The PALEYFEST provides a great program for fans to watch the creative artists behind their favorite shows reminisce about process and cut loose is a way they can’t during a five minute late-night plug session. The AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ROANOKE panel, moderated by Tim Stack of Entertainment Weekly, offered executive producers Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear. Ryan Murphy wasn’t at the panel and he was barely mentioned. The cast in attendance had fun from the moment they walked out on stage until the moment they left. Adina Porter, Cheyenne Jackson, Dennis O’Hare, Cuba Gooding Jr., Sarah Paulson, and Kathy Bates were all ready to answer questions and engage with their energetic fans.
Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates are a hilarious duo and delivered much more to the experience than you might expect. AHS is an anthology show that keeps its story lines and scripts in strict security. Minear commented; to receive the California Tax Credit they had to submit a short synopsis of their series. Even that submission was a red herring. The cast delivered without giving anything away. So, don’t expect any news about season seven, this was primarily Roanoke.
Roanoke’s Chapter 10 played before the panel. I’ve already seen this episode, like most people in attendance, but this was the best way to see it. There’s a special energy in a theatre full of adoring fans. Just before the screening, I made a casual poll of the people sitting around me. Half didn’t like season six, but some did. Most didn’t like seasons three, four, or five either. Almost everyone I asked agreed season two, Asylum, was the best. So why the packed house and loving energy?
Chapter 10 begins with a sequence that takes place at Paleyfest 2016, where the cast of a fictional My Roanoke Nightmare sit on a panel next to some of the actual people being portrayed in drama. Me and the rest of Paleyfest 2017 are watching a clip of Sarah Paulson playing Audrey Tindall who played Shelby Miller sitting next to the Roanoke Shelby Miller played by actual actress Lily Rabe. Then, fifty minutes later, Sarah Paulson walks out on stage and we see life chase the art.
This is a bold show. The fans have their favorite seasons but they love the recurring cast members and the American Horror Story frontier spirit. In American Horror Story: Roanoke, Sarah Paulson played Shelby, Audrey, and her second season character, Lana Winters. Other cast members agree when they first saw the scripts, the character dynamics weren’t immediately clear. However, this is no ordinary cast. American Horror Story casts an exceptional group of talent. Paulson says she shared a dressing room with Bates during Roanoke and would often hear her practicing The Butcher’s accent. Bates teases Sarah about passing out from heat exhaustion in Malibu. It only takes a few minutes watching these fantastic talents rip and dig at each other to want to see them go one forever. Bates and Paulson as a cop duo, werewolf hunters, intergalactic smugglers; you can’t go wrong with their line up.
Ryan and Falchuk have been interested in the Roanoke mystery for years, Falchuk explains the key was the Roanoke format. There were scenes that required they write camera direction for twenty –thirty cameras, many held by the actors in the scene. It takes a confident team to even attempt this trick, I doubt they would have considered it for season one. It requires faith that your cast and crew perform on a superhuman level. Not that Ryan and Falchuk need concept ideas from the gallery, but someone did ask if they would consider a season about slavery in America. Falchuk agreed that is was something in their wheelhouse. They brushed it a little during season three’s Coven, and it might be better suited for their sister series, American Crime Story. This was the best exchange to come from the audience Q and A and I’d love to see their talent put to the theme.
The only other serious moments came when the cast talked about Angela Bassett working behind the camera on episode six. Cheyenne Jackson talked about her great direction and understanding of the story and performance needs and everybody else echoed the respect. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her directing in the future. Cuba Gooding Jr. lightened the mood by reminding people Basset played his mother in Boyz in the Hood (1991) and his sister on Roanoke, “Angela may be immortal, she doesn’t age.”
Falchuk says they’ll continue to cross over characters from previous seasons as long as the stories provide opportunities. After bashing each other for an hour, Sarah asked Kathy where they were going to dinner afterwards, they took letters from fans, and fans rushed the stage when the panel concluded. This production works hard, they appear to play hard, and the fans are willing to go with them into the weirdness of their election oriented season seven.
Eric lives in a world where the television is great, the smiles are warm, the pizza is hot, the puppies are playful, and the zombies are slow and meander while he reloads.
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Eric Rodriguez | Contributor