When Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk bring American Horror Story back for its fifth season — fittingly subtitled Hotel — look for the FX hit to boast another bold new look, but a feel that revisits the first season of the most-watched franchise in the network’s 21-year history.
“True horror fans loved the first season because it really is a very psychological season and it plays with a lot of very familiar tropes,” Murphy explains. “The season we’re doing this year harkens back to the first season, which is much more rooted in honest, primal fears.”
AHS — which has garnered 70 Emmy nominations, including 19 for Season 4 — sets Season 5 in a fictional downtown L.A. hotel. “We built it from the ground up, and it’s taken over half of the FOX lot,” Murphy says. “I feel [it] is our most magnificent set yet.” Falchuk adds that because of its uber-urban setting, the season “feels a little less claustrophobic than others. What’s fun about it is … this is kind of like horror sneaking out of the hotel. The hotel is the center of it, but we’re out on the streets a lot more. It’s much more noir-y and moody in that way.”
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Of Hotel’s most anticipated new addition, pop star Lady Gaga, Murphy says, “Her character’s name is Elizabeth. She owns the hotel, and she is a very wealthy social doyenne who is consumed with art and fashion and people. She has a nefarious plan that is revealed in the first episode that plays out over the course of the season.”
Here’s who else is checking into Hotel, in their own words.
Denis O’Hare: “I am playing Liz Taylor, movie icon. I’m not actually playing Elizabeth Taylor, but I’m playing a person who is inspired by the awesomeness of things like Butterfield 8 and Cleopatra, and eye makeup like that. I work in the hotel. I work in the bar. It’s called ‘The Blue Parrot Lounge.’”
Kathy Bates: “I play Iris. I run the hotel. I have relationships with Matt Bomer and with Wes [Bentley]. Liz Taylor and I have a very, very close relationship.”
Sarah Paulson: “I play Sally. I live at the hotel and I hate Iris for reasons that are revealed quickly. She’s quite sexy. Unlike anything I’ve ever done on the show.”
Matt Bomer: “I play Donovan, who is a denizen of the hotel, closely associated with Ms. Gaga and Ms. Bates and Mr. Wittrock, amongst others. He has very interesting relationships with the ladyfolk in his life. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Finn Wittrock: “I’m playing a male model named Tristan Duffy, who is always looking for the next high. And I, of course, sort of find the biggest high in Lady Gaga. We have a lot to do together. She sees all of me.”
Angela Bassett: “I play Ramona Royale, and I am sexy as well. I have a very strong, real, lasting relationship with Stephanie’s [that would be Gaga] character, so I’m sure I’ll be at odds with Donovan over who gets the girl.”
Chloë Sevigny: “I play Alex Lowe. I am the wife of Wes Bentley’s character, and a mother, and a doctor, and I’m dealing with a great loss we had in our family — among other things.”
Wes Bentley: “I play Detective John Lowe, married to Alex, Chloë’s character. I’m investigating some grisly murders.”
New addition Cheyenne Jackson: “I’m playing Will Drake, fashion icon. He’s trying to creatively reestablish himself, so he moves from New York to Los Angeles and is a little desperate.”
Murphy acknowledges that juggling three current productions — American Horror Story, Scream Queens and the 2016 premiere American Crime Story — in addition to raising two small children is wearying, but he understands how valuable the franchise is to the network.
And to Murphy, too.
“I really love working on it — it’s one of the great joys of my life,” he said. “It’s exhausting when you’re at the end of a season, but I’m so energized by it every year because it does reboot and the actors and the stars are so cool, and I have a real passion for that.”
American Horror Story: Hotel premieres Wednesdays Oct. 7 on FX