Q&A: Ryan Murphy
Q&A: Ryan Murphy
The American Horror Story and New Normal creator admits he's "polarizing" while opening up about his creative process, how Glee got rebooted, what kind of dad he'll be and his idea for Kate Hudson. Says Murphy: "You either love me or you hate me."
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: You've been compared to Norman Lear. What does it take to be a provocateur now versus in the 1970s?
Ryan Murphy: He's one of the greats, and we've talked about it a bit. But I never think I'm creating anything controversial, and I'm always surprised when it is. I'll admit, when I first started and was doing Nip/Tuck, I was really trying to sort of make a statement about hedonism and narcissism and sexuality, and I spent half my day fighting battles on that show. I had huge standards problems, and I'd have big fights with [FX's] John Landgraf, whom I love now, and Peter Liguori. Now I never fight.
THR: What changed?
Murphy: I'm less interested in shocking now. Being emotional is more interesting to me. It's funny because I don't get as many standards notes as I used to. I guess what I'm interested in is what has become much more personal to me and thus much more heartfelt and maybe less scandalous. Also, I find that in television, the true taboo is never violence, it's sex, and I'm writing less about sex and more about love at this point.
THR: Which of the characters that you write are most like you?
Murphy: The New Normal is sort of based on my life, so [actor] Andrew Rannells is clearly me, and we have him say things that I say. But I feel like people love Andrew much more than they love me, so he's helping my rep there. [Glee's] Rachel [Lea Michele] and Kurt [Chris Colfer] are very clearly based on me, and Jessica Lange this year on American Horror Story is very much in my childhood obsession with Catholicism and trying to be without sin and failing and my journey through that. By the end of a season, I've always learned something about myself.
THR: Are you aware of how much of you is in the writing while you're in process?
Murphy: What I like to do is to figure myself out through those characters. Like, why did I do that? Or, what was I trying to do there? It's cathartic, and I like to sort of give myself sometimes happy endings that I wish I had had. Like with Kurt's dad on Glee. My father died last year, and I had always wanted that relationship. Now I look at my father, and I feel like I've got to forgive him for some stuff.
THR: You've talked about wanting to have a child. What kind of father will you be?
Murphy: Yes, hopefully sometime next year. I think I'll be incredibly fun and overwhelmed and all about manners. People always say when you have a child it brings you back to when you were a kid, and I'm excited to do that. I had a very rocky, difficult, emotional childhood with my parents. And then I'm excited to have somebody or something come in and say: "Really? I don't care what you think. I'm going to do what I want."
THR: Your next project is Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart, about the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in early 1980s New York, which you pursued aggressively. Why?
Murphy: It was a property that I paid for out of my own pocket and then I fought to get it made. It scares me because I came of age sexually in the early 1980s, and I lost so many friends, and so it means a lot to me. I really want young people to know what it used to be like and how that disease is still with us in a very deadly, horrible way. Larry and I have been working on this script for a year and a half, and every page has some sock to the stomach emotionally. There's a three-page scene in there that I can barely read, let alone direct, which is about what it's like to be a caregiver when somebody's dying and throwing up and having diarrhea in your arms.