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Remote Controlled: ‘American Horror Story: Cult’ Star Evan Peters on Politics, Power and What’s in Store for the Finale

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with Evan Peters about how “Cult” compares with past seasons of “American Horror Story.”

“It’s a lot more work for sure,” he says. “It’s more grounded in reality, which I think makes it a lot scarier.”

Peters returns in the show’s seventh season to play a number of characters, including blue-haired cult leader Kai Anderson.

“The blue hair was my idea,” he shares. “It just made me think of Michigan and Detroit. I wanted him to lure people in and attract them and make them think, and to also turn the whole town and world upside down. The blue hair was something that allowed me to get into that head space and make people’s eyes gravitate toward me.”

He does admit, “I wasn’t initially wanting to make it that blue. I was like, ‘Well, maybe we can make it washed out, like maybe it was blue a while ago and it faded out from that.’ But Ryan [Murphy] specifically wanted it to be a very strong blue because Kai, he said, the name means strong. We had to dye it a couple times a week, which was very frustrating, but it did look strong.”

This season is loosely based on the 2016 election. Both power and politics motivate Kai, Peters says, though he adds, “politics is his means to get as much power as he can.”

And how far is Kai willing to go to get power? “Obviously incredibly far. I’ve already killed my brother,” he says. “Going as far as to kill your own brother to maintain your power and your status and your symbol to your followers is incredibly extreme.”

Throughout his run on the show, Peters says he’s learned to just trust Murphy’s vision.

“He’s having the character do what he does for a reason, whether that’s to throw a mirror up to the real world or to frighten people or to awaken them,” Peters says. “He has his finger on the pulse, and it’s just in your benefit to just go with it.”

Peters also hinted at the finale, which he says didn’t surprise him. “I saw where it was going, and I’m glad it went there,” he shares. “There’s a lot of power being taken back by women, which is very cool.”

One thing he’s gained in his multiple seasons working on “American Horror Story” is the ability to memorize massive amounts of dialogue, he shares.

“They always say it’s a muscle, and I’d always say, ‘Bulls—. I don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s not a muscle.’ But it is kind of like a muscle. It’s like part of your brain that you just keep using, the memorization part, and it just gets easier and easier and easier until it almost becomes second nature.”

Evan Peters photographed exclusively for the Variety Remote Controlled Podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

An added challenge of this season, however, was acting with himself and playing multiple characters. “I just kept feeling like I was Eddie Murphy in ‘The Nutty Professor.’ The very, very twisted version,” he jokes.

Still, he says, as an actor, he will always rise to the opportunity for an occasion. “There was no room for self doubt. I had to get rid of that, and I’ve always, always doubted myself and I still do, really horribly actually, it’s terrible. So it was cool to put that aside and just try to have confidence and believe in myself.”

Playing a self-assured character like Kai gave him a confidence boost, he says, adding, “To be in the skin and the power that Kai has, to sort of order people around and be adulated the way that he was by the Proud Boys, it was quite empowering because I don’t feel that in everyday life.”

Peters also teased his character’s future. “It’s all going to fall apart. He’s going to use every last drop of everything that’s personal to him and important to him to go after what he wants. He will stop at nothing.”

Even Peters doesn’t know how — or if — the seasons intersect, though he does have theories. “There’s one little line, where it’s like, ‘You wouldn’t accept an interview from Lana Winters,’ or something like that,” he points out. “It’s like the smallest little connection ever, but pages will be written on it. Maybe one day it will all connect.”

One season he’d like to revisit is “Murder House.” “To get everybody back would be so cool. Everyone’s gotten a little older, I know ghosts can’t really age,” he laughs.

Peters says the anthology factor of the show, which allows for new storylines from returning actors, best resonates with fans.

“It’ll also satisfy that ADD we all have now where it’s something new and something fresh, but there’s something familiar about it, and you’re still seeing some of the same actors and that feels cool,” he says.

You can listen to this week’s podcast here:

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday, and you can find past episodes here.

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