AwardsLine Editor Christy Grosz, Managing Editor Anthony D’Alessandro and contributors Paul Brownfield and Thomas J. McLean assist with Deadline’s TV coverage.
Lead acting mini/movie nominee Jessica Lange (American Horror Story: Asylum) and supporting acting hopefuls Sarah Paulson (also for American Horror Story: Asylum) and Scott Bakula (Behind The Candelabra) share thoughts on their characters, shows and nominations.
AwardsLine: What attracted you to American Horror Story: Asylum?
Lange: I have to admit that the horror genre is not something I am a fan of. Really, what drew me to it was the description of the character and what I knew (creator Ryan Murphy) would write for me, what I would be given to play. So that, more than anything, was why I signed on for the first season. Then, along the way, we started talking about the story for the next season, which I found even more interesting, because of the overarching themes, which seemed more powerful to me, dealing with things that I love delving into—madness and a kind of failed life, retribution, redemption.
AwardsLine: Why do you think Sister Jude resonates?
Lange: She’s a character filled with despair and regret. Right away, if you start from that, there’s a lot of material to work with. At her heart, she’s been misguided by the promise of redemption through religion. I think that’s an issue and a theme that we see a lot these days, whether it’s in politics or religion or whatever: The belief in something that proves to be false; and not just false but duplicitous. In some ways, (she’s) a very sad and desperate woman who’s looking for some kind of redemption and finally does find it through these children at the end. That is a very powerful statement because that, to me, is where we do find redemption: In our children, in the next generation, in the possibilities.
AwardsLine: Was your accent something that was part of what Ryan wrote for you?
Lange: That was something that he had in mind from the beginning. I had never done that (accent) before. At this point in my life and my work, I just want to try things that I’ve never done before, (things) that force me to step out there and be brave.
AwardsLine: For the second season in a row, Emmy voters have hooked onto American Horror Story. Why is that?
Paulson: What (creator) Ryan Murphy does so brilliantly with our show is story. It’s not about the blood, guts and gore. That’s all ancillary to the story, which is about people, their plights, trials and tribulations. You get invested in the characters themselves. Yes, you’re on this avant garde, dark, twisted journey, but when you have 13 hours to tell a story, you make an investment. There’s going to be a payoff. The genre is secondary to the story.
AwardsLine: What’s your take on awards season in general?
Paulson: For someone like me, who has wanted to be an actress since she was in the womb, it’s hard not to be busied by the child fantasy of it all (the Emmy nomination). I can’t believe it’s happening to me, but at the same time, it’s about the work. In the end, the acknowledgement by my peers makes me feel honored, humbled and lucky. I essentially put my head down, am grateful and drink as much champagne as possible.
AwardsLine: What was it like as an actress to change roles in Season 2?
Paulson: Playing a different person each season is the most desirable thing about the gig. I like the whole idea of jumping from one character to another. (Entrapped reporter) Lana Winters in Asylum is the opposite of (clairvoyant) Billie Dean Howard in Season 1. I’m not liable to get sick of playing the same character; there’s no way of me getting tired, especially with this great group of actors. We don’t have to get stuck in a rut.
AwardsLine: You did several seasons of more introspective work on TNT’s Men Of A Certain Age, a character-driven show. Yet you’re nominated for a smaller role in Behind The Candelabra.
Bakula: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised to be nominated. But I’m delighted to be. It’s a strange, odd thing, these awards. There were several performances in Candelabra that could have been nominated. There are obviously great performances all across the board that could have been nominated. Five of us got in there. I’ve been saying, “OK, so who had me in the office pool?”
AwardsLine: I read that you had a hard time keeping a straight face on set.
Bakula: The story is so painful and yes, funny and over-the-top and crazy. I started laughing in the costume fitting and probably never stopped because it’s a trip down memory lane for those of us who were around back then. And things you never thought you’d see again, fabrics you thought you’d never touch again—that still defy science—are on your body.
AwardsLine: TV has gone through big transformations, artistically and commercially. Is that how you’re experiencing it as an actor?
Bakula: The way Behind The Candelabra got made, the way it turned out on HBO, the fact that no studio would take it and release it is another sign of that. And (it was) ultimately the best thing that could have happened for the movie. It’s doing tremendous business in theaters outside of the country. We’re not just limited to four networks telling us what works. For me, specifically, it’s a great time.
Related: EMMYS: Movie/Miniseries Overview