‘American Horror Story': Here’s How Ryan Murphy Got Jessica Lange to Come Back to ‘Murder House’

First-time director Sarah Paulson tells TheWrap what it took for the “AHS” alum to finally return to the franchise

Last Updated: October 18, 2018 @ 7:52 AM

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for “Return to Murder House,” Wednesday’s episode of “American Horror Story: Apocalypse.”)

She’s baaaaaaack!!!

Jessica Lange made her long-awaited return to “American Horror Story” tonight — and she brought the whole “Murder House” along for the ride.

The installment (directed by series star Sarah Paulson and aptly titled “Return to Murder House”) saw the comebacks of Season 1 stars Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott and Taissa Farmiga (again, as the actress has already reprised her role as “Coven” witch Zoe this season), who reprised their roles as the Harmons, and Frances Conroy and Evan Peters (two other “AHS” leads who are taking on multiple roles this season) as Moira and Tate Langdon, the devilish Michael Langdon’s (Cody Fern) ghost father, respectively.

And then there was Lange, returning as Constance Langdon, Michael’s grandmother — marking her first “AHS” appearance since she exited the Ryan Murphy-created franchise after Season 4 aka “Freak House.” Paulson explained to TheWrap how Murphy persuaded the fan favorite star to come back — and apparently it really didn’t take much persuasion.

“I mean, I think the truth is Jessica has played four extraordinary characters on this show, and Constance was the beginning, and it was a character that was close to her heart,” Paulson said. “So I don’t think it took much convincing to get her back here for that. I think it was her love of the character, the connection to that character that drew her back. And hopefully it didn’t hurt when he said to her, ‘Sarah is gonna direct it.’ You know, it didn’t make her say no or anything. She still did it. (laughs).

Lange was a prominent fixture during the first four seasons of “AHS,” playing a leading role in each installment, including the parts of creepy next door neighbor Constance in “Murder House” and (former) Supreme witch Fiona Goode in “Coven.” But she hasn’t returned for even a cameo since leaving, and Paulson felt honored to have her back for the episode in which she made her directorial debut.

“I mean, I credit her and every single person in the cast, all of whom I’ve worked with a long time, for making it such an easy transition for me,” Paulson said. “You know, Jessica hasn’t been on the set of ‘American Horror Story’ in four years. So this was, for her, a new world in a way, because she hasn’t been here in so long. So she was completely open, willing, ready and hungry for my ideas, thoughts, and notions about how to play a scene. And it was humbling, really, because, you know, this is an actor I admire probably more than almost any actor on the planet, and not only is she my friend of almost 15 years, but she is the person I’ve acted opposite most in my working life. So there’s a lot of dynamics at play there, and it could have gone any which way, because when you shift the playing field you never know what happens to people.”

“But she was so extraordinary and incredibly generous and just on my side,” Paulson continued. “And it made it really easy. And she’s such an extraordinarily gifted actor that every time we did a take she gave me so much rich material and also many ideas of different things she could try. Jessica will give you five different things going on in four words. And it’s a really extraordinary thing, it was a real embarrassment, I actually had nine and a half hours of dailies for my editor to go through the day we shot her stuff sitting at that kitchen table.”

“And it was like 11 pages of dialogue and I had three cameras on her,” Paulson said. “But he said that I beat his daily record, he’d never had more than seven and a half hours of dailies and I gave him two and a half hours more than that with all of the Jessica Lange stuff. So I felt pretty proud of that, even though it did create a pretty tremendous amount of work for him to have to go through every frame of everything and try to pilfer the best takes from everything.”

Read more from Paulson’s interview with TheWrap about her directorial debut here.

“American Horror Story: Apocalypse” airs Wednesday at 10/9c on FX.