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‘AHS: Hotel’: Angela Bassett on Her Relationship with Lady Gaga’s Countess

Angela Bassett is about to make her grand entrance into the Hotel Cortez.

The “American Horror Story” alum will make her “Hotel” debut tonight in the third episode of the season, titled “Mommy,” and Lady Gaga’s Countess will have to deal with another alpha female on her turf.

Bassett, who starred in past “AHS” seasons “Freak Show” and “Coven,” plays Ramona, an actress who used to have a romantic relationship with the Countess, before things got messy.

Before the episode’s premiere, Bassett talked to Variety about Ramona’s relationship with the Countess (and her now ex-boyfriend Donovan), the vampire-like blood virus that affects her and why “Hotel” is the most disturbing season of “AHS” yet.

I’ve read that Ramona is an actress who isn’t working currently. What else can you tell me about her?
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, I guess she’s on a long sabbatical, because she met the Countess and that relationship sort of took off and became primary for her. And it was great! They were great together. They had a great understanding, love and appreciation for one another. And then somewhere in there, as it happens in some relationships, it starts to sort of stale, I guess, for one or both parties. Not just stale, but it goes really bad. It turns really bad because of human issues like jealousy.

What are Ramona’s feeling for the Countess now? Does she still want a relationship with her?
Oh, no, she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with her anymore. That was something that was, I think, exciting in that moment, but it had its season and it ran its course and Ramona moved on. That was difficult for the Countess, who’s used to being, I guess, the boss chick, the boss bitch, whatever you want to call it. [Laughs.] It’s pretty rough on her.

What brings Ramona back to the Hotel Cortez?
You know that crazy dynamic of, if I can’t have you, no one else will either? That plays into this relationship. It’s like, “If you’re not happy with me, you’ll be miserable without me. If I can’t have you, no one else will.” So she does come back. I mean, there’s no love lost between the two of them.

The Countess did recently dump Donovan (Matt Bomer). What’s the relationship between him and Ramona?
Well, front and center, can you be of any use to me? Are you useful? May I use you? She needs Donovan for her own personal self-realization. It has nothing to do with Donovan or what he needs, in Ramona’s world or estimation. But she wants to get something done and perhaps she can use Donovan to be a means to that end … Maybe if we’re both on the same team, on the same side, have the same interests, then we’re cool. But I think he’s a little weak. He falters, you know? He’s what they call a bitch-ass. [Laughs.] He punks out.

How do Donovan and Ramona’s personalities mesh? Do they butt heads?
They seem to work out well. He’s a little strutting peacock, but I think she’s seen that before and she’s not impressed or imitated or moved. “Just do your thing, and let’s see if your thing will advance my thing and if you’re useful.” If not, she’ll take another path. Ramona will do whatever she needs to do to get it done. She had to as an actress, to become an actress, to be successful, to live in this great, grand home that she occupies. She’s been successful, and it hasn’t been easy. So one little Donovan is not going to impede any progress, impede anything.

A lot of cast members seem to be playing characters that are much darker and badder than they have in the past. Would you consider Ramona evil?
No! [Laughs.]  No, but do you look at the characters that way? Maybe they have great needs, you know? Great needs and great expectations and how they go about getting them. But I agree with you that the whole season — the hotel is a little dark, the subject matter, that sort of thing. But I don’t see her as evil – well, maybe revengeful, but not evil.

Since Ramona was the Countess’ lover, does she have the ancient blood virus?
Mm-hmm. Certainly, she does. She does! You’ve gotten it out of me!

How does Ramona compare to your characters in “Freak Show” and “Coven”?
Right off the bat, initially, I was going to say she’s more glamorous, that sort of thing. But I think the other ladies, Marie and Desiree, they had glamour for their time, for their era. Whether it’s the late 1800s or the ‘50s, they were sensual, glamorous women of their time and of their culture and of their place in history. Even with three boobs! So they have that in common. They’re all very strong minded, strong willed, under adversity – they all deal with adversity, whether it’s race or whether it’s how the world sees you. You know, deformities or differences physically. Or again, race, being an actress in Tinseltown, in a time, during the ‘70s where the term of the types of movies she was doing was blaxploitation — black exploitation. So back to race again.

Are we going to see some of that racial struggle in flashbacks?
Yes, as a means of explaining who she is and where she comes from and her make-up. Why she’s driven and why she even took a look at the Countess, why she looked in the Countess’ direction.

Ramona and the Countess seem to have a lot in common. Where do they differ?
When it comes down to that all-important experience: love. I think Ramona is genuinely capable of it, whereas the Countess may not be. She may have been so harmed, that she is not capable of trusting, of lasting love.

Everyone seems to think this is the darkest, and scariest, season. Would you agree?
I think so, because dealing with this blood virus, and then you have children around! You have innocence. That’s what I find dark and disturbing. Of course, they’re in Candyland, in a room of candy and video games – the ultimate fantasy of a child. Candy and video games? Oh my god! And outside the door, there’s mayhem and depravity and drugs and all of that.

A really big theme of this season seems to be addiction. Is Ramona addicted to anything?
Not physically, but perhaps emotionally, to righting a past wrong, a past hurt. I think that drives her. That wakes her up every morning and it’s on her mind. It’s lasting on her mind before she falls asleep.

Has it ever gotten so dark, in any season, that you’ve maybe had to put the script down and take a breather?
No – I mean, it’s been so funny that I’ve put it down. When I picked up last season’s script, I had three titties and a ding-a-ling. [Laughs.] It made me laugh and throw it down. “Okay! How are we going to do that?” And then we figured it out … but in your mind, as you’re reading it, you’re like, “Oh my gosh, what are we going to see?” But some of this season, reading it, the first couple scripts, I don’t read them in the evening. Because the ideas and images, they create an active imagination. They follow you to your dreams. They show up in your dreams. But as it goes, it sucks you in, you become infected and then it’s just life. You become desensitized to it.

What has it been like to work with Lady Gaga?
Oh, it’s been a great experience. It’s been a lot of fun. She’s so creative. She’s just one of those individuals who’s just born free. Free with her generosity, free with her sensuality, with her spirit, with her laughter. She really embraces everyone around her and makes everyone feel just appreciated, comfortable. It’s been a party. It’s been really nice. She’s a hard worker. She’s enthusiastic. It couldn’t have been any better. A better person couldn’t have showed up for the gig.

This season, you guys do have the loss of Jessica Lange from the cast for the first time. What’s that been like to adjust to?
I think because Gaga is so warm, has been so wonderful, has exceeded all of our expectations, that the transition has been easy. Of course, we miss Jessica. She’s special. She’s absolutely special and what she brought was significant and can’t be copied. But it’s been a smooth transition.

Would you be willing to do more “American Horror Story” after this season?
Oh, sure. Absolutely. So far, so good. I wonder – where will the next world be?

American Horror Story: Hotel” airs 10 p.m. on Wednesdays on FX.

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