American Horror Story: Freak Show
10 p.m. Wednesday, FX
Actors love playing all different kinds of characters; it is their grand passion. But Angela Bassett was dumbfounded when she discovered she was going to play a gender-challenged creature on FX’s “American Horror Story: Freak Show.”
“I didn’t have a clue whatsoever what the part might be,” says Bassett, who played an entirely different character on the show last season.
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“I just knew I had a great time the previous year, and if that was any indication, it was going to be a wild ride. I think it was about two weeks before I was scheduled to come down to start shooting that I got the hot-off-the-press script. I sat down to read it to see...
‘African-American woman in her 40s, hermaphrodite, three breasts, and a ding-a-ling.’
You’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ You immediately close the pages, and have to walk around and process that for a minute. You’re thinking, ‘What does that mean? Oh, my gosh. If they thought I was crazy demonic last year, what are they going to think this year?’
“I just knew that it was absolutely going to be something that I had never done before. What does an actor crave but new challenges? This certainly was going to be one of those.”
Bassett, 56, is best known for her touching portrayal of Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” and roles in “ER,” “Spike Lee’s Malcolm X” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.”
Prepping her physically for the “American Horror Story” role is complicated.
“I go into my regular makeup artist. She applies the appliance (the additional breast) to me, so that it’s there, basically. Then I go over to the special effects trailer where her husband makes sure the edges and everything sort of blend seamlessly...
“From there, he and the other special effects gentlemen will begin to apply the paint. They’ll start with brown. They spray it on. They’ll go to the red, and yellow, and green. It’s amazing these colors and undertones that they claim you possess. You’re like, ‘Oh, those are weird, weird colors.’
“Then he’ll take a photograph of it to make sure that it appears as if it’s my own and based on that, he’ll maybe go in, and do some more painting, and carry on... That’s it. It takes maybe from start to finish about an hour – just enough time to check out a Netflix episode of ‘Orange is the New Black’ or something.”