It’s the creepiest show on TV, filled to the gills with shocks, horror, sex and sadism. With season one hitting DVD and season two, Asylum, now on air, Time Out some twisted answers out of actor Dennis O’Hare, who plays “Burn Man” on the show.
Dennis, having redefined bloodlust on True Blood you’ve now added “Burn Man” to your canon of creeps. What is it about this genre that gets your juices sluicing?
Doing horror or any kind of supernatural or sci-fi is great because you feel like you’re playing someone larger than life, a character that has more than one dimension. Playing a district attorney in a procedural there’s not a whole lot of opportunity to explore your emotional range, you know? But when you’re playing a guy who has burned his family alive and is now living in a flophouse, desperate to be released from his torment, there’s a lot of opportunity to explore your emotional range.
Indeed. For those not familiar with American Horror Story how would you introduce “Burn Man”?
I think of Larry as unknowable and unknown. He’s very mysterious. What is motivating him? Where is he from? And what about him is true? Because so much of what he says early on is not true. We get amendments to Burn Man’s reality as the series unfolds. That said, I think he’s a completely ethical character in a strange way. Everything he’s doing has complete reason and he has complete sympathy. His ultimate goal is a form of redemption and he’s looking to achieve that redemption by any means necessary. He’s trapped in the real world and he wants to get out of it.
That could be true of the show’s audiences too. Is American Horror Story’s ability to put viewers on the razor’s edge of realism and surrealism the reason, despite our fears, we can’t tear our gaze away?
This show is great because it’s honest. It basically says “C’mon, you’ve had that conversation. C’mon, you’ve had that thought. C’mon, you’ve had that feeling… you’ve had that fear.” American Horror Story asks: Ever had the fear of being chopped in half by an elevator? Here it is. Ever had a fear of somebody breaking into your house and raping you? Here it is. Ever had that sexual desire for the housemaid? Here it is. This is a show that asks people as they’re watching: is this familiar? Do you have this problem? Do you feel this way? I think that’s really interesting.
French maids. Gimps. Hell’s fire. Basement beasts. What’s American Horror Story actually about?
I think redemption is what all the characters want and what they are looking for. Constance and Tate are characters looking for release. Vivian and Ben simply want to find that happy place, that paradise. Violet is looking for love, meaning and her completion in a strange way. Weirdly, that leaves Larry and the other characters as the most earthbound. I think of Burn Man as kind of an Igor figure. He’s doing the bidding of other people and he’s chained to this role in his reality but he’s desperate to get out.
American Horror Story season one is out on DVD. American Horror Story: Asylum (with Chloë Sevigny, James Cromwell and Joseph Fiennes) screens on FX 8.30pm on Weds.