American Horror Story: Angela Bassett Q & A

Question: So today it seems like since we don’t have the actual freak shows, we have reality TV.  I was just wondering for you, do you think there’s something kind of in our human nature where we want to see people that are kind of worse off than we are and we kind of revel in that?  Do you think there’s some psychological basis for why people have wanted to see that, apparently, over a long period of time?

Angela: Our human nature?  I think I would tend to agree.  There might be a little of that, where there’s a little enjoyment in the misfortune of others.  Not to their ultimate detriment, but a little bit of enjoyment for them doing worse off or getting into trouble; the whole thing about like, watching a car crash or something, when we slow down, and rubberneck, and look.  I think it might be.  There is, I think, one freak show out in LA, out in Santa Monica, Venice Beach, or something.  I haven’t visited there, but I’ve seen some footage of that.  I think they may even have a reality show themselves.  It’s more like a tattoo thing and a sword swallowing thing.

Question: We wanted to know if your character was based on any real person in real life?

Angela: Well, of that I’m not sure, but I know that there are instances of individuals who have this sort of characteristic.  What they’re called is intersex, today.  In 1950s, of course, the term was hermaphrodite, but today the terminology is considered passé, especially in that community.

Question: What was the makeup process like for you?

Angela: Well, I went to an FX studio, FX office and about, let’s see; I think it was three women and three men that took to cast a mold of my chest area and then attempt to get the color right, you know, the color, the tone, that sort of thing.  Of course, the tone is very difficult and it still takes about 30, 40 minutes to paint it once it’s applied.

Question: Can you also talk a little—this is an unbelievably talented ensemble cast, but even Michael said he was absolutely blown away.  He said it was insane.  Can you talk about what that’s like?  It’s a very incredible collection of all-star talent assembled for one show.

Angela: That was one of the prevailing reasons for me joining the cast.  I couldn’t believe I’d get an opportunity to work with Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates in a lifetime, especially at the same time.  It’s wonderful.  In some years, I mean, well, last year most of my scenes were with Kathy and Jessica.  This year, mostly Chiklis and now Emma Roberts and the like.  We’ll see.  We’ll see.  Everyone is just an ultimate professional.  We have a good time.  We have a good time with it.  We all have an appreciation for this crazy world and the things that we’re asked to do.  It stretches us and grows us.  The fact that we get to come back year after year and they fashion some completely new insanity for us to play out is a plus.  It’s thrilling.

Question: You seem to be enjoying the heck out of this role and last year’s role.  I was wondering when you signed on for this year’s episode for Freak Show did you know what the part was?  What was your reaction when you found out what the part was?

Angela: I didn’t have a clue whatsoever what the part might be, what it might encompass when I signed on.  I just knew I had a great time the previous year, and if that was any indication, it was going to be a wild ride.  I think it was about two weeks before I was scheduled to come down to start shooting that I got the, you know, the hot off the press script.  I sat down to read it to see and I remember wondering, “Now, how am I going to know who I am?”

Then you read the stage direction, “African American woman in her 40s, hermaphrodite, three breasts, and a ding-a-ling.”  You’re like, oh, my gosh.  You immediately close the pages, and have to walk around, and process that for a minute.  You’re thinking, “What does that mean?”  Oh, my gosh.  If they thought I was crazy demonic last year, what are they going to think this year?

Question: So then, did you call Ryan up and say, “oh, my God, Ryan?”

Angela: No.  I wasn’t scared like that.  No.  I just knew that it was absolutely going to be something that I had never done before.  What does an actor crave, but new challenges?  This certainly was going to be one of those.

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