Ryan Murphy on Ian McShane’s psycho Santa and the return of Pepper
[SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE LATEST AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM!!!]
Christmas came to Briarcliff on the latest American Horror Story: Asylum,
which naturally meant several murders and a tree adorned with human
hair and dentures. There was also a crazy man dressed as Santa, played
by Deadwood‘s Ian
McShane, as well as another virtuoso performance by Lily Rabe as the
possessed Sister Mary Eunice. EW talked to co-creator Ryan Murphy about
all this holiday fun.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I can’t believe this is your Christmas
episode. You mentioned this last week but you wrote this character with
Ian in mind and you never thought he’d do it, right?
RYAN MURPHY: Christmas and American Horror Story do not go together and so we were trying to figure out, What’s our version of Christmas? And
the answer of course is a homicidal Santa. There’s a whole subgenre in
horror dedicated to these psycho Santas. It’s a thing. So we decided
let’s write somebody who’s so crazy they end up in Briarcliff.
I had heard Ian McShane really loved American Horror Story.
So we wrote it and we were like, “Let’s send it to him and ask for a
quick pass.” To my delight, he said yes. It was supposed to be one big
thing, but instead we turned it into two because we had Ian.
So is he back in next week’s episode?
in next week’s episode and he does some amazingly ghastly things that
set up our winter cliffhanger. I love coming back in January and having
four originals. So next week I think has I believe five cliffhangers.
We’re just finishing writing the last episode, which is very moving and
I love in this episode that you see Jude fighting for Mary
Eunice. This woman who we thought was the villain is now back to save
the soul of her protégé.
Yeah I love that about this Jude
character. Of course when we premiered everybody was writing about the
villainous Jude, and of course I knew. I think this Christmas episode is
about the secular versus commercial idea. It’s really about somebody
who loses faith and then finds faith in something else, which is what
Jude’s arc is and that’s why Jessica was interested in playing her. That
pays off even more so in next week’s episode.
What’s gonna happen to Sister Mary Eunice? Could there be like an exorcism? Much like Lana, it feels so tragic.
think many people have remarked about “Can we just have some hope this
season? Can we just have some happiness?” Well you’re not gonna get it
in the next two. But I think in the last four there’s a lot of optimism
and a lot of revenge. I think Sister Mary Eunice gets the only fate one
can imagine her getting.
So what’s the deal with the Monsignor. Like that tree was crazy. Is he just so afraid of being exposed?
I think the Monsignor is the future of the Catholic Church. Right from
the beginning that character is like, “I want to modernize. I want to
bring the church into the new world.” I think he represents that
episode. He represents a turn from old traditions and old rhetoric to
the new modern face of Catholicism. He’s all about image and wants
people to think Briarcliff and the Catholic Church are with it and of
the times and that’s all about his ambition. And all of his ambitions
come crashing down next week! But you know I grew up Catholic and I grew
up with all those priests and right around the Vatican II time. I
always imagined that Father Timothy was somebody who would help write
I like the twist with Arden seemingly helping Jude and then
turning on her. Is it possible he’s actually working against Mary
Oh no. That’s the fun of the episode for me, that you’re watching that scene with Jude in the chapel and you think, Oh he’s changed, but then there’s a twist on a twist. You think for a while he’s siding with the angels but he’s purely on the dark side.
It sets up fun new relationships like Jude doing an about-face and now Lana trying to help Kit.
think the actors liked the script so much because everything they’re
playing at the top of the season they’re playing the opposite of. I also
really like the episode because it’s darkly comedic, particularly
Sister Mary Eunice. My favorite being, “Do you celebrate Christmas in
your Nazi household?” [Laughs]. Her obsession with rubies and jewelry. It’s a little light. Like a dark comedy Christmas.
And Jessica Lange had a fight scene with Ian McShane. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her do that.
know she really loved working with Ian. After we shot that scene, she
called me up and said, “We just beat the sh-t out of each other. Can you
please write us a civil tete-a-tete?” So in the next episode we wrote
this very long scene between her and Ian. That’s a rough scene but I
loved that religion literally killed Santa at the end of the episode.
There’s a big thing where she’s talking about Rudolph the Red Nosed
Reindeer, which aired last night!
So Grace’s body was taken away last night. When will we find out what happened to it?
will find out next week in our cliffhanger. You find out what the
aliens want. Also, it’s very exciting — next week is the reappearance of
Where has she been?!
She got taken! And they
bring her back with a very unusual change. That’s one of our great
cliffhangers. I know Pepper is an audience favorite. And it’s the
question I get asked the most: “Where’s f—in’ Pepper?” So Pepper
And it’s the return of Dylan McDermott, too, right?
yeah. That’s good stuff. Because of the way he looks, Dylan usually
plays like a doctor or a lawyer. But Dylan is really funny. I really
wanted Dylan to play a sexy, no-education, dirty, drug-addict, grifter.
And there you have it.
Who’s also a serial killer?
Well so we’ll see. But next week, please watch the first scene featuring Dylan and a brilliantSilence of the Lambs actress that I think fans of the horror genre will get a really big kick out of it.
Is it Brooke Smith? The lady from the well?
I’m not saying! Just watch it! I just got a kick out of that scene for many many reasons. We’ll talk about it next week.
“Unholy Night” ends with Lana telling a captured Thredson that she’ll bury him. Is there a big battle between them next week?
yeah. I think it’s stuff that the audience wants and it’s something
Lana has earned. There’s some good stuff between the two of them.