The Politician's Jessica Lange has worked with Ryan Murphy for many years, but there are some things she won't do for the American Horror Story creator. Ryan Murphy has made a name for himself as one of the greatest television producers of our time. Across hit series like Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Crime Story, and Pose, Murphy has kept audiences enthralled with a wide variety of tales across many different genres.
Murphy's latest TV endeavor, The Politician, marks the esteemed creator's first collaboration with the streaming juggernaut Netflix. The Politician takes today's hostile political environment and applies it to an upper-class neighborhood high school election. The end result is like a cross between 1999's Election and 1988's Heathers. The Politician's take-no-prisoners approach may be too abrasive for some viewers, but its scathing satire and deeply developed characters make for a hilarious and touching viewing experience.
While promoting The Politician, Netflix held a press conference featuring Jessica Lange. She's been a staple of Murphy's work for years, having appeared in multiple seasons of American Horror Story, as well as Feud: Betty and Joan. In The Politician, Lange plays Dusty Jackson, a conniving matriarch armed with the dangerous combination of lots of ambition paired with absolutely no shame. She's a delightful and terrifying character, and one of the standouts in The Politician's inaugural season. At the press conference, Screen Rant asked her about working with Murphy, and how their relationship has developed to the point where she would do practically anything for the six-time Emmy winner. However, she corrected us by explaining that there are still things she won't do, even for Ryan:
There are things that, I tell you, I won't do. But we have come to kind of an understanding. For instance, in American Horror Story, my characters never had to... Over those four years of doing that, I wasn't involved in the really gory aspect of that series. I said, from the beginning, I didn't want that. The thing that interests me was the psychological danger. You know, the failings. But I did not want to do the other stuff. And he always respected that. So instead, he would give me, like a Bowie song to sing, which was a great trade-off.
Of course, Lange is referring to her iconic performances of Life on Mars and Heroes, two timeless David Bowie songs that play an integral role in American Horror Story: Freak Show. The horror genre is sometimes dismissed by critics as little more than exploitative blood and guts, but the AHS series has always thrived on using those elements to further their psychological and character-driven themes. It was that aspect of the show, rather than the horrific killings, that drew Lange to American Horror Story, and Ryan Murphy accepted her terms that she not be involved in any of the show's more graphically violent moments.
The Politician doesn't present itself as a grisly horror tale, though there are certainly shocking violent moments sprinkled in for maximum dramatic (and sometimes darkly comedic) effect. The psychological stakes are high and some of the characterization, particularly of Dusty Jackson, would be right at home in the world of American Horror Story. Audiences can judge for themselves: The Politician is streaming now on Netflix.