Interview with Angela Bassett of "American Horror Story" on FX - Primetime Article From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Angela Bassett

Interview with Angela Bassett of "American Horror Story" on FX 11/7/14

I was on this call but didn't get a chance to ask a question. That happens sometimes... especially if it's a really big star. I enjoyed listening to her silky voice, anyway. She does a fabulous job on the show.

Final Transcript
FX NETWORK: American Horror Story
November 7, 2014/10:00 a.m. PST

Roslyn Bibby-Madison
Angela Bassett


Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the FX Network American Horror Story: Freak Show conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question and answer session and instructions will be given at that time. (Operator instructions.) As a reminder, todayís conference is being recorded

I would now like to turn the conference over to our first speaker, Ms. Roslyn Bibby. Please, go ahead.

Roslyn: Hello, everyone. Thank you for being with us today. The episodes for Freak Show have been just spectacular and a real thrill to watch. Today, we are fortunate to have Ms. Angela Bassett, whoís been turning in an incredible performance as ďDesiree DuPree.Ē Welcome, Angela.

Angela: Thank you.

Roslyn: Thanks for this opportunity.

Angela: Thank you. Thank you.

Roslyn: Brad?

Moderator: (Operator instructions.) Our first question today comes from the line of Gary Nunn with Windy City Times. Please, go ahead.

Gary: Hi, Angela.

Angela: Hi.

Gary: We wanted to know if your character was based on any real person in real life.

Angela: Well, of that Iím not sure, but I know that there are instances of individuals who have this sort of characteristic. What theyíre called is intersex, today. In 1950s, of course, the term was hermaphrodite, but today the terminology is considered passť, especially in that community.

Gary: Yes. What was the makeup process like for you?

Angela: Well, I went to an FX studio, FX office and about, letís see; I think it was three women and three men that took to cast a mold of my chest area and then attempt to get the color right, you know, the color, the tone, that sort of thing. Of course, the tone is very difficult and it still takes about 30, 40 minutes to paint it once itís applied.

Gary: Yes, great. Well, comes visit us in Chicago. You have tons of fans here. I just wanted to say thanks for the call today.

Angela: Thank you. I love Chicago.

Moderator: We do have a question from the line of Graham Flashner with Emmy Magazine. Please, go ahead.

Graham: Hi, Angela. Thank you for doing this.

Angela: Yes.

Graham: Iím writing a big piece on the FX Network, so Iíd love to know if you could just talk a bit about what itís like on the show working with FX. You know how you work with them and also working with Michael Chiklis, who Iíve also interviewed for this article.

Angela: Oh, well, yes. Well, the work environment is really wonderful. I mean, itís a hectic, fast paced sort of work environment, but the cast, the crew are tireless. Theyíre dedicated. Theyíre talented as heck. We put hours and hours in. Thereís nothing but support from the network, which itís evident from being picked up for another season, I believe I heard, after airing of the first show. Thatís just indicative of the support that we experience.

Working with Mike has been a dream come true. Of course, Iíve been a big fan of Chiklis from The Shield days, and The Commish, and on, and on. Heís a lot of fun. Heís like a big kid. Heís so encouraging and supportive of; you know, do the scenes and finish the scenes. He just gives you props like immediately after, which is beautiful. I love working with him, kissing up on him.

Graham: Thatís great. Can I also ask you in terms of, the material is extremely dark, correct?

Angela: You know, thatís what Chiklis says. I go, wait a minute. Based on the type of shows that youíve done, you consider this real dark and strange? I think he says dark and strange. Yes, itís a little dark because itís dealing with, I guess, how so-called normal folk view those who are atypical or different. That can get a little bit dark. Iíd like to think that whatís dark are the secrets of menís hearts; envy.

Graham: Can you also talk a littleóthis is an unbelievably talented ensemble cast, but even Michael said he was absolutely blown away. He said it was insane. Can you talk about what thatís like? Itís a very incredible collection of all-star talent assembled for one show.

Angela: That was one of the prevailing reasons for me joining the cast. I couldnít believe Iíd get an opportunity to work with Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates in a lifetime, especially at the same time. Itís wonderful. In some years, I mean, well, last year most of my scenes were with Kathy and Jessica. This year, mostly Chiklis and now Emma Roberts and the like. Weíll see. Weíll see. Everyone is just an ultimate professional. We have a good time. We have a good time with it. We all have an appreciation for this crazy world and the things that weíre asked to do. It stretches us and grows us. The fact that we get to come back year after year and they fashion some completely new insanity for us to play out is a plus. Itís thrilling.

Roslyn: Thank you, Graham. Guys, weíre going to have to limit to one question. I understand we have over 50 people on this call. We want to give everyone the opportunity to ask a question in the timeframe that weíre given. Thank you. Brad, continue please.

Moderator: Sure. We have a question from the line of Dave Walker from the New Orleans Times. Please, go ahead.

Dave: Hi, Angela. Thanks very much for doing the call.

Angela: Hello.

Dave: Can you tell me a little bit about what kind of interaction you have with folks here in New Orleans about being on this show and also last season? What kind of things do people say to you? Do they talk to you about Marie (Laveau) and now, also about the new character?

Angela: Oh, yes. Yes. I love New Orleans and I love New Orleans folk. I was really concerned portraying one of the historical figures of this city whoís so beloved and revered. I so wanted to get it as right as I could. I was really happy with the comments that folk would make that I was the best Marie or they really enjoyed my interpretation of Marie. They were pleased by and large. I didnít run into anyone who was displeased, so that made me happy.

A lot of new eyes came to the series based on it being set here and based on those characters, Marie, Madame LaLaurie, and the like. This year, you do run into, well, someone just drove me to the airport and she said, ďOh, I canít watch horror things.Ē You do from time to time run into folk who just think, they imagine just because of the title that itís a really, really scary show. It can be initially, but thereís something about it that just grabs your imagination and then you canít wait until the next week, and the next episode. Letís see, what did they say? Sometimes I do get comments that itísówhat do they say? Demonic. I said, oh, no, no. Letís not look at it that way. Letís not look at it that way.

Dave: Thank you.

Moderator: We do have a question from the line of Amanda Steinmetz from Please, go ahead.

Amanda: Hi, Angela. Thank you for speaking with us this morning.

Angela: Good morning.

Amanda: My question is, we saw the beginnings of a friendship develop between Desiree and Ethel this week on the episode, can you tease anything about the possible friendship or will they team up against Dell?

Angela: Thatís the thing. We really donít know whatís coming in the subsequent episodes and the subsequent scripts. Thatís the aspect of this that makes it a little bit frustrating or difficult for us. I guess we donít have input, but we might have influence. Weíve played it as good, good friends. It remains to be seen. Maybe theyíll see that in the writerís room and itíll take them down a different road then they had anticipated. That can, and does happen, and has happened in the past. Weíll see. Iíd like to be friends with Ethel. We were such archenemies last year for all eternity as it turned out.

Amanda: Thank you.

Angela: Yes.

Moderator: Now, we do have a question from the line of Mark Harris from Red Carpet Crash. Please, go ahead.

Mark: Hi, Angela. How are you?

Angela: Hi, pretty good. Thank you.

Mark: You seem to be enjoying the heck out of this role and last yearís role. I was wondering when you signed on for this yearís episode for Freak Show did you know what the part was? What was your reaction when you found out what the part was?

Angela: I didnít have a clue whatsoever what the part might be, what it might encompass when I signed on. I just knew I had a great time the previous year, and if that was any indication, it was going to be a wild ride. I think it was about two weeks before I was scheduled to come down to start shooting that I got the, you know, the hot off the press script. I sat down to read it to see and I remember wondering, ďNow, how am I going to know who I am?Ē

Then you read the stage direction, ďAfrican American woman in her 40s, hermaphrodite, three breasts, and a ding-a-ling.Ē Youíre like, oh, my gosh. You immediately close the pages, and have to walk around, and process that for a minute. Youíre thinking, ďWhat does that mean?Ē Oh, my gosh. If they thought I was crazy demonic last year, what are they going to think this year?

Mark: So then, did you call Ryan up and say, ďoh, my God, Ryan?Ē

Angela: No. I wasnít scared like that. No. I just knew that it was absolutely going to be something that I had never done before. What does an actor crave, but new challenges? This certainly was going to be one of those.

Mark: Well, thank you very much. Enjoying the heck out of the role youíre playing so far this season.

Angela: Oh, thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you so much. [Indiscernible.]

Mark: Bye, bye.

Moderator: We do have a question from the line Diana Price with Please, go ahead.

Diana: Thanks for being with us today, Angela. I was just wondering because this seasonís theme revolves around a troupe of performers and do you feel like the American Horror Story cast is sort of a family of performers as you go from season to season? Do you feel like more of a part of that now that this is your second time on the show?

Angela: Absolutely. I feel like it is a traveling troupe of performers. Thatís true. This year I feel more a part of the family. You know, having been here before, having established those relationships, not the brand new girl. Weíve got some other new faces. I feel like Iíve been around the block at least one time with them. I feel more comfortable. I was excited. Iím still excited, but I feel more a part of the family this year, most definitely.

Diana: You get to be the veteran now. Thank you so much.

Moderator: We do have a question from the line of Angela Dawson with Front Row Features. Please, go ahead.

Angela D.: Hi, Angela.

Angela: Hey, Angela.

Angela D.: I was going to ask you, today it seems like since we donít have the actual freak shows, we have reality TV. I was just wondering for you, do you think thereís something kind of in our human nature where we want to see people that are kind of worse off than we are and we kind of revel in that? Do you think thereís some psychological basis for why people have wanted to see that, apparently, over a long period of time?

Angela: Our human nature? I think I would tend to agree. There might be a little of that, where thereís a little enjoyment in the misfortune of others. Not to their ultimate detriment, but a little bit of enjoyment for them doing worse off or getting into trouble; the whole thing about like, watching a car crash or something, when we slow down, and rubberneck, and look. I think it might be. There is, I think, one freak show out in LA, out in Santa Monica, Venice Beach, or something. I havenít visited there, but Iíve seen some footage of that. I think they may even have a reality show themselves. It's more like a tattoo thing and a sword swallowing thing.

Angela D.: Okay. Well, thank you very much.

Moderator: We do have a question from the line of Niki Cruz from The Inquisitr. Please, go ahead.

Niki: Hi, Angela. Thank you so much for talking to all of us. I was wondering, everyone says how demanding television can be as an actor with the hours, and this is your second season on a show with a pretty big ensemble. How does it feel to try on, I guess, another character? Is there a learning curve? Is that the challenge within itself?

Angela: As an actor youíre used to putting on characters, taking them off, becoming someone else, doing your research, working on that. I think what I found most challenging about television and shedding one character and having to come up with another is that thereís this lag time before I get to actually see what the characters are looking like, or sounding like, or how theyíre coming across. We start filming in July and maybe, the first episodeís in October. As an actor who wonders if youíre getting it right because you donít have the immediate reaction of the audience just yet; thatís the little caveat. I canít say itís a real crazy frustration. If there were something that you had to call that, that would be it for me.

Niki: Are you pleased with the response so far?

Angela: Yes, absolutely. Definitely.

Niki: Thank you so much.

Angela: Yes.

Moderator: We do have a question from the line of Rachel Wharton with Televixen. Please, go ahead.

Rachel: Hi, Angela. How are you doing today?

Angela: Iím great. Thank you.

Rachel: My question is about the revelation of your character from last weekís episode. Iíve really found Desiree to be very sexually charged. I always kind of thought that it was a survival mechanism due to her not feeling like she was 100% a woman, but now that we know that she is, is that going to change how you approach the character and how Desiree acts?

Angela: No. I donít think itíll change how I approach or how she acts. I think sheís comfortable. I think sheís comfortable with who she is, by and large. I think sheís just had to find a way to work and survive in a world that sheís always been reaching for what she calls normalcy, to have a family, a real family, and children of her own. I donít think itís going to change and make her more feminine or whatever it might be. No, I donít. They might write her so differently, so Iím open. Iím open, but I donít anticipate itíll change the way that she behaves. I think what influences that is how sheís treated, how sheís treated by others. [Indiscernible.]

Rachel: Do you think she might demand a different kind of treatment now? I guess, especially from Dell?

Angela: Well, sheís walked out on him. She does demand a different kind of treatment. I guess honesty. Honesty for one, but thatís just not a desire of her as a freak, itís just desire for her as a human being.

Rachel: Awesome. Thank you very much.

Moderator: We do have a question from the line of Taylor Ferber with VH1. Please, go ahead.

Taylor: Hi, Angela.

Angela: Hi.

Taylor: Iím such a huge fan of yours.

Angela: Thank you.

Taylor: I just wanted to ask about this past weekís episode. We saw your character, actually from this season and last season, kind of get really intimate for the first time, and your scene with Evan Peters, which you both acted beautifully. Would you say that that was awkward at all on set? How was it shooting that?

Angela: Well, itís not too awkward. Heís a cute a little boy, whoís engaged. No, it wasnít too awkward. I mean, youíre playing characters. Heís quite a professional. I think the most awkward part of it was he was so emotional, and just tears, and things coming out of oneís nostrils. I think that was the most awkward part, but sexually, it wasnít.

Taylor: Okay, well, it was awesome. You guys are great and come visit us in New York City soon.

Angela: I would love to. Thank you.

Taylor: Thank you.

Moderator: We do have a question from the line of Robin Gandyce with Please, go ahead.

Robin: Hi, Angela. Thank you so much for speaking with us this morning.

Angela: Hi, thank you.

Robin: I was curious to know, how does your character view Michael Chiklisí character Dell? Does she really see good in him in spite of him being this bully or does she just see a monster? Does that conflict with how you as an actress view the character?

Angela: Iím sorry, say that again. I couldnít follow.

Robin: Iím sorry.

Angela: Okay.

Robin: How does your character view Michael Chiklis? Do you think that she really sees the good in him in spite of him being like this bully, this monster? Or does she him as a monster?

Angela: Yes. I think she did find someone, you know, that there was a time when he was kind, and good to her, and believed in her, and made her feel valuable and special. I think that there have been moments over those years when theyíve been together where heís crossed the line with her in his speak, and his speech, and the things that he says. Heís begged for forgiveness. Itís that same old thing sometimes it happens, when people are abusive physically. I think thereís been maybe some emotional abuse throughout the years, but always never crossing the line, and completely crossing the line, or sheís weighing if I give this up, what do I lose? Can I move on from this? Can we move on from this? Can we remain together?

I think there has come a point in last weekís episode where he crossed the line of no return. She thought she knew who he was, but she found out she was living with the enemy. Thereís something about him that was dishonest and disloyal. They were there for each other. They told each other their painful truth. I think he crossed the line. Sometimes that happens and you canít go back. You canít make yourself go back.

Robin: Thank you very much.
Angela: Yes.

Moderator: We do have a question from the line of Kyle Wilson with Nerd Repository. Please, go ahead.

Kyle: Hey, Angela. Great to talk to you. One of the things on the show, clowns particularly, scare everybody at the outlet that I work for. I wanted to know, is there anything that freaked you out on the show, this season or last, that just kind of got to you?

Angela: Oh, freaked me out? I think, well, when he took that mask off, and I saw where he had put a gun in his mouth, and shot half his face off, you know? The way the little people treated him, which spurred him on to do that. I didnít like that. That sort of freaked me out, just how people treat one another. He was innocent in his mind, so taking advantage of that. Pushing him toó

Kyle: Absolutely.

Angela: óthat point. That was a lot for me. That made me very sad. I guess not freak out, but really, really sad.

Kyle: Yes, it was very haunting. That was a big twist moment for me. I appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

Angela: Thank you.

Moderator: We do have a question from the line of Jamie Blynn with US Weekly. Please, go ahead.

Jamie: Hi, Angela. How are you?

Angela: Wonderful. Thank you.

Jamie: I wanted to know, whatís the process that turned you into Desiree? How does she get that third breast? How long does it take to put on?

Angela: Well, I go in. I go into my regular makeup artist. She applies the appliance to me, so that itís there basically. Then I go over to the special effects trailer where her husband makes sure the edges and everything sort of blend seamlessly. I guess I can say that. From there, he and the other special effects gentlemen will begin to apply the paint. Theyíll start with brown. They spray it on. Theyíll start with the brown. Theyíll go to the red, and yellow, and green. Itís amazing these colors and undertones that they claim you possess. Youíre like, oh, those are weird, weird colors. Then heíll take a photograph of it to make sure that it appears as if itís my own and based on that heíll maybe go in, and do so more painting, and carry on.

Jamie: What a great team.

Angela: Then I, you know? Thatís it. It takes maybe from start to finish about an hour, just enough time to check out a Netflix episode of Orange is the New Black or something.

Jamie: What was your initial reaction when you first tried on the prosthetic?

Angela: Well, I was glad it wasnít on my face. Iím claustrophobic. Itís amazing. You can just a little after about 14 hours of it being on. The initial appliance was extremely heavy. I think it was made of silicon. It started out fine, but after about hour number 12 and on it became hot and heavy. I believe it started sagging, which Iím like, what is the point of having three sagging breasts? No, this is not good. They reworked it and made it out of foam, which I was so, so pleased about because itís the difference of night and day. Still after about 12 hours that internal heat, you begin to sweat. You begin to itch. You canít really provide relief because you canít get to yourself, you know?

Jamie: Right.

Angela: Youíre scratching foam. Itís much lighter. Itís much more bearable. I guess Iíve grown accustomed.

Jamie: Wonderful. Thank you so much.

Angela: Yes.

Roslyn: Brad, we have time for two more questions.

Brad: Okay. We do have a question from the line of Candice Brock with toofab. Please, go ahead.

Angela: Hello.

Candice: Hi, Angela.

Angela: Hi there.

Candice: Okay, so Ryan Murphy says that the seasons are all connected. Any idea how Desiree or Marie will both fit into the larger picture?

Angela: Not one, nor have I considered it. Is that right? The only connection I was able to make was Pepper from Season 2 to Season 4. No, I havenít thought about that. That gives me something to think about. Have you?

Candice: No, I havenít, but I am so excited to see how everything connects and intertwines. I think weíll be all in for a very big surprise.

Angela: Okay. Sounds like a great college term paper to me.

Brad: Then our final question comes from the line of Brittany Lovely with

Brittany: Hi, Angela. Thank you for speaking with us today.

Angela: Youíre welcome, honey.

Brittany: My question isóthereís a lot of really heavy material going on throughout every story line and your character, especially the last season and this season, is responsible for delivering a lot of humorous lines that kind of break up the episodeís really heavier moments. My question was, since youíre dealing with such dark material on set for 14 hours a day or so, are there any particular people behind the scenes that provide a little bit of levity to get you through those heavier scenes?

Angela: Letís see, well, Sarah Paulson can make me laugh really easy, so can Gabby when sheís around. I havenít gotten the opportunity to spend any time with her this year. But, Sarah is pretty funny to me. Michael is light-hearted. Emma is pretty crazy, especially last night, it was she and I till midnight outdoors in the cold. Sheís pretty funny.

Brittany: Thatís great. Thank you so much.

Angela: Yes.

Roslyn: Again, everyone thank you foró

Angela: Iím happy you think I provide some levity.

Roslyn: Iím sorry. Angela, did you want to restate that last part? I think I was talking over you.

Angela: Oh, no. Thatís okay. I said Iím glad she thinks that Iím kind of funny. Iím always the serious one. Iím glad to provide some levity.

Roslyn: Well, okay. Again, everyone, thanks for being here. Angela, thank you and have a great day of shooting. I know youíve got to jump. American Horror Story airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. and transcripts from this call will be available 24 to 48 hours and weíll send to those who request it. If you have any other questions about the show, please let me know. Iím happy to help. Have a great weekend, everybody. Bye, bye.

Angela: You, too.

Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude your conference for today. Thank you for your participation and for using the AT&T Executive TeleConference Service. You may now disconnect.

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