Forget the boys, let’s hear it for the girls.
Girl power reigned supreme at PaleyFest’s closing night presentation of “American Horror Story: Coven” on Friday night at the Dolby Theatre, where stars Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Emma Roberts and Angela Bassett humbly discussed what it was like to be part of what co-creator Ryan Murphy calls “the most amazing group of women that has ever been on TV.”
“This was a season about female empowerment,” Murphy said. His co-creator, Brad Falchuk echoed the sentiment: “Each season is about something behind the genre, and this season was about women, and about mothers and daughters. You can’t have a more female horror genre than witches. If you want to tell a female story, there’s no other choice.”
“‘Coven’ might have the most speaking roles for women of any show on TV,” Entertainment Weekly’s Tim Stack mused. Stack had the great challenge of moderating the panel amidst the earth-shattering screams of an audience fit for Justin Bieber or One Direction.
Bassett recalls being stunned by the parts that Murphy, Falchuk and the writers concocted for both herself and her fellow female thesps like Gabourey Sidibe, Frances Conroy and Kathy Bates.
“There’s so many women in the cast that you think someone is going to get short shrift,” Bassett said. “But not in this world. You get excited about what your character’s doing, but you also get so excited about what others are doing, too, in scenes you’re not even in. It’s like three shows in one — you feel so full, and then there’s more.”
Bassett made a dramatic entrance to the panel, wielding a silver platter topped with Bates’ head (a nod to the biggest plot twist of the season). The real-life Bates made a surprise appearance at PaleyFest to talk about joining the coven and playing a severed head.
“I remember sitting in that box under the table and turning to [Jessica Lange] and saying, ‘It’s come to this,” she said. “We’re classically trained actors, and it’s come to this.”
Sidibe teased that she wanted to take Bates’ head across country with a spinoff series, “Queenie and the Head,” in which the two are galpal roommates in Seattle. “The head is an online teacher,” she pitched.
“I think it’s got legs,” Bates quipped.
In what’s come to be a PaleyFest tradition, Murphy introduced Michael Chiklis as the newest addition to the “American Horror Story” family (Bates was the surprise guest at last year’s fest). Chiklis will join the cast for the series’ fourth season, the subtitle of which is “Freak Show.” Chiklis will play the former husband of Bates’ character and the father of Evan Peters’ character.
Murphy promised fans that every one of the cast members at the panel would return in “Freak Show” in some capacity, along with returning cast members from seasons one and two.
“We really consider ourselves a family, and a troop of actors,” he said. “I love that Orson Welles Mercury Theater idea. Once you’re on, you’re on. It’s just about finding the time and the role.”
Murphy explained that cast matriarch Lange was conspicuously missing from the panel because she was on spring break with her grandchildren. In her absence, fellow cast members couldn’t help but use Lange for a couple of punchlines. For one, Paulson enjoyed a recurring bit that Lange had stolen all of the set pieces after production wrapped — and one of guest star Stevie Nicks’ shawls.
Denis O’Hare joined in: “She’s a total klepto.”