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‘American Horror Story’ Creator Ryan Murphy: ‘I’m Not Interested in Shock Value Anymore’

Murphy also explained why he scrapped Donald Trump as a "Pose" character: "I do not want to see that face."

Ryan MurphyFX's 'Pose' TV show panel discussion, Los Angeles, USA - 10 Jul 2018

Ryan Murphy

Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Ryan Murphy has offered up plenty of thrills and chills over the years with edgy fare like “Nip/Tuck” and “American Horror Story.” But the TV maven told interviewer Ronan Farrow on Wednesday that “I’m not interested in shock value anymore.” Murphy, whose latest series, “Pose,” ends its Season 1 run this Sunday, said he’s looking more at stories that deal with “kindness and heart.”

“I’ve gotten away from sexuality and violence and how far I can push the envelope,” Murphy said at a Hollywood Radio and Television Society luncheon. “I’m interested in a different thing now.”

Murphy said he’s been drawn to showrunning as “advocacy,” something that kicked in heavily with “Pose,” a 1980s-set series about that time period’s New York City social scenes. The series has made headlines for featuring the largest transgender cast of series regulars ever.

“I’m so moved by it, and moved by them as a community,” he said. “They have struggled and have such difficult lives in so many ways. To be seen, particularly under the president we have, is an amazing gift in my life.”

Speaking of Donald Trump, Murphy confirmed that a 1980s version of the now-president was originally going to be a character on the series. (Instead, James van der Beek plays a member of the Trump Organization on the show.)

“We wrote the first script, I thought I was being super clever about it, a young Donald Trump,” Murphy said. But then he scrapped the idea: “I just don’t want to see him. I do not want to see that face, didn’t want to hear that voice, didn’t want that presence to pollute something very pure and beautiful. We almost never say his name, it’s a Pavlovian cringe at this point. I think it was a right decision.”

In the wide-ranging conversation, Murphy discussed how his childhood, religion, and his early career in journalism impacted his career. In getting into entertainment, “I was drawn to get into a job and a career where I can on good days get a huge amount of love thrown back at me, which makes the days that they hate you really bad,” he said.

Murphy also discussed activism, including his goal of hiring female directors and directors of color. He said as of now, 65 percent of his projects are helmed by women and minorities. Asked about the impact of Time’s Up and #MeToo, Murphy said he believed Hollywood was undergoing a positive change.

“There’s a lot of conversations and there are a lot of conversations I’ve had in writers rooms and with executives, what is the new normal,” he said. “That’s a great thing. Before, no one talked about these things. It feels like a big bedspread has been lifted. We seem to be in an age of enlightenment. At least there are conversations happening that never happened before.”

Murphy noted that he doesn’t read social media directed at him, but does take stock of what people write and say about his shows. As for Farrow, the journalist admitted he has had to adjust to being “in a line of work where I’m under constant attack.”

It was Farrow’s reporting that helped open the door for the current Time’s Up movement, and the prosecution of Harvey Weinstein. Murphy, who’s friends with the journalist, said the public has only heard a fraction of what Farrow went through to report on the story. “Im excited for that truth to come out because you were really put through it,” Murphy said.

The producer only briefly touched on his new deal at Netflix; Murphy’s next two projects for the streamer, “Ratched” and “The Politician,” are produced by 20th Century Fox TV — the last two series under his previous deal at the studio.

“What’s happened to the TV business and film business is the middle part of the business is eroding,” Murphy said. “The business has changed a great deal, the middle part of the business is falling away. [But there’s now the] idea that smaller personal stories can find a way to be told.”

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