(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Wednesday’s episode of “American Horror Story: Double Feature.”)
This week’s installment of Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story: Double Feature” dove into the backstory of the little black pill that can turn talented people into blood-thirsty savants and untalented people into blood-thirsty zombie’s by revealing the origins of its creator: The Chemist (played by Angelica Ross).
A former high-level government employee at a fancy lab, The Chemist left her job and moved to Provincetown after an ugly divorce to start working on her passion project, which is developing a pill that can unlock the creative mind.
While this little black pill, which still has no name in “Red Tide,” the first part of the two-part “Double Feature” season of “AHS,” is obviously fictional, Ross tells TheWrap she believes something like it actually “does exist” in the real world. And she herself has taken it and learned the consequences, though they were nowhere near as severe as those experienced by the vampires created from the pill on “AHS.”
“So I’ll tell you something that I haven’t said to anybody else is because I’ve been trying to find a way to explain it,” the “Pose” alum told TheWrap. “So basically, I think that something in the world does exist like that. I know that when I was in college, I was majoring in organic chemistry. And so I then came across– the kids had like some form of Adderall. And so I took an Adderall to try to study and take the test. Now, what I experienced was mind-boggling, in the sense that I could not only retain the things that I was studying in organic chemistry, I could kind of explain it to you backwards. Like, the way that my brain worked, it kind of made me feel insecure because I felt like, wow, why can’t my brain work like this not doing that? What’s wrong with this sort of situation?
“What I noticed in that very short time that I was taking that medication is that I also became a little bit of an asshole,” Ross added. “I was finishing things, I was talking kind of fast. These were the side effects that I was having. And I knew that I was being a little bit of an asshole to people who weren’t processing things as quickly as I was. So that leads me to believe that, again, yes, of course, we all have trouble focusing in this world when we’re in the middle of a pandemic, when there’s a school shooting every month, when Black people are killed by police. It’s hard to focus on. But it’s like, at that time when I was in college, I told myself, ‘OK, this is great, but I want you to find a way to connect like that with your brain without that.’ And it’s taken me a very, very long time, trust me (laughs). But it’s really just through dealing with myself directly and honestly and not telling myself any lies.”
Ross says that she feels what she learned from that experience herself is “at the base of what The Chemist is tapping on.”
“It’s the lies we tell ourselves and each other about our lives and what we want and what we can do and how talented we are,” Ross said. “So she says, ‘Every child whose mother told them they could be the next Elvis or Tyler Perry is going to take a chance on that pill.’ And nine out of 10 of them, she said, not one out of 10, nine out of 10 are going to end up like [the Pale People]. So she’s not even thinking about high results. She’s just thinking about the fact that greatness is what it is, you either have it or you don’t. And I think that that’s just part of the social commentary of Hollywood, that said, either you have it or you don’t and either you’re willing to do the work to get there or you’re trying to take shortcuts. And some people do.”
“AHS: Double Feature” has made a few not-so-subtle references to prolific TV writers, filmmakers, authors and artists during the first few episodes of “Red Tide,” alluding to people like Quentin Tarantino and even a Murphy-like producer taking the little black pill to amplify their success in this fictional world. So we asked Ross what her thoughts were on this meta commentary.
“I don’t know what the nods are to other directors and folks that they made, but I think those are just jabs,” she said. “You know, Ryan Murphy loves to take jabs (laughs). But I just know that our culture is in this space. I mean, there have been movies, there have been other things that have talked about enhancement pills that would help us perform better. A lot of folks are interested in that. But I think that The Chemist is not interested in the money. She’s not even interested in, necessarily, the outcome being, ‘Oh, great, I’ve found the cure for mediocrity.’ I think what she’s more interested in is being right. And as nasty as that sounds, I think that she just wants to prove herself right.”
“American Horror Story: Double Feature” airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on FX.