“American Horror Story” is poised to return to FX for its fourth season, and series co-creator Ryan Murphy is shedding light on the mysteries within its twisted carny tale.
Premiering Oct. 8 at 10 p.m. ET, the popular horror drama takes on the title “Freak Show” as it shifts its focus from Season 3’s witchcraft tale in New Orleans to a bizarre group of entertainers in Jupiter, Florida, during the early ’50s.
Emmy winner Jessica Lange returns to the series as Elsa Mars, a German cabaret star who hopes to address her carnival’s waning popularity by recruiting conjoined twins Bette and Dot, played by Sarah Paulson.
“I felt it was such a ripe world; the carny world, the freak show really ended for the most part when television began,” Murphy recently told Entertainment Weekly. “So one freak show replaced another. So that was always the idea.
“I always was very interested in Tod Browning’s ‘Freaks.’ I loved that movie and ‘Carnival of Lost Souls.’ So there’s a lot of horror tropes to pull from and admire. It’s also our biggest year; so I think it took a while and it took success for us to earn the money to do what we had to do. We had to build an entire city. We built an entire huge compound and then we had to build the interior of all those buildings on set. It’s all period. And it’s all based on (production designer) Mark Worthington’s immaculate research. … It’s a very romantic, sad place.”
But it’s also set to be a very dark place, too, and Murphy promises a rather disturbing antagonist in the form of an evil Bozo played by John Carroll Lynch.
“Twisty the clown is a murderous clown and he’s furious that the freaks have shown up in a town where he — the most evil clown of all time — has retired, and he’s out to make their lives a living hell,” Murphy explained. “I’m fascinated by the whole clown phobia thing because I personally don’t have it.
“But whenever we shoot those scenes half the time a third of the crew has to leave because they’re so afraid of him. There’s a real interesting thing that people have with being terrified of clowns. So we decided to go head on at it and we tried to make him the most terrifying clown of all time.”
Murphy (“Glee”) co-created the series with Brad Falchuk. Each season is structured as a self-contained miniseries, and the chapters include “Murder House,” “Asylum” and “Coven.”
Season 4 also stars Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Denis O’Hare, Finn Whitrock, Patti LaBelle, Frances Conroy, Michael Chiklis, Evan Peters, Emma Roberts, Gabourey Sidibe, Wes Bentley, Jyoti Amge, Naomi Grossman, Mat Fraser and Erika Ervin.
See more of Murphy’s interview at ew.com.