When American Horror Story: Roanoke first started, few could have predicted how it would all end, or who would still be standing when we got to the finale.
We assumed we'd see more of the couple who gave up their life savings to buy the house, or of the actors who played them in the reenactment. In the end, however, it was the the cop sister, who survived nearly to the end of all ten episodes thanks to the fact that she was willing to do anything to protect her daughter, and also partly thanks to that heart she ate.
Adina Porter, who many TV fans will know from True Blood, The Newsroom, and The 100, played Lee, sister of Matt (Andre Holland), and sister-in-law of Shelby (Lily Rabe). She spent most of the first five episodes simply being interviewed by the producers of a reality show called My Roanoke Nightmare about her time with her brother and sister-in-law in the creepy haunted house, and whether or not she really did kill her husband.
After episode five, things took a turn, and Lee was the only original cast member of My Roanoke Nightmare to survive the second season.
Not even Porter herself knew whether Lee committed that murder or not until she read Lee's confession in episode eight, but that's not unusual for this show, and this season in particular. E! News chatted with Porter to find out what's it like to suddenly realize you're the surprise star of a season of American Horror Story, and just how much of a secret this season really was.
What was it like, not only being the newbie but then turning out to be the surprise star of the season?
That was pretty awesome. I had no idea that was happening. American Horror Story signed me up for six episodes with an option for four more, so I just thought I was going to be playing along with everybody else. No one knew. It would just be as the episodes would come out. Everyone dies on American Horror Story, so it would just be about how and when, and so everyone was a little bit surprised that it was me that ended up being the last one standing.
So you really had no idea what was coming until the scripts came out?
No, absolutely not. In the beginning, I was by myself, because I would be alone and just film the interviews, so I wasn't even with other cast members. Just the crew, the director, and I remember the producers constantly coming up to me and apologizing for just sitting and doing a monologue. I was like, please don't apologize, I'm having a ball, I'm so happy and thrilled to be involved. They said you'll get to play, episode three they said, we're all going to go back to the house, everybody all together and you'll get to play. But I don't think they knew.
I remember even once, I guess it was when we were shooting seven. I hadn't gotten eight yet or hadn't been able to read eight yet, and Cuba Gooding Jr. came up to me and said, you're going to have a lot to do in eight. And then other people came up to me like, oh boy, wait til you see eight! So I was like well let me read eight, because obviously I'm going to have a lot to do, and you know, I read eight, and I was like well I'm alive in eight, that makes sense. Something will happen in nine. I had no idea that it was gonna be ten.
Towards the end of nine, producers were coming up to me going, so how do you feel being the star? Deep down inside, I was like, uh maybe I'm scared shitless but I'm not going to let you know that because I don't want you to think you can't trust me. So you say the same thing everybody says when you give them a really great opportunity: I'm just so thrilled to be here and thank you very much for trusting me with this opportunity. And then you just do your homework and breathe and go, OK, I can handle this.
Was it kind of fun for you as an actor to have no idea what was about to happen?
I actually don't know if fun is the right word, but it was kind of like being in an improv, because you don't know what's going to happen, so you just have to keep yourself relaxed and then go with what is presented to you. And in that way, it was empowering, exciting, thrilling to, after all the years of work that I've done, then be in this particular moment, and just be prepared for whatever comes down the pike.
They say police work is 90 percent boredom and then 10 percent fear and adrenaline and the moment is happening and you just gotta figure it out, and all your training has to prepare you for how you react when this is happening. That's kind of like what it felt like. Just gotta relax and know that you can do this.
Did the cast do any theorizing on set?
No, because the cast is busy. They've got projects to go to after this, so they're present when they have to be present. Because there are so many different writers, we spent a lot of time in rehearsal before we start shooting saying OK, what are the given circumstances, and does the line I'm saying now really represent what just happened before? Because you know, each writer does their own little section, and then when we get together, ok let's make sure it makes sense, what we're doing now, after what just happened. Because you don't always shoot everything in a sequence, so the actors spend a lot of time and energy making that sense happen, but nobody spends any time thinking about what's going to happen next, or even am I gonna be alive in this or that.
I mean maybe I thought about it because I like staying employed, but you know, Sarah Paulson, Angela Bassett, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Kathy Bates don't have to worry about, you know, where's my next job? I think they're comfortable.
It probably helped that most of the cast was used to being killed off of AHS.
True. I have to say that was one of my goals too. I just want to do a good enough job so I can also be invited back to next season.
How intense was the secret keeping? Could you tell anyone you were doing the show?
No, I couldn't. And no press release saying "Adina Porter, etc etc." In the beginning I was super paranoid about it, because I didn't want to get fired. So my agents knew nothing about it, and because I was also doing The 100 at the same time, it got to a point where scheduling-wise, they needed to know if I was available and when to go up to Vancouver to shoot that. [Episodes] one through three, I was only doing one day on American Horror Story, because it was just the talking heads, or just the monologues. So then the casting people, when they got these phone calls from my agent, they were really kind of surprised that they were clueless about the storyline at all, that Adina's that good of a secret keeper.
The reality was that Angela Bassett was playing me, and that's just too far fetched to even think about. Who are you gonna tell that to? You tell that to somebody, and they're gonna look at you like oh, you're delusional. You don't even want to utter those things.
What surprised you the most, other than the fact that you were the final survivor?
The most surprising thing was when I was beginning to be eaten. That was the most surprising thing, because when I'm reading it and I'm captured by these people, my first thought is oh my god, the worst thing that can happen to me is they're going to rape and kill me. Oh my god, that's the worst thing that could happen. Then you turn the page, and you go, oh my goodness, that wasn't the worst thing that could happen. That was a real surprise.
It got to a point too, where…I mean I'm a bit of a wuss. I'll even watch like a Tom Cruise Jack Reacher movie where, I mean there's a lot of action, but the violence is no real violence, but I still hide my face because there might be violence. And even for blood, I saw them shooting it, so I know how fake it was, and still I was like, oh! I got to a point where I was reading the script during the daytime, because I didn't want to have those kinds of thoughts going through my head and then trying to sleep.
There were some particularly gruesome scenes this season.
I very much enjoyed an ear being cut off, a leg being sliced into, that's incredibly gruesome, but then there was the mind manipulation that I think a mother does with her daughter to try to win favor. That's what I really enjoyed about that first season—the things that Jessica Lange's character was saying to her daughter. I very much enjoyed the rationale that you come up with to get away with things you do to your husband or your partner because you feel justified being a person's mom. I love that kind of evil, that kind of head game, that kind of jealous behavior.
American Horror Story will return to FX next year.