SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Return to Murder House,” the sixth episode of “American Horror Story: Apocalypse.”
Connie Britton helped launch the “American Horror Story” anthology franchise in 2011 when she starred as Vivien Harmon in the “Murder House” season, and after seven years away, she made a highly anticipated return in the sixth episode of “Apocalypse.”
“It was really important to me, I really wanted to do it. We had talked about it for a long time, and this was the moment,” Britton tells Variety. “I did not have to think about it.”
Britton carved out time during production of her new limited series “Dirty John” to guest star in “Return to Murder House.” She says getting back into the right mindset to play the wife and mother who died during childbirth and whose spirit had been trapped in the house ever since was “a little bit scary.”
“It did feel like I had to jolt myself into it a little,” she says. “I hadn’t been back in seven years, and ‘Oh my gosh, can I stand in this character and the rest of it?'”
What helped it all come back, she shares, was that they were filming at the real Los Angeles house in which they shot the “American Horror Story” pilot back in 2011, as well as the fact that there were so many familiar faces around her.
“Brad Buecker, who directed and produced a lot of the first season was there, and Sarah Paulson was directing, which was so awesome,” she says. “So it really helped a lot by literally stepping back into that world.”
Britton had assumed the show left Vivien in a positive state: She was dead, but so was her family. “In my little lighthearted mind I was like, ‘And they ended up living happily ever after as ghosts,'” she says.
But the “Return to Murder House” episode of “Apocalypse” proved that not to be the case.
“She always blamed Ben for bringing that evil in back in the ‘Murder House’ days, with his affairs and indiscretion,” Britton says. “So I think she had a lot of anger toward him about that, and they’ve been living in their separate ghostly corners.”
While Vivien’s relationship with Ben was strained, her relationship with Tate (Evan Peters) improved — so much so that he saved her when her grown son, Michael Langdon (Cody Fern), tried to burn her soul.
“There was going to be a moment between Vivien and Tate where after he saves me from the fire and throws me to the ground [there would be] a moment of ‘Hey, thank you so much,'” Britton reveals.
Britton says that what became important while filming that moment was not to linger too long on the gratitude to imply that Tate’s history was forgiven. After all, he had raped Vivien in the first season, which is how she came to give birth to the antichrist (and a stillborn baby). “It was sort of awkward and it felt weird: ‘Thanks a lot for saving me, but about that time you raped me, not so great,'” she says.
In trying to kill her son, Vivien ended up being the reason he fled the house and went out into the world to remake it in his own image. In Britton’s view, that was Vivien “trying to be heroic,” but she admits she doesn’t think Vivien “understood what the outcome was going to be [or] how difficult it would be to try and kill her son.”
That, she says, was one of the more complicated moments of the episode for someone who “was always the most together character.”
“I like to imagine that even in death, in her ghostly state, she’s still keeping it all together,” she says.
“American Horror Story: Apocalypse” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. FX.