Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched American Horror Stories' first two episodes, so be warned!
For American Horror Story's first official spinoff series, co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk brought fans back to where it all began: Murder House. It wasn't the franchise's first return trip, to be sure, and it only featured one AHS Season 1 cast member in Celia Finkelstein's Nurse Gladys, but it was still a glorious revisiting all the same. The episode featured the return of Rubber Suit Man, the introduction of Sierra McCormick's Rubber Suit Woman, and also brought famed model and musician Paris Jackson into the mix, along with Schmigadoon! star and Broadway great Aaron Tveit.
Considering how well both Paris Jackson and Aaron Tveit fit into American Horror Stories' two-part premiere, it's a wonder neither has been part of the flagship series. It sounds like it was a match made in genre heaven for Jackson, though, as she told CinemaBlend that she is quite the gore-hound when it comes to her horror fandom, saying:
I've always been into horror, specifically gore. I think I've watched The Fly maybe three times just in the last few months. Hellraiser 1 and 2. Hostel is one of my personal favorites. And I mean, I love gore so much that, before American Horror Stories was in the books, I wanted to do something gory so bad that I just made a music video to one of my singles where my heart gets ripped out of my chest, and there was blood everywhere. I just love it so much.
It was around two months after Paris Jackson released the aforementioned blood-soaked video for her single "Let Down" when she auditioned for American Horror Stories. After not hearing back for a while, though, she just assumed she didn't get the role, which was a bit of a dream-crusher, considering she'd been an American Horror Story fan since her high school years, but she knew it was part of the business. However, those dreams weren't crushed forever, as she obviously did indeed land the role of the love-torn bully Maya. And when I asked Jackson if she was pumped to join Murder House's lore as a Rubber Suit victim, the glee was palpable. In her words:
Yes, 100%. I totally geeked out and was running around the house when they weren't filming. When when they called action, then I was like, 'Okay, professional time,' but when I wasn't needed in front of the camera, I was running around taking pictures and videos, and was just having the absolute time of my life. And then when I found out that I was going to die in the Murder House, I was just over the moon.
And while Paris Jackson was perfectly fine with playing a villainous role in her American Horror Stories debut, she was also perfectly fine with not having to wear the rubber suit for her role.
No. I mean, that that's not really my thing. I like fake blood more than I like latex.
Beyond getting stabbed to death inside Murder House, locking her into what looked like a weirdly domestic afterlife, Paris Jackson's Maya also waded in romantic and sexual waters with Sierra McCormick's Scarlett, though obviously with the proper American Horror Story-esque twists. The more overtly naughty moments were part of Scarlett's increasingly violent masturbatory fantasy, while the more tender romantic moments were part of Maya & Friends' scheme to shame Scarlett via live-streaming. When I asked Jackson about leaning into that side of her sexuality on camera, she talked about how non-intimate such scenes really are, all while praising the crew members and her co-star for putting comfort and safety at the forefront.
Well, this isn't the first time I've played a lesbian on a show before. I was on Star as well. Star was actually the first time I ever had my first on-camera kiss, and that was Brittany O'Grady, who's also an extremely talented actor. But yeah, I mean, it's just like any intimacy thing, I think: it's not very intimate at all. Thankfully, with COVID protocol, there weren't as many people in the room, because it was as minimalist as possible, and everyone was wearing masks. In between every take, we were putting a mask on and rinsing with mouthwash and doing the whole thing, but it was so professional and so, I guess, coordinated that it was just the job. . . . Especially during the sex scenes, it was all just very much me trying to make sure that Sierra was comfortable. She was trying to make sure that I was comfortable. You know, like, 'Is it okay if I put my hand here? Is it okay if I tuck your hair back? Is it okay if I put my hand on your face, on your hip?' Just open communication, and being very professional. And the intimacy coordinator - her name's Corrin [Evans] - she was incredible as well, and just constantly checking on us, making sure we were okay, making sure we had the proper garments. It was a very pretty easy experience.
Considering the narrative-related darkness behind both of those scenes, not to mention the fact that the horror genre has birthed some truly lurid sex scenes, it's definitely great to hear Paris Jackson say it all went smoothly and without incident. After all, it's not every day one is filmed being strangled for another character's kinks, so there's presumably not a textbook way to handle such things.
Episode 2 brought in Graceland and The Good Fight vet Aaron Tveit ostensibly as a contractor meant to help Matt Bomer's Michael and Gavin Creel's Troy renovate Murder House, though things quickly took sexual and hyper-violent turns for his character Adam. (And I have to suspect that Adam's actions were less inspired by the house's influence, and were already bubbling beneath the surface.) Tveit, who has known Ryan Murphy for years, was seemingly just as excited as Paris Jackson to join this franchise as part of Murder House's demented history.
Yeah, it was amazing. There was such an acknowledgement, I think, of what had come before in that place;, obviously in the first season, and then how it all kind of came back around in later seasons. That house is now - I mean, it's kind of always been a part of L.A. haunted lore - but it's now taken on a life of its own because of the mothership show, as it were. I mean, people were standing outside and across the street just to see the house. I think once they knew that people were filming there, the excitement and the buzz that was around it was very, very cool. And our director, Loni [Peristere], I think he'd shot a number of episodes in the house previously. He was so cool, because he was showing us around and kind of giving us his version of the haunted tour of the house. Because the house is like supposedly haunted, right? So he was kind of showing us all these things, and they were sharing all the weird things over the years that they heard had happened there. So that made it very real, you know what I mean? [Laughs.] You're shooting in this place that's obviously so iconic from the show, but that might have some other stuff going on. So that definitely set the tone of the stage very easily.
After being set up as not only a contractor but a side-piece for Troy, Aaron Tveit's Adam discovered Maya & Friends' joyously gross corpses hidden behind the brick wall. But instead of freaking out in the slightest, akin to Abraham Luna's reaction as fellow contractor Martin, Adam's first instinct was to bludgeon Martin to death and then sexually blackmail Michael and Troy. Not that he lived long enough to see his blackmailing come to fruition, as he was soon stabbed in the neck by Rubber Suit Man before he could be properly thrown out.
Having not worked too heavily in the horror genre, Aaron Tveit had quite the experience making his mark with American Horror Stories, saying:
I think I really jumped in full force with my first taste, because I got to commit a violent act, and then immediately had a violent act committed against me. It's nice, because I got my comeuppance immediately, but yeah, it felt like a real badge of honor to work with this amazing special effects team. I mean, they created this whole neck prosthetic; I'd never done any of that before. I couldn't believe how real that looked even when I had it on, so that was a real treat and joy to work with those kinds of craftsmen. Like I said, I've never really done that before, so that was really fun to kind of do that and see how [it looked]. The special effects on the show and the previous shows are always so wonderful, but to see that firsthand was really, really cool.
I doubt he'll soon forget being killed on screen by one of television's shiniest monsters, as it should be. And just in case anyone thinks that his role is a case of art imitating life, Aaron Tveit was amusingly convincing in saying it was definitely not. When I jokingly asked how he would handle a situation where he would enter a sexual relationship only to realize that person might be dead and in ghost form, he answered with:
[Laughs.] I just think the way that those characters were trying to put aside the fact that all the paranormal things are happening in the house, like, for me, I would have been out of there immediately. I wouldn't have even bought the house because of what I heard about it. So the kind of casual nature which they were trying to downplay what was happening, I just can't get on board with. I mean, I would be out of there first glance. So yeah, before even entering into that kind of relationship with one of them, potentially, I would have been long gone before that.
So anybody out there who's looking to persuade Aaron Tveit into something romantic, maybe make sure you take your shot in a location that is not haunted as shit and populated by horny, murderous ghosts. Or any kind of ghosts, probably.
Here's hoping both Paris Jackson and Aaron Tveit will return to the American Horror Story franchise in the future, whether it be in the respective roles of Maya and Adam or in completely different capacities. While waiting to see if that'll happen, be sure to watch new episodes of American Horror Stories when they debut as part of the FX on Hulu lineup every Thursday at 12:00 a.m. ET. And when things get too gory and sexually explicit, be sure to peep out all the other big shows coming to the 2021 Summer TV schedule and the Fall TV schedule.