The following story contains major spoilers about this week’s episode of American Horror Story: Asylum, so if you have yet to watch, avert your eyes immediately. Everyone else, you may proceed…
Lana Winters’ epic American Horror Story: Asylum nightmare went from bad to are you freakin’ kidding me this week when she discovered that her savior, Dr. Thredson, was none other than Bloody Face himself! Worse yet, the intrepid reporter is now trapped in the serial killer’s lair alongside the (apparent) corpse of her lover, Wendy.
Below, Lana’s battle-weary portrayer, Sarah Paulson, opens up about the toll the emotionally draining role is taking on her, reveals why last week’s aversion therapy sequence made her “angry,” and teases the unspeakable horror still to come.
TVLINE | When did you find out that Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) was, in fact, Bloody Face?
I knew from the very beginning that it was going to be him, but I did not know that Lana was going to be the person that was going to fall prey to him and be trapped with him.
TVLINE | How much more can one woman take? Where does she get the will to live?
She wants to make sure everyone knows that Kit is innocent. And she also wants to expose who [Bloody Face] is. Not to win a Pulitzer, but to stop him from doing this to any other women. I think Lana is a big-time feminist. I think the whole reason she stopped Kit from escaping – and I know everyone was mad at me about that — was to protect the women in the outside world. She was afraid he would get out and kill again.
TVLINE | Has this role emotionally drained you?
Yes. More so than anything I’ve ever done. But, at the same time, there’s an odd exhilaration from an acting standpoint when you feel like someone is really throwing you the ball — like, you’re only as good as the pitch that’s thrown at you. The last time I had something like this on a series was with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. On the one hand, it’s been really hard. And in Episodes 6 and 7 it [gets worse]. But at the same time, there’s a part of me that’s overjoyed at the opportunity to do the thing I love to do. I’d much rather be doing this then sitting at a desk in a law firm on a TV series passing a bunch of briefs around saying, “Hey, check out this brief.” I also haven’t been on television in a long time where my goal is to look as unattractive as possible. Usually they want the blonde hair, they want the extensions, a lot of makeup… This is the polar opposite of that. And it’s a very liberating thing as an actor to not be worried about what you look like.
TVLINE | I’m almost afraid to ask, but how much worse does it get for Lana?
Oh, Michael. Michael, Michael, Michael… I can’t even tell you.
TVLINE | That doesn’t sound good.
The one thing I can tell you is that I’m still here. We’re about to start shooting Episode 11 and I have not died. But I can’t tell you if I have both my eyes or my arms or my legs. But I’m still living. It gets very bad though. What happens in Episodes 6 and 7 is particularly terrible. And it gets worse in 8, 9 and 10. And it isn’t until Episode 11 when things change. That’s a long time to be suspending yourself emotionally in this place.
TVLINE | Are we supposed to be questioning whether Lana’s significant other, Wendy, is dead?
I think by the end of [this week's episode] that’s an appropriate thing to wonder. But it will become very clear by Episode 6.
TVLINE | What has your relationship with Zachary been like through all of this?
We have been good friends for years, so part of what was so special for me in the conversion/aversion therapy scene was that I got to act with my friend. It was obviously a very harrowing thing to do in front of people. I don’t know how many people want to put their hands inside their pants in front of anyone, much less a crew of 40 people. It’s emotionally exposing and literally exposing. I was like, “Dear Mom. Please don’t watch this episode. Love, Sarah.” [Laughs] But [Zach] was so supportive. We kept looking at each other and saying, “Our friendship is going to help this so much.” There’s an enormous level of trust between us. I think it made it possible for us to go even further than we would have gone had I been looking into a stranger’s face.
TVLINE | Did the content of that scene make you angry?
It made me angry for Lana. It made me angry for women and men during that time. And I know aversion/conversion therapy is something that is still practiced in certain places in this country and around the world. But it doesn’t work. And it’s barbaric, back then especially. It’s infuriating. So, yes, it made me angry, but it felt right. It felt like the right thing to do because this is what would have been on the table for her then. This would have been the option. More than anything it was a scene about courage — Lana’s courage. She was willing to try anything to save herself, including losing herself completely.
TVLINE | Do you have trouble shaking this role off when you get home at night?
During the first three episodes, it was OK for me. Episode 4 with the aversion/conversion was tough, but I was OK. From Episode 5 until about Episode 8 were hard. It wasn’t even that I couldn’t shake her, it was that I felt a kind of malaise and sadness and I couldn’t figure out why. And I thought, “Look, you’re stuck in this basement and you don’t come out for hours. Horrible things are happening to you. You may or may not be strapped down. It’s horrible.” Intellectually, you can go, “This isn’t real, this isn’t real.” But your body doesn’t know. It hurts when you’re pinned down to a bed [and] you can’t get up to pee. It’s a very emotionally draining thing to try to survive in the most extreme set of horrifying circumstances.
TVLINE | Has Ryan Murphy promised you an all-expense paid trip to Canyon Ranch when this is over?
[Laughs] No, he hasn’t. But I [think I] know how it ends. And because of that I feel that there’s a sliver of light that may come. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but I have hope.