American Horror Story: Coven: 10 Highlights from PaleyFest 2014

by | March 31, 2014 | Comments

American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy mentioned during the PaleyFest panel on Friday, Mar. 28, that executives had tried to temper his expectations when it came to the ratings of their third mini-series Coven. He implied that they were expecting lower numbers for this series that was mostly “more niche.” Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, as the finale was the season’s most watched episode, and Coven itself the most watched of the American Horror Story series. It’s no surprise that Friday’s panel was packed to the brim with people who love the show — and the only people having more fun than the fans were the cast and crew on stage.

1. Kathy Bates’ head was the guest of honor.
Angela Bassett gracefully brought Kathy Bates’ severed head on a platter out to join her on stage. Just when the audience thought that they had seen all they would of Bates, she came on stage in the flesh. Bates gave her head a kiss, and then showered her cast mates and crew with kudos. Not that Coven is an easy show to be a part of — Bates mentioned that when she had the pleasure of meeting President Barack Obama, she thought “Dear God, I hope he hasn’t seen our show.”

2. The cast is back for next season.
Most importantly, the big news about next season is that all of the cast of Coven will return for Freak Show in some capacity. Joining the cast for the first time is The Shield‘s Michael Chiklis as Kathy Bates’ ex husband and Evan Peters’ father. The next mini-series takes place in 1950s Florida, where, as Murphy quipped, “all great things happen.” Chiklis said he “can’t think of a better way to come home to [the network] FX” and that “we’re going to scare you.” The cast at the event warned Chiklis that he’s in for a crazy ride, telling him to “strap in.” He admitted he was terrified and excited to do it.

3. AHS takes the less-obvious route.
When asked “why witches?” Brad Falchuk explained that they enjoy telling the less-obvious story behind the genre. Since witches implied a female-centric storyline, Falchuk said that the story became less about magic, and more about mothers and daughters. With Freak Show, we should expect the same type of storytelling.

4. Frances Conroy is fearless in a unitard.
To film the scene right after she is burned at the stake, Conroy said she was very cold in her burn-patterned unitard. The dogs that appeared to be gnawing on her remains were actually eating kibble that was scattered right next to Conroy’s body. One dog was too enthusiastic and refused to leave despite the dog whistle, and they had to re-shoot the scene several times so the dog would exit properly.

5. Coven was meant to be a huge departure from Asylum.
Since Asylum was so dank and nasty, Coven was purposely made elegant and decadent, with gorgeous art direction and camera work. Murphy called it “refreshing” to be able to reboot the season each year aesthetically.

6. It’s good to be a man on the set of a mostly-female show.
Denis O’Hare and Evan Peters both agreed that not having lines means that you’re always ready to go while other cast members are frantically going over scripts. And of course, as an actor, it allowed O’Hare and Peters to really act instead of worry about saying something verbally.

7. Filming in New Orleans is pretty much the greatest.
Angela Bassett cast a vote for Halloween being the best holiday, and locals made sure she knew “not to mess up” her role as Marie Leaveau. Kathy Bates took lots of photos of Southern Decadence and Sarah Paulson playfully admitted the cast was “drunk a lot,” which she quickly recanted. Which leads to?

8. If you’re going to mess with somebody, it shouldn’t be Sarah Paulson.
Gabourey Sidibe captured the entire audience’s attention when she reenacted the night she found herself alone with Sarah Paulson and a girl dressed as “a nebula” on Halloween. The Nebula made a poor choice to glitter-bomb Paulson, who, according to Sidibe, stuck a pointed finger in her face and yelled “Oh no.” Apparently, what was described as a “bar fight” ensued, although without Sidibe’s reenactment skills, the rest remains unknown.

9. Speaking of which, Paulson has a future as a stand-up comedian.
The night began with Paulson teasing that she was “on a cleanse” and just went from there, with her fondly remembering her shark spine cane from Coven, and talking about how her milky-eye contacts were impossible to see out of, making her to bump into walls. Paulson also said that all she really wants next season is a black tooth, a peg leg and maybe a hunchback. Once the laughter quieted, Paulson explained that it’s the fearlessness of AHS that keeps her coming back. For instance, Lana Winters of Asylum is Paulson’s favorite character because it was so challenging to go to the emotional place necessary to play Leah.

10. If you wish hard enough, there might be a spin-off.
Kathy Bates said that having her head as the focal point of part of the season gave them all the giggles. So much so, in fact, that she and Gabourey Sidibe decided they would be game to do a spin-off called “Gabi and the Head,” which Bates corrected to “Queenie and the Head.” Sidibe explained that The Head was an online teacher and that they lived in Seattle. Most importantly, they could have a Mary Tyler Moore moment when Queenie throws The Head in the air like the famous beret.

And sadly, even with much prodding from moderator Tim Stack, Angela Bassett would not share her skin care regimen. Maybe next year?

See photos from PaleyFest 2014 for American Horror Story: Coven and other shows here.

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