Ryan Murphy’s terrifying anthology, American Horror Story, returns to television on October 17 with its second installment, Asylum. The first season, which took place in a haunted house, became the biggest new cable series of last year and garnered 17 Emmy nominations. For its sophomore season, a handful of the series' original cast members return in new roles including theater veterans Jessica Lange, Lily Rabe, Zachary Quinto and Sarah Paulson. Entertainment Weekly spoke to the cast and creative team of the latest mental institution-set installment and unearthed a whole lot of spooky details.
AHS: Asylum takes place in 1964 at Briarcliff Manor, an institution for the criminally insane. The asylum is run by the Catholic church, specifically a sadistic nun (Jessica Lange), fallen Monsignor (Joseph Fiennes) and Nazi physician (James Cromwell). Angels in America star Zachary Quinto is also employed at the hospital as a forward-thinking psychiatrist who conflicts with the tyrannical Lange. As naïve nun Sister Eunice, Tony nominee Lily Rabe serves as Lange’s second-in-command —though Rabe warns her character is not as innocent as she seems.
The religious-themed season was inspired by Murphy’s own experience growing up Irish Catholic. “My mother would volunteer to take one nun with us vacation,” Murphy recalled. “They would actually sleep in the same bed as my brother and I, and I would ask them a lot of really deep questions. ‘Are you sad you never had a boyfriend? Are you sad you never had a kiss? Tell me about God. Do you speak to him?’ So I’ve always been interested in the inner life of nuns, and I wanted to do a period piece [this season].”
As for the eclectic group of patients who fill the beds at Briarcliff Manor, the characters live “unnatural” lives by 1960s standards, and therefore are sanctioned from society. The patients include Broadway’s Sarah Paulson as a lesbian reporter, off-Broadway vet Chloe Sevigny as a sex addict and Mark Consuelos as a degenerate. First season star Evan Peters also returns as a man in an interracial marriage who is suspected of killing his wife (though he claims she was abducted by aliens).
Ready for a good scare? Tune in to FX on October 17 to see how aliens, Nazis and serial killers all come together on the highly anticipated second season of American Horror Story.