Ready for a little hocus pocus? The new season of "American Horror Story" will be looking to put a spell on you this Halloween.
Season 3 of FX's spooky horror drama, subtitled "Coven," promises a time-tripping tale of witches and voodoo priestesses set in the heart of New Orleans. And the already stellar cast is getting a big boost from two award-winning actresses: Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett.
Bates and Bassett joined "AHS" veterans Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson and executive producer Tim Minear on a panel at Friday's Television Critics Association summer press tour. They couldn't say much about their "Coven" characters, since they just began shooting last week, but we still managed to wrangle a few juicy details out of them.
Starting with this: Paulson and Lange, who dueled as mental patient and Mother Superior last season on "AHS: Asylum," will play daughter and mother on "Coven." Lange is definitely a witch, with Paulson playing her possibly witchy daughter Cordelia. (And yes, the "King Lear" reference is intentional.)
Bates plays Madame LaLaurie, a notorious 19th-century socialite who tortured and murdered black slaves in Louisiana. And Bassett's character is rooted in history, too: She's Marie Laveau, a voodoo priestess who also lived in 19th-century New Orleans. (So if you want more spoilers, brush up on your New Orleans history.)
Minear said "Coven" will have "themes of race and themes of oppression… a very strong theme of family and, specifically, mothers and daughters… along with laughs, scares, and a few tears." Sounds like an intoxicating brew to us.
More tidbits from the "American Horror Story" panel at TCA:
NBC executives had better hope Kathy Bates doesn't have a voodoo doll of them. When asked about returning to TV after NBC canceled her legal drama "Harry's Law," she replied flatly, "I don't want to give them any airtime." Then she unloaded: "I think they treated us like s---. They kicked us to the curb. I think they disrespected us. I think they disrespected our 7 to 11 million viewers every week. And I think they're getting what they deserve." Yikes... note to self: Don't mess with Kathy Bates.
Both Bates and Bassett sang the praises of "AHS" and its ability to showcase great performances. Bates said she personally lobbied Lange for a role: "I went out for a drink with my friend Jessica after seeing the first season and said, 'You've got to get me on that show'… You just kind of get like a little kid. You want to play, too." Bassett said Lange's presence on the show was a "tremendous influence for me" and calls "Horror Story" "an actor's dream."
Can a show as dark as "American Horror Story" really be considered "fun"? This season, it might be, with Minear hinting that "the fun quotient is higher this year… There is a lot of humor, and we are embracing a kind of velocity and fun with the series this year." To be fair, that "Name Game" musical number from last season was pretty fun; they just need one of those a week, and we'll be satisfied.
"Coven" is not only set in New Orleans; it's shot there as well, and Minear says that's because of one actress in particular. "Jessica wanted to go to New Orleans," he quipped, before adding, "It made sense to shoot there, because of the history of voodoo." Lange admitted, "I've been in love with New Orleans for a very long time... It has a kind of power. It has a sense of history. There's something about New Orleans that will inform all our characters, inform this story, inform the writing, everything."
More "Horror Story" veterans returning for Season 3: Evan Peters, Taissa Farmiga, Lily Rabe, Frances Conroy, Denis O'Hare, and Alexandra Breckinridge. And Minear says there may be even more on the way: "Last year, we didn't plan for Dylan McDermott to come back as that character. But by the time we got to it, it just made sense." You hear that, Connie Britton? Keep your cell phone close by; we'd love to see you in a pointy black hat casting a hex down in N'awlins.
"American Horror Story: Coven" premieres in October on FX.