AHS look-back: Hotel interviews
I break a bit from my usual pattern here.
Remember when I said for the airing of season 1 Ryan Murphy gave interviews each week after each episode airing to Entertainment Weekly? Well he did the same here. I couldn’t add the info in my previous look-back posts, because they would have been too long, so I’ll put any interesting info here. I also have an interview with the set designer of Hotel, done by Vulture, that can be of quite some interest.
Ryan Murphy’s interview for “Checking In”.
# On the differences of style, it is noted that “Freak Show” had more static shots because it was a season about being in the open, and not being able to hide your differences, being naked and exposed. “Hotel” however has much more movements and fish-eye techniques, because with this season they wanted to do something more “claustrophobic”, more about “hiding things”, and there is a strong influence from the idea of peepholes (hence the fish-eye), this idea of people spying on you.
# Ryan Murphy explains that they reused here the rule established in season 1 and that applies to all of their haunted places throughout the show: you die there, you haunt the place.
# Ryan Murphy confirms that the man in the mattress was a former client of Sally’s drug deals. Whenever someone is sewn into a mattress, you know it is because of her.
# Here is a fascinating bit about Sally and her relationship with the Addiction Demon :
So are the Addiction Demon and Sally punishing those who seek drugs?
No, the Addiction Demon is there to inflict his pain and suffering which addiction does not only to the victims but to the people around them. I think Sally is there, having gone through the experience, to comfort them in their time of need. She’s more of the yin to the yang. Those two do work together but she’s gone through it and she died for it. So she’s trying in some ways I think to make amends for her ghastly acts.
# Interestingly, they brought Marcy back not just because they loved her character but also because one of the questions the writers were asked the more often was “What happened to the Harmons dog after season 1?” and they answered just that.
# Ryan Murphy explains that if you feel that The Countess introduction is almost like a silent movie, it is the point. Since the Countess past is tied to the world of early cinema, the “film culture of early Los Angeles”, they wanted to foreshadow it by making her first scene almost like a modern silent movie.
# About his version of vampires, Murphy explains he wanted to do “vampirism but not vampires” and thus came up with this idea of an “almost biblical virus”, with its good and bad sides, and inspired by the (then current) stem cells research. The core idea was that these vampires were mortals, simple human beings, that never aged and couldn’t grow old - since AHS has played a lot on the themes of aging and beauty in earlier seasons.
# Ryan Murphy explains that with her children The Countess has an “Auntie Mame” feeling - she loves children, she wants to save them from whatever abuse she perceives, she gives them sugar and video games all day long... But at the same time she also acts out of her own selfish need, and it is mentionned that she is very specific about the look of her broods. When asked if Lachlan will become one of her children, Ryan Murphy blatantly says no, because she only takes blond children as part of her brood, and if you are not blond than too bad for you. Ryan Murphy expands a bit on her obsession with looks when asked why all the men are good-looking brunettes with dark features, and he mentions that the Countess’ aesthetic obsession is actually part of her “insanity”, a form of madness that is very “wounded” and comes from a “core wound” in her personality. (Of course we know said core wound was the loss of her original lover).
# For those of you who didn’t recognize the club The Countess visited in the late 70s in “Chutes and Ladders”, it was Studio 54.
Ryan Murphy’s interview for “Chutes and Ladders”
# When Ryan Murphy and Evan Peters created James March, Murphy told Peters to think “1920s East Coast” and take references such as Clark Gable or William Powell. The accent however came from Evan Peters himself (Evan Peters talked a length about how he developped the accent in other episodes) - and fitted very well Murphy’s view of March as a very educated person, and when you are very educated at the time it means you probably spent some times outside of America, and the accent reflected that.
# Ryan Murphy explains that the reason behind March’s evil is simple and can be found in the lines he says in this episode. He had everything handed to him thanks to his success, excess became part of his everyday life, and so to feel something he had to push himself, towards extreme and very dark places.
# The Countess’ flasback at Studio 54 was a nod to a famous entrance Bianca Jagger once did at this very club.
Vulture’s interview with Mark Worthington
ACTUALLY I planned on looking at the original Vulture interview but I actually need a subscription to see it. So instead I’ll take some information taken from a second-hand article that heavily quotes the interview. And yes Mark Worthington was the main head and designer when it came to creating the sets of the Hotel Cortez.
# The choice of an Art Deco style came from the original idea of the showrunners to have an hotel that had its glory in the 1920s and from then fell into decay. Mark thought Art Deco was “creepy and beautiful” at the same time and perfect. While the Hotel Cortez was heavily inspired by the unfamous Cecil Hotel, the outside of the Cortez was actually the one of the Oviatt Building (also in Los Angeles, of course).
# The lobby was designed to fell like you were lost in time, jumped back in earlier times, a sense of confusin and loss reinforced by a complete lack of windows. The depiction of Hernan Cortez has a very noticeable detail: the sun rises behind the conquistador. It is a very precise reference to how the Aztecs practiced human sacrifices in hope that the blood would feed the sun that would rise each day. I’m adding my own thoughts here, but it seems clear this puts in parallel and perspective the Aztec human sacrifice practices, Cortez’s own mass massacres of the natives of Central America, and James March’s mass murders in the hotel.
# The Countess’ penthouse was supposed to be her “boudoir” while the rest of the hotel was her “playground”, and Ryan Murphy nicknamed it “the sex room”. When designed it, Worthington kept an Art Deco style to match with the rest of the hotel, but modernized it heavily, because it wasn’t supposed to be stuck in time like the rest of the building. Very ironicaly for a vampire and queen of the night, he also designed it so that there would be a form of clarity in it, notably by adding and playing with mirror-like surfaces and reflecting materials. While the rest of the hotel is made out of mostly angular, rectangular, square shapes, the Countess’ penthouse is rather made of curved lines and round shapes.
# The room in which the Village of the Damned-like vampire children of the Countess are kept is nicknamed “The Tetris Room of Death”, though officially it is “the nursery”. It shares the same “brightness”, modern-look and neon use as the Countess’ penthouse, and while much more modern than the rest of the hotel, the designers still wanted to keep a vintage feel (such as the use of dated video games and cartoons). Worthington mentions that they wanted to mix together the Wonka Factory and the world of Clockwork Orange.
# For the hallways of the hotel, there was a need to create an endless maze feeling, a never-ending stretch of rooms and corridors and corners in which the damned and lost souls would wander for all of eternity, like blood pulsing through the arteries of the hotel (again there is a reference to the hotel as having an anatomy ; as I mentionned before the end of the chutes where the corpses are dumped has been referred to as the “stomach” or “digestive area” of the hotel). To do so, the trick Worthington used was to build corridors that did not go in circles, but rather in “rectangles”, giving this feeling of “running to nowhere”. And apparently, he felt very proud when even Ryan Murphy had a hard time navigating in the set because of these corridors.