Between Gaga’s hive of baby bloodsuckers and the antagonistic and tragic relationship between Kathy Bates and Matt Bomer, American Horror Story: Hotel already had a whole mess of mommy issues before Wednesday night’s “Mommy” episode dove head first into the unfathomable and never-ending agony a parent experiences when they lose a child, especially under nefarious circumstances. Add in the uphill battle Dr. Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) is fighting against the anti-vaxxers of Los Angeles and it is no wonder she attempted to go bloodily into that good night.
Sevigny spoke exclusively with Yahoo TV via telephone about her intense return to AHS, whose wardrobe she envies every time she slides on that beret (again!), and the conspiracy theories about Alex and the Countess being related that have popped up thanks to physical similarities between the actresses, Lowe’s disclosure of an unhappy childhood, and photos of Lady Gaga filming at a spruced-up Murder House with a prosthetic belly surfacing.
This week’s episode was pretty heavy in regard to Alex’s storyline. She mentions her unhappy childhood and reveals why she became a pediatrician, the intensity of her bond with Holden, the utter despair she suffers after his kidnapping, and her suicide attempt. When you signed on to this season, did you know just how intense this character would be?
Ryan gave me a little bit of an outline and timeline for the character and I knew we would be building to this moment. I didn’t know it would come quite so soon in the season but I think generally everything is moving along at a quicker pace than anyone could have anticipated. I eventually have to make very big sacrifices and we wanted the audience to understand the weight of her loss and the depths of her sadness before we asked them to accept what she does in the rest of the season. That way the leaps she makes are justified. I knew that from the get-go. For me it is about trying to find the line where I am playing it too heavy and sad and end up looking silly. We needed her to be grounded so the audience could follow her as a through line in this wild world with all these outrageous and larger-than-life characters. I want her to be more like someone that you know.
Parenting issues are always sensitive subjects and she certainly made some bold statements about how she never wanted kids or how she loved one child more than the other. Are you worried about strong reactions from viewers?
I think she needed to make those bold statements because the turns she makes are so big and brazen as the season goes on. The audience needs to know where she was at going in. I think that opening sequence was supposed to play like she was being honest and pouring her heart out to her family and the psychiatrist, but it turns out it was all being said in her head. She was admitting it to herself more than anyone. Ryan is a new parent and I think he is going through all these new situations and emotions and he wanted to make a lot of strong statements about family and parenting at all stages. Because there was a lot in the episode about Kathy’s relationship with her grown son. The episode wasn’t called “Mommy” for nothing.
He certainly hasn’t pulled any punches about where he stands on the vaccination issue. They have made Alex the voice of the pro-vaccination movement.
He’s trying to weave all sorts of topical issues into his crazy TV show. Wait until you see what happens with my measles case. It gets a little hectic.
She has tried to stay strong for her daughter and her husband, but she has finally come to a place where she is ready to move on as she gives him the divorce papers. But when he starts to panic in the bar, it is obvious she also still loves him.
She cares about her family and her husband, but that isn’t enough always especially after the loss of a child. John has a lot of demons — the alcoholism, the guilt, and so on — which we introduced more in last night’s episode and those really feed into their relationship in future episodes and contribute to why things take a turn.
Now that she’s seen Holden and visited the hotel will she be thrown into that world 100 percent? Does she get to leave the hotel?
She enters the hotel and leaves the hotel. She bridges both worlds for a little while, but everyone who enters the hotel gets drawn in in a way that is all encompassing and we set up the fact that Holden is the only thing that matters to her. Her life, her child, her marriage has already fallen apart.
Given your physical similarities to Gaga and photos that surfaced of her sporting a fake baby bump on set, people are theorizing that Alex is the Countess’s great granddaughter. Can you say anything on that subject?
That’s an interesting theory. To be honest, I don’t know the end game yet. I don’t even know if they know. Maybe they do and they act like they don’t so we don’t bug them for details and it avoids leaks. There’s a lot of secrecy in the world of American Horror Story. The fans are so fanatic and they want to keep surprising them. All of our scripts come on red pages so they can never be copied. I actually like being in the dark. When I get the next script, I devour it. It is fun to be surprised as an actor too. I made my own theory, which I pitched to them when we started, but I am already way off. I could very well be related to her. Anything is possible in that world. I think we are more just kindred. You find out we have more in common than you might think.
Related or not, hopefully she at least lends you a few of her designer dresses.
I am so jealous of her looks can I just say? Straight out of the gate, I was envious when I saw her clothes and jewelry and hair and makeup. She gets to be so glam and Alex is so plain. I get it because in the second season I played Shelly and she was so much more promiscuous and sexy and wild and Ryan wanted to make sure this season is opposite of what I did in Season 2. So Ryan keeps me covered up: no skin, no sex, no heavy makeup.
It must be hard as a fashionista in real life to go to work and be like, “Great another turtleneck and a beret.”
They threw that beret on at the last minute and since I’m wearing it in the hotel at the end of the episode I’m going to be in that beret for a little while now. My beret has become a running joke.
Matt Bomer described the Hotel Cortez set as “the real star of this season.”
It is a great set, so detailed. One of the stages is all of the hallways that lead into the rooms and even though I have been working on it since July, I still get lost. I like that dizzy feeling that whenever I step into those halls I have no idea which way I am going. It really feels like being a guest in the Hotel Cortez and it is then very easy to fall into the character. When she leaves the room and sees Naomi and can’t navigate her way off the floor, that’s how I feel working on that set. It is pretty on the money.
Denis O’Hare had a great line in “Mommy”: “You don’t have to have a résumé to be beautiful. You don’t need talent to be an actor.” You’ve been in this game a long time. Do you think his statements ring true?
I think in some cases yeah. There are plenty of young people who get opportunities because of their looks. Some rise to the occasion and some fizzle out. But for sure 100 percent of the acting business is full of examples of people getting chances because of how they look. But I don’t think that necessarily can last. One of my favorite things about this season is all the commentary about L.A., Hollywood, celebrity, and fame from Denis’s speech in the bar to the murder with an Oscar to Angela’s backstory about how hard it was to be a minority and having to do B movies. Even more stuff plays out about Hollywood lore and the movie business. One of writers, Tim Minear, is an aficionado and they have really exploited his knowledge of old Hollywood throughout the course of the season.
I am assuming that now that Alex is in the hotel you will get to mingle with some of the other actors you hadn’t had a chance to work with yet.
Yes. One hundred percent I have brushes with many characters I hadn’t interacted with previously like Denis last night. I haven’t had an opportunity to work with Finn [Wittrock] yet and I am such a fan of his. Last year as Dandy, I was so impressed with him. And he’s a Juilliard kid and it would be fun because the character is so unpredictable and wild. And he’s easy on the eyes, you know.
You took a break from AHS for awhile. Happy to be back?
Yes. Mostly because the fans are so devoted and excitable and being around something with so much fervor is intoxicating. They are all weirdos, at least the ones I run into, and those are my people.
Given that you worked with Jessica Lange and have again are a veteran actor at this point, were you worried that Lady Gaga, who has never really acted before outside of her videos, was expected to anchor the season?
I thought it was going to be a cameo. I assumed Sarah [Paulson] was playing the Countess when I read the script. It wasn’t until I went in for a fitting that I realized it was Gaga. I was like, “Why is Sarah in that cheap outfit?” I was shocked.
But pleasantly surprised?
Yea. She’s nailing it. Gaga elevates everybody even though she is such a novice when it comes to acting. But she’s a star. She has a presence. She is theatrical, dramatic, a savvy businesswoman, and dynamic, and that comes across on screen. It is an interesting dichotomy because usually when there’s a young fresh actress, she is certainly not commanding such attention from everyone else. And they certainly do not have her knowledge of camera and angles or style. She is so committed to getting this right. She works very hard and I am impressed by that drive.
Watch a preview of next week’s episode:
American Horror Story: Hotel airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.