'American Horror Story' guest star Franka Potente talks about what's next for 'Anne Frank'
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the "I Am Anne Frank, Part 2" episode of "American Horror Story: Asylum." Please stop reading if you don't want to know what happens.
Last week's episode of "AHS," "I Am Anne Frank, Part 1," featured the usual "AHS" complement of disturbing imagery and plotting: Kit and Grace get busted for having sex in the kitchen; Lana undergoes aversion therapy for her "illness" that involves touching a stranger and throwing up a lot; and Dr. Arden's experiments on Shelley take a gruesome turn.
But the centerpiece of "I Am Anne Frank, Part 1" is…Anne Frank. Franka Potente ("Run Lola Run," the "Bourne" films) guest-stars as a disheveled but determined patient who insists that she's the famous diarist -- and that she recognizes Dr. Arden from Auschwitz, where he went by the name Hans Gruper and performed Mengele-esque experiments on female prisoners.
The idea walks that patented "AHS" drunken tightrope between daring and outright bizarre, and Twitter responded accordingly. Some reacted to the out-there-ness of the plot with jokes; fashion/TV bloggers Tom and Lorenzo tweeted, "The nausea factor was pretty damn high this week. But hey, Anne Frank with a gun!," while @dedle2 punned, "Anne Frank on American Horror Story? I did Nazi that coming…" and BuzzSugar dubbed the actress "Anne Franka Potente."
Others just couldn't get into it -- the "Vanity Fair" account noted a bafflement peak with, "Briarcliff welcomes Anne Frank. The level of 'seriously?' hits an all-time high." And it verged on offending a few, as @caseymaura objected, "... You can't just toss Anne Frank anywhere ya damn please," and @trii_sara_topss described herself as "actually really mad at their Anne Frank thing," though she didn't elaborate on why.
Again, we will warn you about spoilers. Read on at your own risk.
"I Am Anne Frank, Part 2" will clarify a lot of things even if it doesn't win over skeptics -- but Franka Potente still thinks it's "kind of a cool thing to think about." When Yahoo! TV spoke to her last week, she talked about giving herself up to the idea that Anne Frank did survive: "What if she is Anne Frank? What would she be like? You know, in this setting, in this different time, at this different age -- Anne Frank died when she was sixteen. What would she be like, all these years later?"
Potente knew from the beginning that she'd be playing Anne Frank. At her initial meeting with show creator Ryan Murphy, he told her right away he had a great part for her, and "he was so excited about it: 'What if Anne Frank came into this asylum, and what if she didn't die, and what if blah blah blah.'" Potente was a fan of the show from its first season, so she agreed without having even seen a script: "I was like, 'Wow, this is crazy -- sure!'"
To keep spoilers at bay, showrunners gave Potente's character various aliases on the set -- so many that, when she got her first call sheet, she had to call the producers to find out which one was hers. Of course, the titles of the episodes wound up giving a lot away, and she laughed that she was "sworn to so much secrecy, and you call it 'I Am Anne Frank'? Okay."
But she's not Anne Frank, in the end. She's a woman named Charlotte who's suffering from postpartum psychosis, neglecting her colicky baby and concerned husband to build an obsessive scrapbook wall about Arden/Gruper's war crimes -- and it's not until Charlotte's husband arrives at Briarcliff to claim her that you realize just how much credence you've given a story that's obviously impossible. How did Potente choose to play a character who's obviously delusional, but has to convince the audience that maybe, just maybe, she's telling the truth? "The thing that comes with insanity, or possible insanity, of course the person doesn't look at themselves saying, 'Oh my God, I'm insane. I'm not really Anne Frank, but I'm pretending to be.' I wanted this girl to be very convinced that she was Anne Frank." And Potente wanted the audience to come with her on this trip. "I want them to believe, or at least I invite them to believe for a second, to make room for the possibility that I am Anne Frank."
Potente added that "you don't have to do much" on "AHS" as far as acting insane, generally, because the environment the show has created does a lot of the work for you: "It's creepy, and there's aliens, and creatures, and all these things … the music, the way it's edited, there's so much going on. If I thought of ways to act crazy, like if I create the eye twitch, stuff like that, it would be really annoying, because it's overloading what's already there." Not to mention the "amazing extras," whom Potente credited for helping to create that oppressive Briarcliff atmosphere. "If they weren't paying attention, if they weren't doing their thing even if they're not on camera, you feel that," she said.