freak Show said goodbye to audiences, and we’re still having trouble getting parts of it out of our heads, such as that clown and those conjoined twins. We assume that the clown’s makeup was created by bringing nightmares into reality, but actress Sarah Paulson shined a little light on how the double-headed twin effects were brought to life.

Speaking with TheWrap during an episode of the web series Drinking with the Stars, Paulson first denied the notion that some people have that she was only acting opposite an animatronic puppet while playing Bette and Dot Tapper, rather than actually playing both parts. That said, she did have to act opposite a puppet head for certain shots, but she indeed played both twins. Here’s how she described the process, which involved creating a life cast of her face.

So they made this puppet essentially. They made two, one for Bette and one for Dot, that I would wear only when the camera was high and wide, so you can see the body completely with both heads without having to do any special effects, which are very expensive. And the show is already an expensive thing to produce, so when Ryan decided to do this, they had to think of a way to do it where they could sometimes shoot across both heads, so having a puppet that was exactly crafted to look exactly like me. Which, I have to tell you is really horrifying because when you look in the mirror, you’re seeing yourself reflected, but when you’re seeing a puppet that has been made to look exactly like you down to every freckle and mole, you’re actually I think seeing what everyone else sees when they look at you. Because it’s seeing yourself outside of yourself, if you know what I mean? It’s beeping weird, I have to tell you.

That sounds downright frightening, and perhaps even more so than most of the intentionally horror-based subject matter that American Horror Story likes to throw at its fans. I can’t imagine looking into my own dead-eyed face for hours at a time. Although if I was getting paid to do it…

As one might imagine, having that separate head there didn’t exactly make the acting experience a breeze, and Paulson agreed that it was one of the hardest roles that she’s ever had to play. She was basically just listening to her own lines and having to play each role in an exact way each time, which would allow her to play the opposite role the same way without screwing up the continuity. It’s already tough when you’re trying to play a particularly nuanced character, but when you also have to worry about how well you’re doing while looking into a puppet head’s eyes, it probably gets more complicated. And then there was that musical performance.

If you’d like to hear Paulson talking a bit about American Horror Story: Hotel, coming later this year, check out the video below.

Find Paulson, Gaga and many other familiar actors walking down long hallwayswhen American Horror Story: Hotel hits FX this fall. Don’t lose your head – either of them – waiting for it.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.