The second season of American Horror Story: Asylum (FX, Wednesdays, 10/9C) has, if possible, an even more impressive cast than season one – including chameleonic actor Chloë Sevingy as Shelley, a woman who has been committed by her husband for being a ‘nymphomaniac.’
Late last week, Sevigny spent almost an hour on a conference call with a group of journalists/bloggers talking about the challenges of shooting AHS:A and dropping some very intriguing hints about what lies in store for poor Shelley.
Hello, Chloë. Thanks for being on the call today.
Chloë Sevigny: Sure, this is so crazy and so official. I’ve never done one of these before.
My question is you’ve done a lot of themes and topics that have been explored in the season of American Horror Story before in other projects, but what was it that was specifically unique about AHS that drew you to the project?
Sevigny: I guess it was having watched the first season and just being a fan of the show. I just thought it was so rich, the production design and costumes and how much detail went into it and I just thought it was wildly entertaining. I was hoping the second season would be as much so. I didn’t get to read any scripts prior to signing on, so I was kind of going in on blind faith hoping that it would be what I wanted it to be and it’s proven so.
Yes, were you able to work with Ryan [Murphy] with your character and develop Shelley along, or was everything kind of fed to you week by week?
Sevigny: Yes, it was more week to week. I mean I think that’s mostly how television works. It’s a real writer’s medium and it’s not so much collaborative. It’s not like a film, so it’s pretty much all on the page. There were some bits where I asked Ryan for more lines, so that seemed to beef it up here and there and they tried to do that for me. That was probably the extent of it.
This show freaks me out. Each week I’m like not sure I can watch it again for another week. I had to bail out last year.
Sevigny: Last year’s was very scary.
Sevigny: But it’s a different kind of scare last year with the ghosts and the afterlife.
Yes, yes. Some of us are more freaked out by ghosts than psychos.
For the viewer who can sort to steel herself to get through it, what’s the payoff? There’s more there than just a good scare, right? What is it that you think is about the show that makes it so awesome?
Sevigny: I think with this season, he’s exploring different things from the first like you said before. I think there’s a lot of really good … characters; how women are accused of being this, that, and the other thing. I think it’s like they’re wildly represented in the season. As a woman, as a female viewer I like that pitch.
And that is great. I know you’ve talked about working with all these great female actresses in some of the reviews, but I haven’t you talk about what it’s like to work with James Cromwell who is …. I don’t know what he’s doing to you, but it’s really scary.
Sevigny: Oh, it gets much scarier. He was good. I mean I was a huge fan of his. I actually saw him in a café right before we started shooting and I went up to him introduced myself and he just like, ‘I’m so looking forward to chopping off your legs.’ Yes, he was great. I mean you know he was really into rehearsing the scenes before and really exploring it to its fullest, so that was kind of nice. Sometimes people just go in and just hit their marks and he really wanted to work everything out before. He was really … in that regard.
I’m curious what the heck is Shelley’s attitude going to be now in the wake of losing both of her legs at the operating table there.
Sevigny: What’s her attitude?
What’s your disposition going to be; she’s going to be pretty pissed off I’d have to imagine.
Sevigny: I think she’s pretty pissed off. I think she feels pretty helpless and I think in the beginning you’re kind of like not so much rooting for her. You think she’s this bad girl and then see her helping Evan’s character and … character trying to escape and you realize that she’s pretty selfless in that regard. I think after she gets in the clutches of the evil doctor, I think you’re then kind of more rooting for her and hoping that she can escape or find a way out. So I think the character goes through a lot. The audience goes through a lot with the character.
Is that kind of what’s next ahead for her, trying to find a way out of this predicament, given the new disadvantage she has?
Sevigny: Oh, yes, and her disadvantage has only increased.
Sevigny: She becomes more and more helpless. It’s very tragic, actually.
You’re playing a very specific character here, an inmate in a sanitarium and then for your next role you’re playing a driven detective, and that seems like a more grounded part. I’m wondering how you shift as an actor from one role to another? Do you have to shake off Shelley before you play Catherine in Those Who Kill, or you find moving between roles to be an easy transition?
Sevigny: I find it pretty easy. I’ve already wrapped American Horror Story a couple of months ago. I think they might have me come back for something else. I’m not sure, so I’ll have plenty of time and then of course delving into the scripts and research and … with playing Catherine they’ll probably be some training involved also, so just trying to immerse yourself in whatever you’re doing at the time. While we were shooting American Horror Story, I was also shooting Portlandia, so I was going from one set to the next, and I’d never really done that before. And Portlandia was so new for me because it’s all improvisation and trying to be funny and all that, so it was quite difficult when you’re shooting two at the same time. But I think having basically … is a better way to go.
And is Hit & Miss done?
Sevigny: Sadly, Hit & Miss is done. Yes, when I signed on, it was only as a miniseries, so I thought it was only going be a six parter and then there was talk of maybe doing another season. I think we’re just going to keep it as the one.
I was just wondering if you could sort of give your take on Shelley’s character. She’s obviously billed as a nympho, but then there’s that question of whether she truly is addicted to it, or she just likes it more than other people. What’s your take on that?
Sevigny: I don’t know if people truly are addicted to that. There’s so much talk about it as of late. I think that she was a little wild and her husband had it within his power to commit her and I think kind of once she’s in there, she kind of goes with it to come to who she is and how she identifies herself. So I think that she probably yes really likes sex. All the reaction, I don’t know if she’s quite a real nymphomaniac.
Okay, and then if you could just talk about the challenge of acting with no legs or half legs.
Sevigny: Well, the prosthetic pieces that they put on made it impossible to straighten my legs, so I had to keep my legs bent all day and I had to be wheeled around in a wheelchair and I was feeling quite helpless. It was a strange feeling to have to need assistance to do lots of different things. And that was probably the most challenging part, feeling kind of helpless in that way.
What do you think it is about amputation that makes it such an appealing storyline right now? This is obviously…Horror Story is not the only show doing it right now and we’ve seen it twice already.
Sevigny: Really, where else have you seen it?
Walking Dead, Grey’s Anatomy have both done it; Criminal Minds recently did an episode about it, too. What do you think it is about that storyline that makes it so ripe with material?
Sevigny: I don’t know. That’s only the beginning of what happens to Shelley, so I think that he’s, the doctor, at least in our story, I can’t speak on the other shows; I haven’t seen any of them. But in our story, he’s this doctor who likes doing experiments on people. I don’t know how much you know about him or what he does with other patients, but I think he wants to make it so she can’t run away. I guess it’s not even what he does …, and it only gets worse for Shelley. So I don’t really know how it pertains to the question.
It’s just not something we see on TV all the time.
Sevigny: It’s not. I think it’s pretty horrifying the idea of that for a lot of people, so I guess … and also … Shelley and her character.
I’m wondering these intense scenes, if you can give us some insight into preparation you do with James Cromwell, who’s Dr. Arden, and if you discuss the scene ahead of time. I mean there’s such a physical acting involved, also, too, with Jessica Lange. These are not just typical scenes. There’s a lot of almost physical abuse, and if you can give us some insight into your conversations with these actors to prepare.
Sevigny: Well, yes, there’s always a stunt guy on set also, and you go through all the motions. You kind of block out the physical bits, the throwing and the pulling and tugging and if it gets too rough, because sometimes an actor can lose himself in a scene and so you’re always … I always remind them I’m supposed to sell it. Whoever is getting the brunt of it is supposed to do all the acting, do all the selling of the violence and whatnot, so there’s a lot of—especially in the scene in the office with Tim and I, there was a lot of—I think we blocked that scene for like three hours, far longer than it took us to shoot it even just getting all the action down.
I mean it’s quite scary because James was so big and he was wielding this big kind of paperweight at me. He was getting really close and it was pretty frightening actually doing that scene. I was really exhausted at the end of that day, and it was quite scary while we were in it. His arms are so long I was so afraid he was actually going to knock me out.
And with Jessica, I guess we did a little bit more, yes, like she was like in the first scene in the first episode and her and I and she’s shaving my head and she has those old fashioned clippers on me and I had to remind her not to push too hard. I guess that’s it. I don’t know.
I wanted to ask American Horror Story is often described as sort of a guilty pleasure. Would you feel that way about it, or is that something, I mean do you believe that kind of category of TV exists, or do those words…sort of…you never like hearing those words?
Sevigny: I mean I don’t think I would classify it as that. I think that’s more like the Honey Boo Boo and that kind of crap or something. But I’d be more embarrassed …. I don’t even have a TV, so I don’t watch any of it, but no, I wouldn’t put American Horror Story in that category. I think why would you even be embarrassed or why would it be something guilty? It’s great television.
Sevigny: There’s so much … so many great actors and you know. It has a little element of camp, sure, I’ll you that much, but I think it’s a great show. Well crafted.
Do you have any guilty pleasures yourself? Are you … to watching like any shows that just pull you in despite yourself?
Sevigny: No, I don’t like … watch that one ….
I wonder if maybe you could tell us how you initially became involved in the show and perhaps about the audition process for your role of Shelley, if you don’t mind.
Sevigny: I actually didn’t have to audition.
Sevigny: Thank God, because I’d never gotten the role auditioning, I’m terrible at it. No, they just called and said they had this guest spot and they had me in mind for it. Actually Ryan Murphy called me and we spoke for about an hour about the character and about the season and what he wanted to do with her. I’d never seen the show before, and I had to sign on without having read any scripts and I said I already know how to make a decision considering solely off this conversation. So they sent me the first season and I watched that and I loved it. I was hooked right away and that’s when I signed on. Then I showed up and got my first script and that’s how I found out about the character after reading about more than what we had spoken about.
What would you say were some of the initial acting challenges you found stepping into the role of sort of getting into that mindset of Shelley, if that makes sense.
Sevigny: I guess it’s just how far you can push it, you know, when you’re playing like a little bit of a crazy person, you want to know that someone is taking care of you and it’s not going to make you look really bad, you know. So I remember going to the director and saying I know the tone of the show is a strange tone. It’s big. It’s campy, and it is what it is and I said I just want to make sure that I’m not going too far, so you don’t have to rein me in if I start overacting, because they do really want you to push it. I don’t want to be caught ….
I so love the show and you’ve done such a terrific job with it so far. What an excellent episode for you last night. It was perfect and you so beautifully inhabit this character. Is it easy to shake off the intensity of those scenes?
Sevigny: Yes, a stiff drink at the end of the day really helps.
I bet. Is the atmosphere pretty much maintained for every take, or is it everybody just kind of shakes it off and then dives back in again?
Sevigny: It depends on who you’re working with. I remember … was very, it was very light in between and with James, it’s been pretty intense, so I think it depends on the actor and how they work. Me being strapped onto the gurney, I think that maintains a certain something. I have my arms and my legs strapped down, so I couldn’t do a lot of movement. I had to have the art department tucking blankets around me in between each take, and my favorite PA like giving me water, feeding me water through a straw like an invalid. So it was like, yes, that was difficult, but that kind of keeps you in the scene.
And I understand it’s going to get worse for Shelley before …. Anything else you can tell us about that or is it all under wraps?
Sevigny: I guess it’s kind of under wraps, but yes, he transforms her into something else.
Good, so everyone is sort of expecting everyone to die like …. Do you think everyone needs to survive to change up the series this season? How do you feel about where that’s going?
Sevigny: To change it up?
Sevigny: I think it’s so different than last season. I mean I don’t think it really compares with the ghost story and whatnot. Has anybody died yet?
Possibly maybe…, Leo, Teresa.
Sevigny: Oh, God. You really know the show. I don’t know how much I can say because they might be somewhere else. They may be revealed later in the season as something else. I’m not sure. I don’t know what I can say, sorry.
I love reading this weekly interview that Ryan Murphy does in Entertainment Weekly, and he gives some sort of spoilers. He said this week when you see the evolution of what Dr. Arden continues to do with Shelley, it’s pretty amazing. Can you expound on that a little? I know your hands are sort of tied, but any spoilers you can give us would be super amazing.
Sevigny: Gosh, I don’t know. Well, I don’t how much more dialog I have. There’s lots of gurgling.
I know you have it in you just a little bit. What is this evolution that he speaks of? Can you expound on that a little?
Sevigny: It’s just kind of this—I don’t really know how to, I don’t know how to say it. I don’t know how to say without giving it away.
Will we see Shelley in a different medium?
Sevigny: A different medium, no, but you see her transformed into something, something not so pleasant to look at.
Interesting. Okay, last little follow-up question, I know you’re no stranger to all these gritty and controversial—
Sevigny: It’s four hours of prosthetic makeup.
Oh, wow, I know you’re no stranger to these kinds of gritty and controversial roles, but was there ever a moment that Ryan and Brad presented you with an idea or a scene or a line or a moment where you were just kind of taken aback and you had to think about it for a moment, because you were just like wow, that’s intense?
Sevigny: I think when I read the third episode and I found out what happens to her and then when I went to … oh, and then what’s going to happen next and he kind of explained it to me. I was a little taken aback, I was.
Like nothing you had maybe done before in your acting roles prior?
Sevigny: No, absolutely no, nothing I’ve did before and actually while we were shooting, I just laughed myself, I can’t believe I’m here doing this. How did I get in this situation … in an outrageous way.
As of the first installment the asylum itself is sort of a character on the series. Can you talk about how the environment helps you get into character?
Sevigny: Yes, and the smokiness and all of that, well, in the last episode when I kind of knock out the orderly, Carl I think he’s named, we’re supposed to be in the stairwell, but they haven’t built the stairwell yet or maybe they have run out of budget for the cast, I’m not sure. But so the scene was written as like I’m on the stairs and I pull him down, so I felt like it wouldn’t have sold, like that stunt would have been much more convincing that she would have been able to knock him out, that she pulled him down and he hit the side of the tub so conveniently.
For me it was difficult. I kept arguing with them saying I don’t see how she could be such a shot to have that happen so conveniently. So the set can help working for you in that way. I was just being in there and all of the icons and everything. I don’t know, they’re … for people, but the smoke is really irritating.
Are there any other past thrillers or horror films that you drew from when you were creating your role?
Sevigny: I watched Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor, there’s this one scene…one of my lines is pulled from that film, so I watched that scene over and over again … hair, the way they moved and I drew a lot from that one scene, like a three minute scene of the movie.
So what has the reaction been like so far to your role from your family and your fans?
Sevigny: Well, nobody in my family is watching. I know my mom couldn’t watch it. She’s too much of a scaredy cat, but my friends are all loving it. Even last night I got like 100 texts saying like “oh my God, your legs!” I do have like some friends come visit me on the set and stuff and I share photos that I secretly took them on my BlackBerry and everybody is really excited about it. … it’s kind of a fun thing.
This isn’t the first character that you’ve played where you kind of haven’t been sort of sexy or had love scenes in some capacity, so is that something that you’re inherently comfortable with, or do you find yourself outside of your comfort zone with some of those types of scenes?
Sevigny: Yes, I’m not comfortable doing them. I don’t think anybody ever gets comfortable doing those kinds of scenes. You know, it’s what the part called for and you just have to kind of stay grounded in it and think about her and why she’s there and what the circumstances are, why she’s … for her benefit or for the benefit of the others in the hospital to help them escape. And you know you just try and ground things and think about the reasons for why they’re happening.
A lot of my questions have been covered and I was also going to ask you what’s on your TV watch list, but you said you don’t have a TV. So do you watch any online or on DVD?
Sevigny: I do, I do. I watch Netflix, so I watch a lot. I watch Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad and Madmen. I’ve been starting to watch Arrested Development, because I’ve never watched that before. I want to watch Twin Peaks; I’ve never watched that before. But I can’t figure out the Hulu and all that. I’m going to get a TV eventually. I don’t like the way the new ones look …, but I do feel bad watching all of those shows on my computer, because I know all the craft and how much … watch on such a small screen seems like an injustice and kind of not fair to all the people who put in so much time and effort into the shows.
How did you watch American Horror Story the first time?
Sevigny: I watched it at the premiere on the big screen at Paramount.
But I mean Season 1 when you weren’t on?
Sevigny: Oh, Season 1 I watched on my computer. They sent me the DVDs and then secretly I passed them around to my friends.
So of course we’ve seen you in harrowing movies like Kids, Boys Don’t Cry, The Brown Bunny and even Big Love had some intensity. Is American Horror Story relatively light for you by comparison?
Sevigny: Not in what happens to my character, not light in the least. I think it might be kind of one of the heaviest things that I’ve ever done as far as where she winds up.
A quick follow-up here, the last that … and Grace kind of all saw of your character, she was still inside the asylum. Do you think those three could get curious to what happened to her?
Sevigny: You would think that they would actually, but I don’t think they are, maybe the Lana character I think references are made around, but yes, I think they’re all concerned really more with themselves escaping and their own fate. It’s pretty high drama for everybody, so they’re pretty stuck in their own storyline.
So you don’t think anyone will be curious what happens to Shelley?
Sevigny: I don’t know. I mean I’d hope so. I think you’ll see actually someone who does and you’ll be more surprised at who it is. …looking out for her and worried about her.
We know that Shelley was committed by her husband, but I was wondering if Ryan gave you any more back story or if you created one, is that your approach to developing your character to create a back story?
Sevigny: Sorry, could you repeat the question?
All we know about Shelley before the asylum was that she was committed by her husband, but we don’t know anything about her life. Did Ryan give you a back story or did you create one? Would that be part of the … character?
Sevigny: There’s that one little speech when she tells Dr. Arden how she wound up in the hospital. Is that still in the show? I think it is. I just kind of took it from there and imagined her kind of marrying her high school sweetheart and finding herself in a predicament falling out of love sooner than she expected to, or something. He really didn’t get into it with me. I had to create my own, but if that’s more of a direct answer, I guess.
Yes. Is that the way you like to work? Do you like to create a back story to help you develop …?
Sevigny: It depends on the part and like with Big Love, there’s was so much back story and so many other characters that came into play that we really hadn’t charted out her past like her first husband and stuff, so there was a lot of discussion on that show much more. I had a bigger part over five seasons, though. Sometimes I find myself tripping up over my back story because things change so much along the way.
If you could just share with us when you sat down and watched Season 1, I think you said it straight through in like two or three days. What do you think was the scariest—there were so many freakish things. What was the scariest part of last season do you think?
Sevigny: For me the scariest moment was when you realized that the daughter had died. I was really taken aback … when she sees herself in the crawl space and she’s kind of rotted away, that was the most disturbing moment for me; not only because she was a young girl, but I don’t know, just because it was such a surprise.
You have been fantastic on the show.
Sevigny: Thank you.
How much in advance did you know what was going to happen to Shelley on AHS?
Sevigny: I got the first three episodes pretty early on and then I didn’t really know what was going to happen to her until I was reading them. You get like the next episode while you’re shooting one. While you’re shooting the third, you get the fourth, so I had an idea and I wanted to know, but they would kind of give me some … to where they thought, because I think they were still working it out as we were shooting.
So in other words you knew up to where your legs were going to be cut off, so you didn’t know what was going to happen next week?
What was your reaction when you found that out, without spoiling?
Sevigny: Honestly I wanted to have more to do. I called my agent and I said I wish my part was bigger. That’s honestly what happened. That was my first response, but then I kind of let go of my ego and kind of accepted what was going to happen to me and try to find the joy in that and the mystery and the ….
You’ve had such an amazing career, but you’ve done some really original and interesting type roles in the past. How would you say this compares to them in a way?
Sevigny: Compared to them, I’ve never done anything like this before, so I don’t know if it really compares. When you see what happens the next few weeks, it’s like it becomes a whole other thing. It was pretty new for me and that’s what made it so exciting and fun to do. I always want to try new things and … pretty cool.
I wanted to ask what was it like working with Zach Quinto as an actor?
Sevigny: Zach I didn’t get to have enough scenes with. I mean we went out to see… in the L.A., the whole cast and I, not the whole cast, but a few of us. We went out dancing, and I’m such a fan of his and what he does. I loved him in Star Trek and …. I just think he’s so brilliant and he’s so handsome and charming to be around. I wanted to have more—I don’t think we even had one scene together.
You guys were both in the—
Sevigny: We were both at the movie, yes, that’s true. I remember just watching him and … I wish I could up there with him. But when you find out what happens with his character, I think you’ll be happy that I wasn’t near him.
Okay, and then on just on the A&E series you’re doing in Pittsburgh, my understanding is that if it goes to series, that they’ll shoot the series in Pittsburgh. Are you cool with that?
Sevigny: That’s my understanding as well. I don’t know. I have never been there. I’m cool for the fact … hour from New York, but yes, I’m excited to be there. I love being on location, especially in a town like that. I have some of the most fun times like working in Sarasota, Florida or Shreveport, Louisiana and things like that, so I think it will be cool to discover a new city like that.
My question is after seeing, knowing the show coming up onto a new season, which is a whole different take on the show, how do you think it compare to some of the other series that have come back, but still follow the same storyline?
Sevigny: I’m not sure I understand the question. Have there ever been any other shows that come back that don’t—
Well, with Season 1 kind of being its own series in itself, or show, I guess, and then Season 2 being completely different, yet it’s still under the same name, how do you think it compares to others seasons that you know just run the course?
Sevigny: I think it’s maybe a little harder to watch, because you have to discover new characters and get invested in new characters every season. Whereas it’s easier to fall back when you’re watching something like Breaking Bad or any of those where everything is so familiar and you’re falling into it. So maybe it’s more of a challenge for the viewers, I don’t know.
Okay, and then my other question you kind of touched on there a little bit was when you get the script, what’s it like trying to wrap your head around where your character is going to go within that story?
Sevigny: What’s it like, I don’t know, you kind of just have to take what’s on the page and try and make the most of it and fill in all the blanks. I think when you’re playing a guest spot, I think it’s a little harder than a main character—actually, it’s a lot harder, because there’s not as much to work with, so it’s harder to really fall into the character and lose yourself … not such a huge—so it’s harder to lose yourself … there.
I wanted to ask you…does this show any of the storylines or maybe your storyline, does it tap into any of your actual fears that are be seen or kind of what’s being done to people?
Sevigny: I’d have to think about that for a little while, not that I can recall as we were shooting, no.
Okay. And then the song that the nun’s singing song, do they actually play that on the set, or is that all added afterwards?
Sevigny: Nun singing song.
Sevigny: They play that like during like a couple of rehearsals, so we can all hear it, but then yes, they have to turn it off for sound, because it would never map.
Okay, I didn’t know if that was kind of like a constant buzzing in your ears, I guess.
Sevigny: No, it’s supposed to be. It sounds like what you’re playing now.
I’m not playing that.
Moderator: One moment, we’ll remove the music.
Sevigny: Okay. I thought you were playing it. Hello?
Moderator: I do apologize for that.
Okay, and then maybe one more real quick question, your appearance on Louie that was kind of like a crazy just a great guest appearance. Was there anything that you found maybe kind of just kind of horrifying I guess is to kind of do that scene?
Sevigny: Not so much horror, I mean it was horrifying, I was pretty scared about having to pull it off and be convincing and be funny and be everything that I wanted it to be, but he really held my hand through the whole process and took care of me and helped me work it out and how to make it. I haven’t seen that yet, so I mean, hopefully it worked or what I’ve heard, but yes, he was very helpful in that. It was pretty terrifying doing that, the … bit.
So personally even in the spirit of Halloween, I find American Horror Story to be one of the most truly terrifying shows on TV. What do you feel is it that attracts viewers to the series?
Sevigny: I think in general people like to be spooked out. I think horror movies have always done really well at the box office and I think it’s kind of a new thing on television. I think since Hitchcock and whatnot, there haven’t been that many scary shows, but like Walking Dead was huge and now American Horror Story, I think just people are tapping into that.
Absolutely, and you’ve played such a variety of characters over the course of your career. Is there any type of role that you would love to take on that you’ve not had a chance to portray yet?
Sevigny: I would love to do more comedic stuff. I’d like to do some sort of period I don’t know romantic comedy kind of thing, which people just don’t make anymore. Every actress always says she’d love to do something like that, so it’s pretty typical I guess, you know, like a Hepburn kind of thing, you know.
I think it was really a treat for a lot of people to see Adam Levine on the show this season.
I know that you’re wrapped, but just hypothetically which fellow actor or somebody out there who we would know, who do you think would make an awesome asset to the show?
Sevigny: Oh God, there’s so many actors. How do you pick just one?
Maybe somebody you worked with that you could really see lighting up the screen either in a role that’s more normal, like maybe Dr. Harmon from last season, or maybe someone more terrifying like this season, anybody maybe you’ve worked with in the past?
Sevigny: I’d love to see Harry Dean Stanton on the show.
Tell me why.
Sevigny: I don’t know. I think that he is just, he’s just such a presence always on screen, especially in Big Love and he’s so commanding. I think that he could come in and do something really, do something interesting, because he can be very creepy and very sweet at the same time.
Cool, so maybe we’ll see you two up there next season.
Sevigny: I hope so. I’d love to work with that guy again.
I just want to know like how fun did you have playing the resident nymphomaniac? Do you ever shock yourself with the things that you said as your character?
Sevigny: Not so much the things I said, but some of the rubbing of the body in front of everybody else and all of that. I found myself like during that scene where Kit is fighting in the first episode, like her being turned on by the violence. Like oh my God I’m really like going for it with this part, so I guess I surprised myself in that sense, in that scene.
Definitely. And Jessica Lange, you said that she really shaved your head.
Sevigny: She did.
What did you think of your new hairdo and how did you make it work for you after that?
Sevigny: Well, I got to cut it since then. It’s a bit asymmetrical, a bit uneven, but it was better than going in at 4 a.m. instead of six to have them put a piece on, so I just kind of learned to live with it. I had the haircut actually when I was younger, like 20 or something, and it really worked. Now that I’m older, I found it not to be working quite so much.
I have a quick question about the asylum. My understanding you shoot that I think on the stage? You’re not on location, they built that asylum. I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about what the set is like and is it as creepy to be in as it looks on TV?
Sevigny: It is very eerie. They built it; it’s on the Paramount lot. I think that’s where Ryan shoots all of his shows, so like yes, they have all these … around and stuff and art and lab and the room that I’m in in the … also just like that’s kind of what do they call those … I’m still recovering from Halloween. But, yes it’s really creepy, especially when there was no … and everything and just the way they light, it’s very dark, so the way they light it and it’s kind of spooky, long shadows and all of that.
Do you or any of the other actors take a method approach, or are you staying in character while you’re on set? I guess were you staying in character? Is that part of your approach?
Sevigny: No, no, it’s never been my approach … exhausting.
Yes, especially for this character, you would…
Sevigny: I’d be … coming on to every man on the set or something. That would be really degrading.
I know you’ve said before that you were pleased to hear from a friend who worked on Season 1 that Ryan Murphy was really hands-on. Was he as hands-on as you expected in this season?
Sevigny: Was he as much, yes, he came to the set a bunch and like I think he is very much so like behind the scenes, every outfit, every hairdo, everything. We always have to send photos to Ryan and make sure he approves, or if we want to change a line a little bit, it always had to go by him. So yes, every decision kind of goes through him. If we had trouble with a scene, he would come to the set and help us block it and figure out—always make it more interesting or make it work. I don’t know how he does it, shooting three shows at the same time. That guy has more energy than anyone I know, but yes, he was really present.
Did it slow down production at all to have to wait like that?
Sevigny: Not that I can recall ever, no, I think they plan it all out in advance, especially like the makeup and the wardrobe and those kind of decisions .… They give time for him to see it and approve first.
Okay, great. Can I ask how you spent your Halloween?
Sevigny: I was in Palm Springs.
I was freaked out about the last episode last night. All my questions have been covered, but I have to tell that Shelley made me laugh out loud when she laughed out loud at the doctor. It was hilarious. It was crazy.
Speaking of crazy, when you learned you were going to play a nymphomaniac, did you do research? Other than watching movies, did you look for scientific aspects of the disease?
Sevigny: I didn’t. Actually a friend of mine had seen some documentary that he thought would be very helpful and I was going to watch it. But I was like, I was doing a play right before we started and there just wasn’t any time. I was up at Vassar and doing the kind of workshops with the play and there was not enough time, sadly. But I’d be curious to find out more about it.
Yes. And I think Shelley is very intense. Do you have that intensity in you? How do you get into character? Do you connect with her with that true intensity?
Sevigny: Is she intense, I don’t know? I guess it just, yes, just what’s on the page and rehearsing and finding something through working with the other actors and trying to match their intensity maybe, especially with Dr. Arden, James Comwell … and I just have to match that to make it easier for a dynamic.
Okay, and a lot has been asked about Dr. Arden and I know you, like my colleague said you have your hands tied, but is Dr. Arden going Frankenstein or something like that?
Sevigny: Yes, yes, something like that, exactly.
Is Shelley going to become one of these creatures? Like you don’t have to tell, I know you can’t say, but like a hint?
Sevigny: She might be going in that direction.
Okay. Thank you much, Chloë.
Sevigny: Thank you. Thank you, everyone.
Photos courtesy of Fox Television.