In the 13-episode, fifth installment of the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning franchise, American Horror Story: Hotel ventures into The Cortez, an infamous hotel in Los Angeles that is operated by The Countess played by international superstar Lady Gaga. Featuring an all-star cast including series regulars Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Evan Peters, Dennis O’Hare and Chloe Sevigny, the series welcomes in expanded roles Matt Bomer, Wes Bentley and Cheyenne Jackson. AHS was co-created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk.
Lady Gaga is an international superstar who has won Grammy’s, MTV Video Music Awards, and been named one of Time Magazine’s most influential people. She has created best selling popular music over the course of multiple albums including her most recent endeavor, a duets album of jazz standards recorded with Tony Bennett. Lady Gaga is also a philanthropist and actress, with her breakout role coming this season on American Horror Story: Hotel.
It’s hard to imagine any other show correlating with your aesthetic tradition so well. Is that part of what made you excited as being a part of this and do you see it as correlating with your aesthetic tradition?
Yes. When I first spoke to Ryan, and my first relationship with American Horror Story, was because I am a fan and I loved watching the show. I felt a true kinship with him from afar, and also there is that thing that we artists would like to believe in which is the zeitgeist and when you’re watching something and you’re doing work you sort of start to go, Oh, he’s thinking what I’m thinking but we don’t know each other and that’s because we are emotionally and intellectually existing on this really visceral and artistic plane and we’re just following our instincts. So when I met him, which was on set after I said yes, it was a match made in heaven.
But what I find to be interesting is that, sure, there’s that aesthetic quality that is similar in that we both have a fascination with darkness but what I find really amusing is somehow even though I’ve had many people tell me it’s not like they’re watching me when they watch the show, somehow I find it very funny that people wonder if that’s just the way that I really am so this was very easy for me. To just kind of walk in here with my blond hair on and be a bitch and be rude to everyone and that’s just what I do because you’ve seen me do something like that before.
When the truth is, it’s actually very challenging to be sincere when you have all of that on. It’s not comfortable, it’s never been comfortable for me, but the idea is to make it look effortless and to be honest, I have spent a lot of time studying Anthony Perkins from Psycho, Anthony Hopkins from Silence of the Lambs, I’ve spent a lot of time watching The Jinx and Robert Durst’s character as he’s a rich, serial killer similar to The Countess in a way, this sort of a practical approach; if you know me in real life, I’m extremely dramatic and funny and laughing and joking with my friends and then you watch this show and somehow you still come in here asking me, How is it possible that your life is so congruent with The Countess? And actually, her and I are very different.
It was so hard for me to be mean all the time. Ryan would be like, Be more of a bitch, or be meaner, or be more restrained. It was something I had to really work on and in that way, I found a real freedom in her because I’d like to be able, as an actress, to just be my true self which is a platinum blonde, and not be viewed that I’m trying to put on any type of character. This is how it was in the old Hitchcock films, right? There was a blonde heroine and it wasn’t seen as shallow or campy or a costume, it’s just women were revered with that kind of elegance and beauty so I hope that I can take a piece of what I’ve learned here with me so that my next character can be completely different, hair and make up and all of that, or I could still be a blonde and not be The Countess.
Everyone we’ve talked to today has said how prepared you’ve been for this role and it is your first big acting debut, but I want to know, how did you prepare for this? Did you have any first day jitters?
Well, you better believe that I prepare my ass off to come in with these fantastically talented actors. All I have is my preparation time and Jesus, really, to save me from possibly screwing this up! I mean I have a scene with Kathy Bates after this and I was up all night with my script, jotting notes and looking at it and figuring it out because that’s all I have when I get in there is my discipline and that’s the thing that I’ve learned over the past couple of years is probably my biggest strength in all of this is that I’m actually very disciplined and love being an artist, love being a student, so I read my lines, I spend a lot of time thinking like her. When I go out if I’m walking down the street, which is very rare alone, but if I’m out in a restaurant or I’m in the car and we’re driving past people I’ll sort of look at them and go, gee, I wonder if you’re clean. I wonder if I were to kill you if it would be worth it for me. And you just have to kind of start thinking like that, in that totally practical way… I have to start thinking like that constantly in order for it to feel real when I’m in here otherwise you risk the challenge of the campy blonde in the outfit just being a bitch with the outfit on. And quite frankly, I think you could put a number of women in this role and it would be fantastic, it’s a great role. So it’s what can I bring to it that’s special that no one else could bring?
And first day jitters?
I threw up on the way here in a Ziploc bag in my Rolls Royce. I don’t know why I thought that was funny, but I thought it was funny, and I saved it and I brought it to Ryan Murphy and he was like, Oh, you think you can disgust me? You can’t! Because I was, the thing is, you think you can’t get anything past me but then he met me. And I’ll bring him a bag of my own vomit to the set. And I’ll just say, I did this in the car, I’m so nervous. It was great though, yes, I was completely nervous. One of the kids had lice the first day so they had to shut down the set which was kind of amazing but it was my first scene so I was talking to the kid and it was a 40 year old woman on her knees with a blonde wig on pretending to be the kid and I was like, I’ve never done this before! The camera’s on me, Ryan Murphy is screaming, Yes queen! And I’m just really praying I don’t fuck this up. It’s very nerve wracking.
If you were a vampire in real life, which cities other than Los Angeles, would you choose to be based?
I would not choose Los Angeles, if I was a real vampire, just to put it out there. Although for her purposes as she’s quite clean, it makes sense, everybody here gets a lot of colonics, everybody’s really healthy, lots of diets, pure lifestyle, pure living, E3 Live, people eat amoebas all day to stay strong. It’s like, this makes sense for The Countess but myself, I like more of a thrill, personally, I’d probably go to Russia. I don’t know if you’d like why, but I’d go there…
Do you see yourself as sort of a Renaissance Woman – acting, dancing, singing, and performing?
I’ve always felt that way about myself inside. It’s always been so important to me that if I were ever to make a move in television or as an actress that it would never feel like a move. That nobody would ever go, Oh here she is, trying to become an actress and put out a clothing line and a record label and that’s what everyone expects, that it’s time for my empire – I don’t give a fuck about that. That is completely unfulfilling to me; it does nothing for my soul. What I did want was to be taken seriously as an actress who went to Strasberg for ten years, since I was ten years old…
I’ve always been this way, it’s been the public that has told me, you’re a pop star, that’s what you do. And if I do anything against that like Artpop they go, woah, what’s this? This is too art! But I’ve always been a performance artist. It’s just about what rises to the top and what the press chooses to highlight and say about artists.
You ask me that question, are you a Renaissance Woman? 100 percent, but I am one because I earned it over time. And I fought for it to be something that people knew as authentic but it’s very hard, especially for females. And in pop music if you give them anything except a dance performance and a number one record, they don’t understand it. Its like I’m supposed to provide something that actually, I don’t agree with it at all, I think art’s about what you can get away with. That’s what Andy Warhol used to say.
You and Ryan Murphy have called each other creative soul mates; can you elaborate on that at all?
It’s a fearlessness. It is living out being fearless through art every day. We come in here, there are no rules. This is the safe house. So what we all demand from one another or expect from one another, I think, or what I feel when I’m here, is total commitment to telling the best possible story and to being willing to take it further than any other show on television. That’s what I like about him, I don’t come in here afraid that he’s going to go, mmm, that’s too much, but he does. I wanted there to be penetration at the end of the foursome at the top of the first episode. I didn’t understand, I was like, I don’t get it: we’re going to kill them and fuck them, and then make out and then its over? Because I’m thinking like her. So I’m like, where’s the rest of the scene? Doesn’t he fuck me on the bodies? I don’t get it. And Ryan was like, we don’t need to show that, it’s the first episode, we’ll get there. And then we waited and Finn and I did it at the end of the second episode… So why we are kindred’s is because his favorite part of me is my favorite part of me and his favorite part of him is my favorite part of him, so when we come in here it’s like, we’re so passionate. I know people think we’re cowboys, but we’re not… Meaning, we’re willing to get what we need and we’re reckless. But that’s not the case at all.
The Countess is 100 years old. Have you given any thought to what you’d like to accomplish in your life if you were to live to 100?
Yes. I suppose I have, in a way. I suppose that I actually think that my objective in live is very similar to The Countess’ even though we are very different in character. And that is, I believe that The Countess has two objectives, they change, she goes from the top of the season, for myself, I want to be celebrated and if you’re not celebrating me, you’ve got to go. But my second objective where she is now which actually makes sense because this is my life story, I wanted to be celebrated by my art, and then my objective in my own life changed, and hers does to. I want the people that I know and that I love, I want them to love the real me, not the idea of me that they think they know. This has probably been one of my biggest struggles as a human being is that somebody can say to me, maybe I could know them for a year, I could see them every day and they could say to me, Gaga, I love you, but I know that there’s still kind of this veneer in front of me and wall, and that maybe they say they love me but they’ve yet to see beyond the hair and the make up, even if I’ve take it all off and shown them, but there’s still this really famous person standing in front of them and they just cant see beyond the thing and I desperately so want for you all to love the real me and not the idea of me that you write about or see. For The Countess now where we are in the season, what you start to see is that she wants everyone in this hotel to love her for who she really is, cunning or not, cunning, evil, she feels that they’re all here in this triumph of the hotel because of her and she keeps them together and she wants to be rewarded for who she truly is and not for anything else.
American Horror Story: Hotel is available on Blu-ray ™ and DVD from 3rd October, courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.