Of all the revelations one might expect from American Horror Story's PaleyFest panel this year, the most surprising one was just how funny everyone was. From Dylan McDermott's awkward account of his infamous cryin'-while-masturbatin' scene to Jessica Lange's effortless, Constance-esque one-liners, to famously subdued Ryan Murphy's joking responses, this panel was as upbeat and celebratory as AHS was downbeat and disturbing. But mixed in with the enthusiastic, fan-friendly anecdotes and discussions of the writers' inspirations were a few tantalizing hints about American Horror Story's much-anticipated second season.
Earlier today it was reported that both Zachary Quinto and Jessica Lange will return in Season 2 as major characters, but tonight Murphy confirmed that additional returning cast members will include Evan Peters (Tate), Sarah Paulson (Billie Dean), and Lily Rabe (Nora). He was careful to add that returning actors will be playing characters that are the "opposite" of the ones they played during Season 1. And while the central Harmon trio will be sitting out Season 2, he assured the audience that "anybody can pop up at any time" and he hasn't ruled out the possibility of revisiting characters or plotlines in future seasons. Even when it comes to former cast members' now suddenly busy schedules, "the door is always open for fun, crossover, cameo stuff."
By now we know the second season will take place at an unspecified east coast facility of some kind. As Murphy had teased shortly after the Season 1 finale, a big clue regarding the Season 2 location was buried somewhere in the penultimate episode and during a pre-Q&A; screening of that episode, "Birth," that clue was pretty glaring: Psychic Billie Dean likened the Harmon's supernatural forces with those commonly found in "prisons or asylums."
(This teaser poster would also seem to confirm the asylum theory.) [Nevermind, it's fake.] In response to a question about whether the haunting aspect would be similar to Season 1's (i.e., ghosts being tangible and also trapped where they died), Murphy made clear that ghosts will probably not be as prominent a theme this time around, as both he and AHS co-producer Brad Falchuk want to explore other kinds of horror genres. Although he twice mentioned that we should "never say never" when it comes to ghosts; so far his only rule when it comes to this show's supernatural phenomena is that there will never be "werewolves or vampires." (The crowd went wild for this.)
To go with Season 2's different setting and mood, a new title sequence will be created. When asked about American Horror Story's striking Season 1 credits sequence, Murphy talked about how he took inspiration from the opening titles of Seven and approached the same team to handle AHS'. Although the sequence was intended to be a standalone mood-builder, it also incorporated hints as to the series' direction and was filmed concurrently alongside the pilot using the same sets and props. Fun fact: That fleeting image of a mysterious hooded man with the garden shears was originally meant to become a plotline later in the season, but the idea was dropped when the writers couldn't fit it in. But we shouldn't be too disappointed by dropped storylines or unexplored story elements because...
As Murphy and Falchuk admitted, American Horror Story is nothing if not a collection of their favorite horror obsessions, so it's safe to assume that if they like an idea enough, we'll be seeing it onscreen. When one audience member pointed out the hanging thread that was Constance's unaddressed fourth child, Murphy and Falchuk confessed that they'd run out of time to include that story in Season 1 but hope to possibly follow up on it later.
According to Murphy and Falchuk, they began breaking the story for Season 2 just last month and cameras won't roll until July. This is a comparatively lengthy and relaxed window of time, considering Season 1 was apparently rushed to screen so that it could air by Halloween—so they're looking forward to having more time to really nail down the storylines. Asked whether she was terrified about agreeing to a Season 2 before knowing anything about it, Jessica Lange joked that "it'll be terrifying in, you know, June. But now I'm pretty relaxed about it." Murphy also confirmed that, just like last year, we can expect a Halloween season debut for Season 2.
What are you most looking forward to about American Horror Story Season 2?
[Photos courtesy PaleyFest.org]