You'll Never Guess How Ariana Grande Was Cast on Scream Queens—and More Scoop from Ryan Murphy!

Casting secrets behind our favorite new fall show!

By Kristin Dos Santos Sep 18, 2015 4:27 PMTags
Scream Queens, Billie Lourd, Ariana Grande, Emma RobertsSteve Dietl/FOX

Stars, they really are JUST LIKE US!

At least, that's the takeaway upon hearing the story of how Ariana Grande came to Scream Queens: She took a meeting with creator Ryan Murphy to try to get him to tell her spoilers on his other show, her favorite show, American Horror Story.

Ariana, girl, I love you harder. Done and done.

Scream Queens—hands down, the best new show not only this fall but in a long damn timepremieres in just 4 days on FOX! And to mark the occasion, I chatted with Ryan Murphy about all things Scream Queens (and American Horror Story), and will be rolling out scoop in the coming days. 


In case you hadn't noticed, something crazy and wonderful has been happening with Scream Queens. People have been talking and tweeting and obsessing over this show—long before they've even seen a single episode! According to recent Twitter stats, it's the most highly anticipated new fall show (behind only American Horror Story: Hotel, which isn't new new).

Not only is the show JUST THAT GOOD (our #1 pick for fall—by a landslide), it also has a built-in edge when it comes to social media fervor, thanks to the genius casting of a few A-listers with massive followings. Emma Roberts and Lea Michele, already much loved in the Murphy-verse, have been joined by the likes of Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas, Patrick Schwarzenegger, etc. And of course, the inimitable Jamie Lee Curtis, which is just badass. And you've heard about that little-known newcomer Lady Gaga on Horror Story, too, right? 

So what is the secret? How does Ryan do it? How does he get these huge names on board? And what happened with Ariana? Read on for the scoop...

Steve Dietl/FOX

KDS: You've cast some really incredible names on this show. What was the secret?
RM: The thing about my stuff is that I'm always shocked when anybody says yes to anything. But in my case, what happened was, I reached out to Ariana and Nick and Jamie Lee [Curtis] and on and on. It always comes from a place of fandom. Always. So I just call and say, ‘Hey, will you meet with me?' And the case with Jamie Lee, it was a very charged meeting because Brad [Falchuk] and I loved her so much and also knew that if she said no there was no show. I had to bring my A-game. And then here she walks through the door all dressed up looking like a million bucks, carrying John Carpenter photo albums for Brad and I; so we're like, ‘OK, maybe she's in.' She knew about the other work, and when I pitched her, she was just so thrilled and honored to sort of be a part of something.

KDS: So when you're pitching people like that, what is your "A-game?"
RM: Here's the thing: When you tell somebody, ‘I love you. I have always loved you work and I want to show people a different side of you,' it's sort of an interesting thing that in my case I've been very lucky where they're like ‘OK.' That's what happened with Ariana. But, well, actually the truth is she was just obsessed with American Horror Story, like she was obsessed, so I think she just met me to ask questions about the new season to be honest!! [laughs] I really do.

Matthias Clamer/FOX

KDS: Love it! Did you tell her everything?
RM: I didn't tell her a damn thing! She was mad about it later. So we started talking about that and I said, ‘Hey, I have this new thing that I'd love for you to be a part of. It's sort of American Horror Story-esque, but it's a little bit with a wink and a nod.' And I told her what it was, and she was instantly on board. Initially she was just going to do one episode, but she loved the process so much that she wanted to do more. When you go after people like her and Nick, their schedules are so insane between touring and music. And that's like a whole other world, the world of being a pop rock star, which they both are. But in both their cases, one episode led to another episode, which led to another episode and I think Nick ended up giving us five episodes, something insane. But it all just came from a place of, ‘Hey, let's do something and have fun.'

KDS: Have you ever regretted casting a star like that because the scheduling is so hard?
RM: No. Sometimes it's very tricky; I will be honest with you. It's a little crazy and sometimes we have to shoot on the weekends and fly people in and move things around, but I always think that it's worth it. For the most part, these roles 100 percent were made for these people, and I think you can feel it in the way they perform. There's just a lot of love in it, and it's a lot of geeky, fandom love, which is my favorite. That happens across the board with me. I'm lucky enough to rarely get a ‘no', because if you come at people with the right way, with hopefully a pure intention, they're down.

KDS: On Scream Queens, did you know who was going to die and not move on to season 2 or did that change as you began filming?
RM: No, I think for the most part Ian [Brennan] and Brad [Falchuk] and I… You can't do a show like this without knowing, OK, what's the end? There's always little moves you can make based on fun, weird s--t that you throw into the writing. We always, for the most part, knew what it was about. There's a big baby about who's the baby in the bathtub, which opens the show.

Frank Ockenfels/FX

KDS: You also have some amazing newcomers on this cast: Glen Powell, Skyler Samuels, Diego Boneta, etc. And you've discovered some incredible actors in the past on all of your shows: Glee, AHS, etc. Looking back over the years, do you have a favorite discovery?
RM: Well that is always really fun for me. The Hollywood thing is like it feels like the biggest thing in the world, and yet it's the smallest town. I met Emma Roberts I think in the first season of Glee when she wasn't Emma Roberts then. She was just starting out. She was America's Nancy Drew. My relationship with her has grown through the years, and of course I'm very good friends with her auntie. I remember when Evan Peters walked in the door. I purposefully in American Horror Story, that first season, like I don't want to cast somebody that I know in this part. I want people to discover him. I remember Evan's auditions like it was yesterday. He auditioned in front of everybody and he walked out of the room and myself and Brad and all of the suits were like, ‘Well, that kid's a star.' You just sometimes know if people have something in them. Of course he got the part, and he's gone on to be an amazing talent. I felt the same way with Skyler [Samuels on Scream Queens]. I did a very small thing with her on American Horror Story, and I thought she was a pro. I thought she had such a presence. Brad and I really wanted her for this part. Just fun, weird stuff has happened with the show.

Matthias Clamer/FOX

KDS: And Glen Powell on Scream Queens—Oh my god. He kills me. So good.
RM: We were writing the part of Chad Radwell that was very specific, and I kept saying, ‘How are we going to find anybody who can do this stuff who's fun and good looking?' Ian Brennan said, ‘I know this guy Glen Powell, who's roommates with Chord Overstreet, and I've been out with him and I've seen him do sort of improv stuff. I think he would be great.' That led to me meeting Glen, and as soon as he read it you were like, ‘Oh, my god. Where have you been all my life?' The fun thing is to constantly be adding people to the world. Finn Whitrock was another example. I did not know him and he read for some tiny, little thing for Normal Heart. I thought he was so amazing, and between the time I saw his audition he got booked for this Angelina Jolie movie, and of course he'd done Death of a Salesman, I believe, on Broadway. Getting in the ground floor with somebody like him as his career is starting to take off, and then last year he was such a sensation on Horror Story, and bringing him back this year having him do two parts—not one, but two—is to say, ‘OK, let's give you something that's fun that's going to challenge you as an actor,' is hands down my favorite thing. I love that. I love actors and I love working with them and seeing them do different things that are cool for them. It's one of my favorite things about the job.

PHOTOS: 16 Fascinating Facts about Scream Queens

Matthias Clamer/FOX

KDS: Scream Queens finally premieres Tuesday night. What reaction are you hoping to see on Twitter? Will you be monitoring it or staying off Twitter? Have you decided yet?
RM: All of us involved on Scream Queens are all in on Twitter that night. I feel like it's a show with a lot of social outreach and that's happened from the beginning. We started doing that right when we started shooting the show. It's a very young cast, almost everyone is on social media, and so we're going to be live tweeting the episode. We're going to have full cast participation. Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas, everybody loves the show so much that they want to get on board the Scream Queens train. So it's going to be a really big, fun night. We're actually going to be live tweeting the east coast and the west coast, so we're making sure that everybody gets something fun that night and everyone is really excited. It's a two hour premiere and the second episode, which nobody has really seen, ends with a really big, big, big cliff hanger. So I'm very excited about that, that people will be able to see and talk about that.

This Tuesday night, E!'s TV Team also will be live tweeting during our first "Squad SQ" Scream Queens viewing party. (There may or may not be costumes...) And I'll be hosting a live Periscope right when the episode ends (East Coast time), so make sure to follow @kristindsantos on Twitter for all the ridiculous shenanigans an exclusive scoop!

Plus, don't forget to join our very exclusive secret Scream Queens society, Squad SQ, for special access to scoop and more! 

And while you're counting down the days til Tuesday, be sure to check out our gallery of 16 of the most fascinating facts about the show.