When the first season of American Horror Story premiered in 2011, horror buffs were terrified and immediately hooked. The anthology television series has been going strong ever since, with its season 8 premiere right around the corner. As an anthology show, each season is different from the previous one. From the haunted house of season 1 to last season's cult, the show seems to tap into the very things that make horror movies and TV shows so much fun to watch. Most of all, though, the series is downright scary.
What's most interesting about the anthology, though, is that the seasons do sort of tie in together, with each having Easter eggs and even references to the series before it. Season 8 will combine two specific stories, bringing back the cast of season 1 to meet with the cast of American Horror Story: Coven.
Although what happens onscreen in American Horror Story is surprising and often disturbing, what happens behind the scenes with the making of the series is equally as exciting. Putting together a show like AHS is no simple matter, especially when working with such a large cast of actors, various locations and a lot of special effects. But somehow, the cast and crew pull it off each season. And each season keeps fans on the edges of their seats with all their lights turned on, praying that the boogie man doesn't get them.
Here are 25 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of American Horror Story.
25 Many of its stories are based on real events and people
Many of the stories in American Horror Story take inspiration from real life. Remember season 1 and the mention of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia? That's all true. Or what about the alien abduction story from season 2? That was entirely based on the real-life account of a couple who claimed they were victims of an alien abduction. Roanoke found inspiration from the very real mysterious lost colony of Roanoke. Delphine LaLaurie from Coven was based on a real woman of the same name, as was the Axeman of New Orleans.
24 Sarah Paulson wore animatronic heads to portray the Siamese twins
One of the most impressive things to see in American Horror Story is the special effects. The FX crew, though, went above and beyond for the Freak Show season of the series, especially with the creation of the Siamese twins, Bette and Dot, portrayed by Sarah Paulson. As Paulson doesn't have two heads, the FX team created animatronic heads that were strapped onto Paulson's body. Paulson had to act different for each part, and then blended the performances to create two characters in one body. That meant that Paulson and the crew worked twice as hard as anyone else on set.
23 The “Name Game” sequence in Asylum was Jessica Lange’s idea
American Horror Story has never shied away from adding musical numbers to episodes, especially when it comes to utilizing the many talents of Jessica Lange. One particularly memorable performance was when she performed that bizarre version of the "The Name Game" song with the asylum inmates accompanying her. Believe it or not, that was not something in the script, but something that Lange came up with herself. She took the idea to showrunner Ryan Murphy, and the two worked together to create what fans ended up seeing on TV.
22 The house from season 1 was first used on an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer
One thing that worked well in the first season of AHS was the house used for the setting. In the end, that iconic house became a character in and of itself, just one of many that led to the creepy ambiance of what happened when the new family moved in. Some fans realized that the house, though, looked familiar. There's a reason for that: in the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in an episode called "Fear Itself," Buffy and her friends found themselves trapped in a haunted house. This is the same house that is later used for AHS.
21 Evan Peters had some trouble getting into the rubber man suit
During the first season of AHS, one mysterious character was a man dressed all in rubber, appropriately dubbed "Rubber Man." The man in the suit is so iconic that he ended up getting used in many of the promotional materials for the first season. One of the men who had to wear that suit was actor Evan Peters. In an interview, Peters admitted that the costume was difficult to put on. The suit was also so delicate that it would tear easily and Peters stated that they ended up accidentally tearing a lot of suits.
20 It took three hours for Naomi Grossman to transform into Pepper
American Horror Story takes its special effects very seriously. The goal is to make each outrageous and horrific creature look as realistic as possible and, in that, the makeup and special effects teams get it right every single time. One particularly impressive transformation was that of Naomi Grossman, who portrays Pepper on the series. Her makeup process was so involved that it took over three hours to create. That's three hours in the makeup chair every day that she had to be on set. Now that's dedication. Interestingly enough, Grossman called the process "fun."
19 Both Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters each directed an episode of the new season
Two of the most recognizable actors from American Horror Story are Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters. Those two have been on the show since the very beginning and have appeared in nearly every season after that. It's apparent that they now have a good idea of how things work on and off the set. Not surprisingly, the two have decided to take up directing for the new season, titled Apocalypse, and it will be their directorial debuts. Paulson will direct episode six, and Peters is taking on duties for an unannounced episode.
18 A scene from “Cult” was re-edited
It's not often that American Horror Story tackles actual real-world issues, but the season Cult did just that, looking at why people follow crazed cults and political leaders. It was the first season that did not have any supernatural elements and, yet, it was still scary all the same. Life is stranger than fiction, it seems. One scene in Cult, though, hit a little too close to home. A scene was re-edited after a tragic event in Las Vegas took place. Now, in that scene, the violence is in the background, whereas before it was supposed to be at the front and center.
17 The intro sequences don’t contain Easter eggs at all
When it comes to stunning visuals, the American Horror Story intro sequences are state of the art, with little teases of the season thrown in for good measure. Fans will scour those sequences and its imagery for Easter eggs, believing that there are some hidden clues thrown in that will give the season away. However, such searches are fruitless. There are no Easter eggs hidden in the intro sequences. The credit sequences are constructed without a lot of knowledge about a particular season, save for what few details the show's producers pass along.
16 Lady Gaga gave Ryan Murphy a gift on her first day on set
Lady Gaga's first appearance on American Horror Story: Hotel was a big deal. Not only was one of the world's biggest pop music icons going to appear on the show, but it was also her first real acting gig. Everyone involved was a little nervous, especially considering Gaga's penchant for the bizarre, which is probably why the series cast her in the first place. On her first day, she was so nervous that she got sick in the car on the way to set. Instead of getting rid of it, she saved it in a bag and then later gave it to showrunner Ryan Murphy.
15 A lot of research went into creating the Hotel Cortez
Another thing that stands out with each season of American Horror Story is just how great the sets are. The set designers and production team do an excellent job of creating just the right background for each story to take place. In the case of the Hotel Cortez, as seen in American Horror Story: Hotel, everything had to be just right. That meant that a lot of research went into how to create the best setting for that season. In the end, the team decided on a look and collected a ton of images from the Internet, and then determined how to proceed.
14 Billie Dean Howard predicted everything
Way back in season one, Sarah Paulson portrayed the character of Billie Dean Howard, a medium who was in touch with the spirit world. The most impressive thing about that character, though, is that now, fans realize that Howard predicted everything that would happen throughout all the seasons of AHS. Not only did she reference Roanoke in that season, but she also describes a box with a piece of paper holding the secret of "the end of the world." That is, apparently, a reference to the upcoming season of AHS, Apocalypse.
13 Although Jessica Lange chose to leave the series after Freak Show, she will return for Apocalypse
One of the most heartbreaking things to ever happen to American Horror Story fans was when Jessica Lange announced that she would not return to the series after Freak Show. She was greatly missed in both Roanoke and Cult. There is some good news, though: Lange will return for the new season, Apocalypse. So it's likely the actress just needed a little break, but now fans can't wait to see what she and her character, Constance Langdon, will get up to in the new season. At the end of season 1, Langdon was taking care of Michael, who had just taken out his nanny.
12 Kathy Bates Baltimore's accent in Freak Show came from the Internet
One of the weirdest things about Freak Show wasn't the freaks, but the accent that the Bearded Lady, as portrayed by Kathy Bates, had. That accent was a source of contention for fans because it just seemed a bit over the top. The character was from Baltimore, so Bates spent a little time with a dialect coach, but a lot of time on the Internet, studying how each word should sound. She said in an interview with Fresh Fiction:
"Then online, I found, if you can believe this, how to speak Baltimorese, and from that you had a link that could go to the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ in Baltimorese, which really helped me prepare every day. Although, I did stay in it for the first - I spoke that way every day. It just got to be sort of ridiculous how perplexing and how people got turned off by it and there were things online, they got two scholars, which I just couldn’t believe."
11 Evan Peters admits that his roles on the series take an emotional toll on him
Evan Peters has been on American Horror Story since the first season. He has played a variety of characters with a variety of personality issues. He has been involved in emotionally taxing scenes, and has to play men who are clearly mentally ill. In an interview with GQ, Peters spoke about how he is generally an easy-going and fun person and how his disturbing AHS roles take an emotional toll on him:
"I'm goofy, I'm silly, I like to have fun. I don't like to yell and scream. I actually hate it. I think it's disgusting and really awful, and it's been a challenge for me. Horror Story sort of demanded that of me."
10 Lady Gaga went all out for Hotel and her first major acting role
Lady Gaga never does anything halfway. So when she took on the role of the Countess in Hotel, she treated it like any other performance, she went all out. Showrunner Ryan Murphy told Entertainment Weekly:
“She’s the only actress I think I’ve worked with who wanted to do more explicit stuff. You write a [scene] for her and you expect a lot of questions. She never did that. She showed up and she was wearing diamond pasties, heels, and a black veil that Alexander McQueen made for her on the day before his death. Then the crew gasped in delight and we were off!”
9 The most challenging makeup job involved Sarah Paulson
American Horror Story has some fantastic special effects makeup. From the freaks in Freak Show to the bloody vampires in Hotel, the series has always set the bar high for how good (or scary) everyone looks. But it was one specific makeup job that proved most challenging for makeup artists, and it involved Sarah Paulson. Making her look like an older version of herself as Lana Winters in Cult was harder than people thought! The makeup department head Eryn Krueger Mekash told Assignment X:
"She had to be seventy-five, I think, and still retain how beautiful that Lana was as well. It couldn’t just be an age makeup. I think we were successful with that. It was just so challenging for [Paulson]. She was in I think it was two eighteen-hour days, and then we recreated it the last day as well. That was, I think, one of our most challenging ones, just because there was a lot of pressure to have it look incredible, and I think we did that."
8 Denis O’Hare isolated himself from the cast and crew during the first season
Actor Denis O'Hare played Larry the Burn Guy in season 1 of American Horror Story. That meant he spent a lot of time on and off set in makeup that made him look pretty scary. The makeup, which took over three hours to apply, also helped O'Hare slide into the character before he ever got in front of a camera. It also made others gawk at him when he was not in front of a camera which took a mental toll on him. In an interview with Screen Picks, O'Hare said:
“I found myself, and I find myself, not wanting to be in public. So when I’m shooting I tend to sit in my trailer alone…"
7 Chloe Sevigny had to be pushed around in a wheelchair
Another actor who had to spend a lot of time in makeup was Chloe Sevigny after the evil doctor took away her character's legs. After that scene, the actress had to wear prosthetics on her legs, meaning that she had to keep her legs bent all day. This made simple things like walking a challenge. Sevigny admitted that while in these prosthetics, she had to be pushed around in a wheelchair all day. She acknowledged that this helped in creating that sense of helplessness as portrayed in her character at that point.
6 It took 8 special effects technicians for the final scene of Coven
The special effects wizards of American Horror Story tend to make everything look so flawless. It sometimes seems as though the supernatural things that happen look so effortless But throw in a little witch-like magic, as seen in Coven, and a lot of work is required. In the final episode, Madison takes a bath, and a fireplace suddenly flickers to life, while bubbles fill the bathtub. She waves her hand and all the candles in the room light themselves. This "effortless" scene took a total of eight special effects technicians.
5 Gabourey Sidibe had a panic attack on the set of Coven
American Horror Story takes a great toll on the actors who portray the roles. The series can get pretty intense at times, even if it is all just "make believe." One scene on Coven, though, was so horrifying that it sent actress Gabourey Sidibe into a full-blown panic attack. In an interview with Parade, Sidibe said:
"During the first episode, there is a scene in Madame LaLaurie’s torture chamber, where she imprisoned her slaves. I went to see the set because I heard that it was really cool. I stepped in and saw those actors in cages and tattered clothes and saw the special effects scars on their bodies. I lost my breath and started having a minor panic attack and, after only a few seconds, I had to leave."
4 One Coven plot took inspiration from Bewitched
Although Coven was a very intense season of the series, part of it was inspired by a much more lighthearted take on witches, the classic TV show Bewitched. One of the most interesting dynamics of Coven was between Cordelia Fox and her mother, Fiona Goode. Ryan Murphy compares that relationship to that between Samantha on Bewitched and her aunt, Endora. His take in Coven was what might have happened if Samantha had listened to Endora and gone dark. What if Samantha had realized that Endora had been right all along? This is what happens to Cordelia later on in the series.
3 Jessica Lange got fed up with her character
Jessica Lange's character on Asylum spent a lot of time punishing people for their bad behavior. That punishment usually involved the end of a cane. At one point, though, the actress had enough of doing that to people. At one point, Lange stood up to the showrunner, Ryan Murphy, and told him that she just couldn't do it anymore. Murphy offered her different kinds of punishments, but Lange stuck to her guns. This is just another example of how AHS takes a toll on its actors.
2 Angela Bassett’s prosthetics on Freak Show took six people
In American Horror Story: Freak Show, actress Angela Bassett played a freak that didn't look like a freak, at least until her clothes came off. When that happened, people were greeted with a third member on Angela's chest. They had to cast a mold of her chest and add paint, which that alone took up to 40 minutes. The entire process took a total of six people. Now that's dedication. Of course, that is what is needed on a show like this: dedicated people.
1 Sarah Paulson will have two roles in Apocalypse
Sarah Paulson has already proved her worth on American Horror Story. She has portrayed a variety of characters, including some characters that have appeared in more than one season. Paulson has even played more than one role during the same season. She'll be doing more of that for the upcoming Apocalypse, although which characters she will reprise are still up in the air. When asked about it, Paulson admitted that one of those characters is Cordelia (from Coven) or Billie (from the first season). So who is the other character? Paulson isn't talking.