(Warning: This post, which was first published July 16, contains spoilers for the series premiere of FX on Hulu’s “American Horror Stories.”)
Paris Jackson was told she’d be playing a bully when she landed her role as Maya on the series premiere of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s “American Horror Story” spinoff anthology, “American Horror Stories.” But the actress tells TheWrap she was unaware just how big a bully her teen queen would be until she read the massive twist in the script for “Rubber (Wo)man,” which sees her character live-stream her supposed friend and love interest Scarlett (played by Sierra McCormick) telling her about her violent sexual fantasies.
“I didn’t know anything about what this season was going to be, they’re very top secret about that when you’re auditioning,” the 23-year-old told TheWrap Friday, one day after the two-part “American Horror Stories” debut launched on FX on Hulu. “And they gave me sides to audition for Scarlett. And when they told me that I was going to be in the show, they hadn’t really given me much information on the character. They just told me the name of the character and then I was going to be playing a mean girl — but they definitely didn’t tell me how mean I was going to have to be. So when I read the script the first time, I was honestly pretty horrified at how cruel and just evil and vindictive the character is. But overall, it was an incredibly amazing experience.”
After learning who Maya really was, Jackson says her focus with director Loni Peristere was figuring out how to keep her the “same Maya all the way through” but focusing on “different dimensions to her”: the Maya who flirts and connects with Scarlett over text and the Maya who betrays her for the world to see to impress her friends at a sleepover.
“I spoke to the director about why she was doing this and why she was leading Scarlett on and how she really felt inside,” Jackson said. “And he and I spoke about it, and it made more sense to be like, yeah, Maya actually does have feelings for Scarlett and she does question her sexuality. And she doesn’t know how to feel about it and doesn’t know how to behave about it. And obviously, her friends hate that idea. So she’s got to be the top dog of this rich-bitch, mean-girl crew.”
Jackson says that when it came to acting out that twisted scene with McCormick when Scarlett realizes the humiliating betrayal that is occurring, there was many a “sorry” said when the cameras weren’t rolling. And that attitude came back around later when McCormick had to strap on the Rubber Woman costume and act out murdering Jackson and her fellow mean-girl actresses as retribution for their evil act.
“With Sierra, it was just us apologizing to each other constantly. They’d call cut and I’d be like, ‘I’m so sorry. I promised I don’t hate you’ to Sierra. And she’s like, ‘It’s fine, it’s fine,’” Jackson said. “And then when it came time for her to kill us, she kept saying, ‘I’m so sorry, I promise I don’t hate you.’ It was a really cute constant interaction of us apologizing to each other, especially because she’s very believable. She’s very convincing. I think she felt the same way about me.”
A huge fan of “American Horror Story” since high school, Jackson says she was excited to not just be part of the spinoff, but also find out her character would be killed and trapped as a ghost in the iconic Murder House from Season 1. Of course, she expects that Maya spends that time in a productive way.
“I would hope that she would spend eternity coming to terms with her sexuality and embracing that and being OK with herself,” Jackson said. “And learning how to be kind (laughs).”
New episodes of “American Horror Stories” will premiere Thursdays on FX on Hulu.