When Adina Porter first signed on to “American Horror Story: Apocalypse,” she was told her character, Dinah Stevens, was a “self-made billionaire like Oprah.” And while that certainly proved to be true — Dinah was a wildly successful talk show host before the events that led to the end of the world and her taking refuge in the Outpost 3 bunker — it was just one layer to a complicated woman.
“Dinah is a chameleon and she becomes whoever she needs to become for whoever her employer happens to be, whether it’s a rich Beverly Hills socialite or Papa Legba,” Porter tells Variety.
The seventh episode of “Apocalypse,” titled “Traitor,” revealed that Dinah’s drive came heavily from her roots as a voodoo priestess.
Porter says she learned her character would have magic within her while she was shooting the first episode of the season and was soon after told to watch all of the “Coven” season to get a better idea of the magic with which they would be playing. Voodoo was introduced there through characters such as Papa Legba (Lance Reddick), who returned for a guest appearance in “Traitor,” but Porter didn’t want to just copy what Reddick had done in the earlier season of “Horror Story.”
“With ‘Coven,’ the witches all have their different powers and different spells and there’s not one way to be a witch. So I wanted the voodoo queens to also have that same flexibility,” she explains.
Porter, whose father is from Sierra Leone, has spent a lot of time traveling around Haiti and West Africa and has been to many voodoo ceremonies herself. Drawing on personal experience was imperative for her in formulating Dinah’s own rituals.
“Voodoo is a religion, it’s not something that just comes out at Halloween time,” Porter says. “There’s not just one way to be a voodoo priestess. … A voodoo ceremony in Haiti was different…than a voodoo ceremony in Nigeria, than one in South Central.”
While Porter notes that “voodoo came to New Orleans from the slaves coming from Africa,” she decided Dinah’s connection to voodoo would be older than New Orleans because “I was told that Dinah and her energy and her spirit is old.”
Porter admits she and Reddick didn’t have to do anything special in preparation ahead of the scenes to combine their takes on voodoo. She simply “felt the freedom” to carry out her version because of her experience and trusted the process on set.
Similarly, Porter says the freedom of immersing herself in a completely new character for each season of “Horror Story” excites her more than trying to find parallels between them.
“I want to reveal different parts of myself for people when they’re watching, to forget that’s also the same person who played Beverly Hope [in ‘Cult’], that’s also the same person who played Lettie Mae in ‘True Blood,’ and that’s also Indra from ‘The 100,'” Porter says. “I want [Dinah] to be completely her own person.”
“American Horror Story: Apocalypse” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.