It's Desiree Dupree's time to shine on American Horror Story: Freak Show. Aside from a few breakout lines, making out with her husband's son and going to the doctor with Kathy Bates' bearded lady character, Angela Bassett's had a relatively tame season of American Horror Story. That's about to change in tonight's episode, "Blood Bath."
"Well, strange things have been happening at the freak compound. Really, just mysterious," Bassett told us in a phone interview. "We don't know who's causing what. We think it may be one person, but maybe it's not. I mean, there's a lot of mystery. A lot of mysterious things that are going on and it comes to a head. Desiree really, finally gets empowered and decides to take matters into her own hands."
Viewers have seen Desiree clash with her strongman husband Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis), the very person behind a lot of the disappearances and attacks. But he's not been acting alone. Well, Desiree finally decides to get off the sidelines and tries to unite Elsa Mars' merry group of performers.
"It's a female empowerment, you know?! It's the moment where enough is enough and too much stinks. You've been pushed to the wall and you come out fighting," she said.
Does it work? Well, that'd be spoiling you too much. Read on for what Bassett had to say about her three-breasted character, the big changes she's gone through and American Horror Story's series-wide connections.
We learned that Desiree is in fact all woman. Did you know that from the start?
No I didn't. That was revealed to me as I read that episode, which was about what, six in?
Yeah. Did you approach playing her differently after that?
No. I can't say that it did. You just have to sit and try and make sense of it, but it didn't change it for me because she lived her life as a woman, so she was committed to that idea.
Compared to last year, this season has been pretty different for you. You're playing a totally different character and now it seems—at least from what we've seen so far—that Kathy Bates' character, Jessica Lange's character and yours are all on the same side, as opposed to last year when everybody was kind of warring. What's that been like?
It's been great. Yeah, last year was three different camps and now we're the same, so to speak. But it's fun to be at war! I wish there was a little bit more—I've got to say, being at odds is a lot more fun. [Laughs.]
Do you have a favorite part about Desiree?
She's just a free spirit. Her sensuality is on display. You want to play at it. It's on display; it's a big part of who she is. There are no rules, you have three breasts or whatever, there are no rules. [Laughs.] Do what you want, wear what you want, say what you want.
Has that impacted you at all? The way that you act as Angela?
No, no. I'm pretty thoughtful, I think. But I enjoy playing somebody who—that would be me on my best day, in my best dreams. Ha!
And speaking of the three breasts, I heard you pretty regularly flash people on set. Is that true?
Not intentionally, but yes, it does happen with a frequency. It's not intentional; it's just the nature of two cleavages instead of one. [Laughs.] Clothes were made for one cleavage, not two.
In terms of approaching this character and this year, what do you think the biggest challenge has been for you?
Just, trying to make choices about who she is and going for it and the challenge is not knowing what the end will be. Sometimes it's like, "Oh am I friends with her? How do I feel about her?" You make a choice and then something happens two episodes later and you go, "Oh, OK. Now I just have to work out, in my world," now I'm doing something totally different and may have played it different. That's the challenge. You don't have all the scripts laid before you so you can see where you're going to end up, so you make strong, bold choices and you're making twists and turns on a dime.
Has Ryan Murphy spoken to you about coming back next year?
No, he hasn't.
Yes. Sure! I would seriously consider it because it's all been so good.
I have to ask because several times this season I had to look away because Twisty scared the crap out of me. Have you watched? Have you experienced any kind of terror because of it?
Yes, I have. We all watched it together early on, the first episode, and I was just sitting next to one of my cast mates—there's maybe 100 of us watching it during lunch [Laughs] one day and I just scream and yip and yell and put my hands over my face and open my fingers to peer through. Of course I'm whispering, ‘What happened? What'd he do? He stabbed him in the throat! And then what happened?' [Laughs.] It was Twisty and me as well. Twisty took me on a ride as well. And then of course when you learned his story, then you feel sorry for him, you know?
Ryan has said all the seasons are connected—what do you think about that?
I'd like somebody to please tell me how. [Laughs.] I think you need to be in Mensa to figure that one out and I'm not, so could someone please give me a clue?
I know. We have Pepper [Naomi Grossman] from Asylum is in this season and another one [Lily Rabe's Sister Mary Eunice] is coming.
Yeah! She's in this season and she's the same character, but it's only those two seasons. How is that connected with the first season? And the third season? How is that connected to Coven? See now I'm at a dead end again.
What are you looking forward to viewers seeing in this episode?
You've got to play fair, you've got to love deeply, you've got to have compassion or you get what you've got coming to you. That's all I can say.
Can we expect a showdown between you and Michael Chiklis' character?
Oh yeah. [Laughs.] I mean he's been checking for me here and there with what hecomes out of his mouth.
He's been asking for it! I just want to see him get what he deserves.
American Horror Story: Freak Show airs Wednesdays, 10 p.m. on FX. This interview has been edited and slightly condensed.