Working for “American Horror Story” always sounds like the most interesting job in television. Any show that has a new story every season, engages with gore and wild imagery and is obsessively secretive leading up to a season premiere has to be more unique than most other Hollywood gigs.
Actress Alison Pill is one of a few new additions to the franchise in this year’s edition. “American Horror Story: Cult” has been shrouded in secrecy. Audiences knew that it would be about the election and that clowns were involved but few other details were released.
At the Television Critics Association’s press tour this summer, Pill was apologetic about not being able to reveal any details about her character, even if her colleague Sarah Paulson did it for her by revealing that the two were in a same-sex marriage.
“I was so worried I was going to get fired,” Pill told TheWrap about working on the show for the first time. The mystery was new for her.
“[There was] a little bit there that was on ‘Scott Pilgrim.’ There was a real culture of secrecy that Edgar Wright runs,” she explained. “But nothing is this level I think. This is a whole different ballgame.”
Pill’s first season on “American Horror Story” has been event-filled and loaded with twists. The actress plays Ivy Mayfair-Richards, the local owner of a restaurant and butchery who’s married to Sarah Paulson’s character, Ally Mayfair-Richards.
At first, Ivy looks to be the innocent bystander of her wife’s mental deterioration, the pragmatic partner and rock of Ally’s life. However, in Episode 4 we learn that Ivy has been part of the cult that has been scaring her wife and spreading fear throughout the town. Her motivations can be attributed to the results of the election, specifically after finding out that Ally had voted for Jill Stein and not Hillary Clinton. The characters in the series are going over the top in terms of violence in response to their fears, but it works, according to Pill.
“It’s a really funny world to be in,” she said, adding that she finally understood the mood of the season in Episode 3, which she found “hilarious.” “In the moment you never quite had a sense that this was the case since you’re playing the reality of these insane scenarios.”
Pill is just one of a bunch of newcomers this season, including Billy Eichner, Billie Lourd, Leslie Grossman and Colton Haynes. Some had worked with Ryan Murphy before, but there was little that could be done to prepare for the day-to-day on set. Pill said she was shocked by how much gore and fake blood she and the other actors had to work with.
“I think it’s nice to have the mix of people,” Pill said. She said that she and other actors would react to something and the veterans would respond with “yeah we’ve seen this before.”
Besides hopping into one of the lead roles on an always crazy show, Pill is also a part of its most politically charged season. “Cult” is in direct response to the 2016 election so the characters are reacting to the rampant racism, sexism and fear that, in Murphy’s interpretation, came with it along with clowns and cults.
“What a great diving in point because this has brought out so many of our greatest fears and we’re all living in a state of fear that I don’t think we’ve seen for a while in this country — fear of nuclear war and fear of environmental destruction,” Pill, who was born in Canada, said. “The apocalyptic feeling in the culture and in our conversations with each other right now, it’s the perfect jumping off point for something called ‘American Horror Story.'”
Pill is also one half of a same-sex coupling that forms the core of the show.
“Not much of an issue is made of it. It’s wonderfully downplayed,” Pill said of the marriage. “It’s somewhat important that they’re in a same-sex marriage but it’s more important that they’re in a slightly troubled marriage.”
Overall she said it was fun to play around with melodrama and to be a part of the franchise, which she says has a long tradition of complex female characters.
“It’s stuff you just don’t get to do,” she explained. “It’s real genre insanity.”