Sarah Paulson has given us some very different characters throughout her time on American Horror Story, but the role she plays on the upcoming season is unlike any she’s given us so far, and it takes quite a bit of work.
For the fourth incarnation of the series, Paulson will play a two-headed woman who is part of a “freak show”–the last of its kind, set in 1950’s Florida–and the actress had to learn how to play opposite an animatronic head and make it look believable.
“We did a cyber-scanning of her leaning to the left and to the right and made body casts. Onto these left and right body forms we sculpted left and right heads,” says Justin Raleigh from Fractured FX. “The heads were designed to match her as much as humanly possible. If she’s playing Bette’s lines she’s wears the Dot animatronic and vice versa. She does both. A carbon fiber shoulder harness rides across her back and is harnessed into her vest, carrying the weight through her whole body instead into one shoulder. If she had to be glued into, like, a prosthesis, it would take hours.”
The new season promises lots of scares, if the promos are to be believed, and while everyone involved with the show is mostly keeping mum about what we can expect, some are dropping hints about it. Executive Producer Tim Minear has said that the villain for season four is the scariest yet, and considering the source material, that’s not hard to believe.
While fans may be concerned that a traveling circus freak show might come off as campy, the showrunners have always made it their job to tread a fine line between dark humor and terror.
“Some years it’s going to be big and bright and brash and campy the way Coven is. Other years it’s going to be dark and brooding—like Asylum was. I guess I would put Freak Show half-way in between the two. It’s not quite as brooding and formal and Hitchockian as Asylum, it’s got a little bit more humor and a little bit more camp, but its got a brooding period feel to it also,” FX CEO John Landgraf said.