The article below contains spoilers for “Nor’easter,” the Oct. 31 episode of “American Horror Story: Asylum.”
Over the course of a daring career that’s spanned film and television, Chloë Sevigny has played everything from a painfully young victim of HIV to a ghost in a notorious (unsimulated) sex scene, from a wife in a polygamous marriage to a transgender Irish hitwoman. Her latest turn as the nymphomaniac Shelley on FX’s “American Horror Story: Asylum” is no less chance-taking, particularly after Wednesday’s episode. A sexually aggressive and misunderstood character, Shelley is “insane” more because she is stuck in the mores of the show’s 1964 setting than because she has any actual mental illness. The end of “Nor’easter” found the Briarcliff Manor patient in the clutches of James Cromwell’s Dr. Arden, who decided to punish her for not being receptive to his advances. “You were a very naughty girl last night. You tried to fly away, so I had to clip your wings,” he told her before revealing that he’s amputated her legs.
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On a call with journalists this afternoon, Sevigny spoke about what drew her to the series and what’s next for her and the character.
She didn’t know what was coming for Shelley when she took the role.
Sevigny was a fan of the first series, but “didn’t get to read any scripts prior to signing on. I’ve been going in blind hoping it would be what I wanted it to be, and it’s proven so.” The progress of the character has been “week to week” and has been largely up to the writers, though she said that sometimes she asked creator Ryan Murphy for more lines to beef the character up in places. In terms of last night’s reveal, she admitted, “I was a little taken aback… it was like nothing I’d done before.” In terms of the outrageousness, she said that when filming it she thought, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this,’ and added that her friends have been appreciating the role: “Last night, I got a hundred texts saying ‘Oh my god, your legs!'”
Things will only get worse for the character.
“It gets much scarier,” Sevigny assured. Arden “wants to make it so she can’t run away… It’s pretty horrifying. He transforms her into something else.” While admitting that Shelley didn’t start off as the most sympathetic character, in helping Evan Peters and Lizzie Brocheré’s characters attempt to escape she felt, “you realize that’s she’s pretty selfless in that regard.” Sevigny added: “After she gets in the clutches of the doctor, I think you’re then rooting for her and hoping she can escape or find a way out,” though that’s not necessarily coming. “It only gets worse for Shelley,” she said. “You see her transform into something not so pleasant to look at… it took four hours of prosthetic makeup.”
Shelley didn’t necessarily start off sick.
In general, Sevigny mused, “I don’t know that people really are addicted to [sex].” For Shelley, she continued, “I think that she was a little wild, and her husband had it within his power to commit her, and once she’s in there she kind of goes with it, becomes who she is because of how she’s identified herself. She probably really likes sex.” When it comes to sex scenes, Sevigny admitted, “I’m not comfortable doing them — I don’t think anyone ever is comfortable doing those kinds of scenes.”
“American Horror Story” isn’t a guilty pleasure.
When asked about the guilty pleasure status of the show, Sevigny said, “I don’t think I would classify it as that — that’s more like ‘Honey Boo Boo’ and that kind of crap, something that I’d be more embarrassed about. Why would you be embarrassed? Why would it be something guilty? It’s great television. The script, so many great actors — it has a little element of camp, I’ll give you that much, but I think it’s well-crafted.”
Sevigny has more TV in her future.
While she said that she didn’t think a second season of her British series “Hit & Miss” was going to happen, she is about to head to Pittsburgh to film the pilot for the A&E crime drama “Those Who Kill.” With playing the driven detective Catherine on the project, “there will probably be some training involved, just trying to immerse yourself in whatever you do at the time,” she noted of the role, which will be a departure from what she’s been doing with “American Horror Story.” Shooting the FX horror series also involved a first for her in going between two sets, as she was simultanously shooting her role in the upcoming season of IFC’s “Portlandia,” which, unlike at Briarcliff, involved improvisation and trying to be funny.