By Valerie Milano
As a longtime television critic, I'm granted access to the best behind-the scenes cast and character information from the most high-profile programming in television. American Horror Story: Apocalypse did not disappoint-the hotly anticipated season 8 premiere, tonight on FX, kicked off with a late summer TCA panel and a whole lot of seriously disturbing billboards in Hollywood featuring a devil baby.
At the panel, Leslie Grossman, Billie Lourd, Adina Porter, Emma Roberts, Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, and executive producer Alexis Martin Woodall were all in attendance. Not surprisingly, they had a, ahem, thing or two to say about the end of the world.
"I'm going to say that the story begins with the end of the world, and then our world begins," said Woodall. "Oh, very clever," shot back Paulson. And the discussion was in full swing. Paulson's character Cordelia, it turns out, is still 'reigning supreme' in season 8.
"She is the supreme for now," said Paulson. "At the beginning of our story, that is the title she still holds. I don't know how long that's going to last. And enjoyment is not possible at this particular juncture in this story. She's not running around like her mother, snorting cocaine and throwing young witches up against the wall, though she may like to be doing that."
The return of the characters unearthed much mirth in this discussion. "I actually was told yesterday by the director to be bitchier, which I did not think possible when I was," laughed Roberts. "So it's delicious to get to play her again for sure."
As dark as the general topic may be, this panel was filled with sarcasm and outright humor. It may be that it's necessary. AHS is one seriously twisted series, and season 8 is simply unrelenting in following that self-sustaining tradition. It dabbles in BDSM, witchcraft, and outright Satanic worship. "Dabbles" may not be the right word. Maybe it more likely "revels."
There's even the appearance of that ubiquitous, malevolent "devil child." Woodall says it's best to leave a bit of mystery to the season, and refused to give too much away. "As always, there is a specific mystery to the show that is better unfolded. It is an experience," she said. "And this season is a very different show for us as always, and it's a great experience. And so, unfortunately, I can't give you specifics about what the devil child will do." But, it goes without saying, it's not pretty.
Pretty or no, the cast isn't holding back in their praise of working with one another. As with season past, there is a cultish snarkiness pervading each episode. Enjoyment oozes from each scene, each interaction; particularly among these strong female cast members.
"We all have so much fun," stated Roberts. "I mean, I love working with these women. When they asked me to come back this year, I was like, 'Oh, my God, to get to work with all of these incredible women, some for the first time, and some again, is so much fun.' I mean, you would never know. You see the clips, and we are covered in blood, screaming, crying, and in between we're like, 'Hey, what's going on,' there's just so much laughter on this set and ridiculousness, and then, you know, when they call "action," obviously, you see that moment; but there is a lot of fun and a lot between all of us, and a lot of support. And I know...that was what made me so excited to come back."
What is it, then, that makes viewers on the receiving end of AHS so excited to come back, season after season, as though they themselves were as immersed as these actors on a set?
It's likely the abundance of campy brilliance that simply defines each episode; it harkens back to classics like The Twilight Zone,
The X-Files, or even
Tales From the Crypt.
AHS will live on in the annals of great television horror, because even in its seniority, it continues to shock, mortify, and shamelessly entertain. It's not afraid to "go there," and that's a horror tradition that television cherishes.
AHS: Apocalypse premieres tonight on FX, 10:00 PM PST.