Interview: ‘Kathy Bates’ Talks That Awesome Scene With Jessica Lange On AHS: Freak Show

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I recently took part of a conference call with Kathy Bates of ‘American Horror Story.’ Everyone on the call got one or two questions. I got to ask her about that awesome scene with Jessica Lange.

Mark Hi, Kathy. How are you doing?

Kathy I’m good. How are you?

Mark Good. I want to tell you, the other night that scene with you and Jessica Lange was just incredible. If you guys both don’t win Emmy’s for that there’s something wrong with the system.

Kathy Well, we’ve been very generously given our Emmy’s, but thank you for that.

Mark Did you guys rehearse that a lot, or did you guys just talk about it a little and just go in and do it? What was the reaction once you guys finally finished it?

Kathy Well, relief when we were done. Let me start back at the beginning. When we got the script, and we actually had a couple of meetings with the director on it to talk about the scene itself and how we were going to approach it because on the page it looks like Greek theater; it’s one monologue after another monologue after another monologue. With these kinds of arguments, in real life, it would be people would be talking over each other and all of that kind of stuff. It wasn’t constructed like that, so we couldn’t approach it from that direction.

We did a lot of talking about what was going on in the character’s minds and where they were coming from and would this be enough to—I know one concern from Jessica was, would this be enough for her to turn around and kill Ethel. Then, the shooting of it, oh my, Lord. For some reason it got scheduled on the last day of the week at 11:00 at night. She, especially, was just dragging because she had been working all day and all week.

Then, I had no idea she was going to knock the table over and do all of that. I thought the blocking was good, too. I thought Brad Buecker blocked it very interestingly because she’s got this huge tent; we were circling each other. That’s what we tried to accomplish was, to make those monologues really effective and real, even though they were written as these two titans, Greek gods fighting.

Some other interesting questions asked below.

From Sabienna Bowman with TV Equals:

Sabienna The versatility that American Horror Story provides the actors is just amazing. I was wondering, for you, how does it feel to go from “Delphine” in Coven to “Ethel” in Freak Show?

Kathy Oh, from “Delphine?” They’re very different. How did it feel to me? I don’t know, I kind of had to go easy with Ethel when I first got here whereas, with “Delphine,” she just explodes. I had to find my way gently with “Ethel.”

Of course, “Delphine” was a real person. I had a lot of research for her that I was able to rely on, so I was very confident taking off like a bullet with her. With “Ethel,” I really wanted to, well, I just said it; I guess ease into it and find her as we were moving on. I know that sounds kind of, you didn’t know before you started working. I think in some cases you know some things and then you discover other things as you were going along. I think there was a point where I thought, okay, now I know who this woman is. That’s it.

From Minyvonne Burke with HNGN.com:

Minyvonne I was interested to know how you felt about this season because it was a little twisted and dark. Was there a part of this season that freaked you out a little bit?

Kathy Well, you know what? I’ve got the DVDs, and my friend who’s coming to visit me for Christmas hasn’t seen them because he lives in France. I’m looking forward to binging with him, just to sit back and see the thing as a whole piece and see how I feel. That would be the only way I could answer your question would be after I’ve done that.

I thought what was shocking at the beginning of the first episode was when the freaks went and chopped the policeman up, and I thought, oh dear God, you’ve just shown these wonderful, quirky people and already fallen in love with them and then they go out and do this. “Twisty” was just unbearable, so I guess, in a way, it has been. Because it is set in the real world, I guess—my sister said this, she said, “I’m not scared of goblins and all that stuff.” She said, “But the real world is what scares me.”

From Brittany Lovely with Hypable.com:

Brittany My question is, last season you had this wonderful dress that really brought “Delphine” to life and this season you’re very toned down but that accent. Can you speak to how that accent came about, and was it hard to stay in it the whole time filming?

Kathy Well, gosh, that accent has become so controversial. I didn’t really have a dialect coach to help me, that’s first of all. I knew she was from Baltimore. Ryan said, but light. When I got into it, I studied Mikulski a lot. I actually had a dialect coach friend of mine spell it out phonetically, what it was supposed to be.

Then online, I found, if you can believe this, how to speak Baltimorese, and from that you had a link that could go to the “Star Spangled Banner” in Baltimorese, which really helped me prepare every day. Although, I did stay in it for the first—I spoke that way every day. It just got to be sort of ridiculous how perplexing and how people got turned off by it and there were things online, they got two scholars, which I just couldn’t believe.

At times I thought, oh my God, am I not doing this right? A close friend of Ryan’s was on set for a while, from that area, and he really helped me with it. You can’t do it lightly, it’s a heavy accent and I also wanted it to sound like old-fashioned working class, so that’s even more different than what people are used to hearing. Then, the funny thing was is that a guy asked two of his friends who were from Baltimore what they thought of my accent. They said, “What accent?” I feel like, okay, case closed. I’m moving on.

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