chat room

Chloë Sevigny on Acting Opposite Lady Gaga, the Anti-Vaccination Movement, and the Eroticism of Vampires

Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Spoilers ahead for the most recent episode of American Horror Story: Hotel.

Chloë Sevigny has shredded her scripts — she’s not giving away any accidental spoilers about this season of American Horror Story. Even when she took a photo of the camera used on set (“because I thought it was so cool they were shooting on 35mm”), she checked with showrunner Ryan Murphy to make sure she was clear to post it on Instagram. Is her character related to Lady Gaga’s? Is her husband the Ten Commandments Killer? Sevigny and Murphy both are trying to stay ahead of audiences. “There was one story line the fans are getting ahead of, the serial-killer story line, so they pulled that up,” she said, “to get to it before the fans figured it out.” Now that Dr. Alex Lowe is a vampire, Sevigny’s having a blast getting into more of the horror aspects of the show and assuming a new role as the governess to little vampire children. (Not to mention all the accidental vampire children she’s now responsible for.) Sevigny chatted with Vulture about vampire erotica, the anti-vaccination movement, and her true loves.

So, first of all, you finally get to change up your costume in this episode — no more beret!
[Laughs.] Oh, that beret! No more beret. There’s a weirder version of the Gibson updo, and I’ve always been a fan of that hairdo. It’s a little 1940s, a little Victorian. It’s a weird amalgamation because we wanted her to be timeless. And it’s a homely version of something the Countess might wear. Actually, when we were doing all the initial fittings, the costume designer got a note from Ryan [Murphy] saying, “I think she should be in a beret!” And we were like, “Does he want me to be more like Dietrich, ‘40s, what’s the deal?” And I ended up being in the beret for so long, everybody was so sick of the beret. It became a running joke on set. But I mean, I love a beret! I do a clothing collection with Opening Ceremony, and I think every season, I’ve shown a beret. There should have been one scene where I lost it, but what can you do?

Are you a big horror fan?
Classic horror, like Rosemary’s Baby, Poltergeist, The Exorcist, The Shining. I’m not going out and seeing all the Saw horror films. I got It Follows the other day, but I haven’t watched it yet. When Ryan asked me to come back this season, it was more the vampire aspect that I was attracted to, and I do think there’s a distinction between vampire and horror, but of course, being American Horror Story, it’s elevated. It’s not only that. I like vampire movies like Near Dark, Nosferatu, The Hunger, Let the Right One In, and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. I like the last one Neil Jordan did, Byzantium. Not so much the Twilight saga.

Okay, because the American Horror Story vampires don’t have fangs, they can day-walk …
I think they didn’t want to do a night schedule! [Laughs.] For True Blood, half the series was shot at night. It’s just so hard on the crew. Logistics were informing a lot of the creative decisions! In Coppola’s Dracula, wasn’t Gary Oldman walking around in London during the day, too? I was hoping we’d have fangs because I’m a classic vampire lover, so I was hoping to get to be able to do the classic bloodsucking on the neck. There’s something very sexy about that. And I kind of got to do something like that with Gaga, a little bit on the chest, minus the fangs. There was an eroticism to it that I liked. It’s that intoxication, and the turning, when she dies and wakes up and has this new life coursing through her veins.

And Lady Gaga was super generous. She was really excited to do that, and I got to feed off of her energy. Because Ryan prefers to use practical effects, we had the guys pumping the blood off-camera. [Laughs.] Seeing all the trickery is kind of fun. You know, I thought Gaga and I would be less in cahoots. I think it will be further revealed what we have in common as we become closer, and kind of allies.

Let’s talk about the first time you feed, at the blood bank.
I can’t drink sugar or caffeine; I’m not very good with those, so we did one of those cranberry-pomegranate health-food-store drinks for the blood. [Laughs.] You know those ones that don’t have sugar in them, and they’re really tart? I had to kind of down it because I’m feeding hungrily, and so it’s that classic vampire moment where you see her indulging, overindulging, in her first feeding. I once did a play where the fake blood was Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, red food dye, and Hershey’s syrup, so you would smell the Hershey’s, and you’d taste it, and then it would taste like Johnson & Johnson! [Laughs.] That’s a good homemade recipe for fake blood, for Halloween, if you ever want to use it.

Because Alex shares her “virus” to try to save the boy with measles, now the vampire virus has spread like wildfire among all these children. You could read all these things into it about the anti-vaccination movement, but there’s also the sense that this is just the beginning. The Countess does not want her children creating more children.
Alex decides rather rashly to put a couple drops of her blood in his IV to resurrect him, and obviously does more than that. And she kind of guiltily leaves, knowing she didn’t exactly do the right thing. In every classic vampire story, there’s this truism that the head vampire has to teach his or her children, and there’s a transition period. She doesn’t want to give that responsibility to others because they won’t handle it as tactfully as she would. For however many years she’s been alive, she’s probably had that situation happen before, and maybe we’ll see that in a flashback. I can’t imagine this is the first time it’s gotten away from her.

But viruses and vaccines, that’s such a big thing. Ryan has two young kids, and it’s such an issue right now. It’s topical, and he likes to do that as well. I don’t have children, so I haven’t really had to face that yet. I can kind of see it from both angles, especially with all the autism now being so prevalent. I could see people being afraid of vaccinations. There are many unknowns.

Some people are worried your head is going to end up in a box at some point, à la Se7en.
Maybe! You never know! I’ve had my legs cut off on the show! [Laughs.] So, there! But if they do, and if they make a mold, I want to keep it.

That’s what Sean Bean wanted when they cut off Ned Stark’s head. Just to keep his head.
Oh! Jon Snow. Do you have any insight on what’s happening with the love of my life? All the fans on Instagram, they’re all posting pictures of him in Belfast! So unless he’s shooting something else there, HBO is sending him up there to throw off the scent … Hmmm. [Laughs.] And what about Glenn [from The Walking Dead]! Is he dead, or is he under the body of that asshole character? How is he going to wiggle his way out of there? Don’t they usually have the characters who die in the post-show? They didn’t do that with Glenn. The Walking Dead has gotten so violent! There’s more violence this year than ever before. I watched the one the other night with the home invasion before going to bed, and I couldn’t sleep that night. That’s the first time that’s happened. The idea that someone’s behind the door, that’s what’s terrifying. Home invasion and assault are the most terrifying things in the entire universe.

More so than monsters or the supernatural?
I saw The Exorcist when I was quite young, like when I was 10 or something. Too young to see it. And I went to my priest and I said, “I saw this movie, and I’m so terrified.” And he said, “I’ve sat in on exorcisms, and if you ever play Ouija, or practice witchcraft, you’re inviting the devil into your soul.” So I never did for most of my adult life. I had an experience when I was in eighth or ninth grade, and I looked at a book about witchcraft and had a strange experience with a cat who was sleeping in the bedroom at that time. The cat … became active, and frightened me. So I put that book down and never read about witchcraft again. But I have played Ouija a few times. I hope I’m not inviting the devil into my soul! [Laughs.]

As a Catholic, then, how do you feel about certain horror tropes? Do you ever say, “I wouldn’t want to do that”?
[Laughs.] Kenneth Anger was going to film a black mass [in 2002], and I had a problem with that. [He wanted me to] be the sacrificial girl on the altar, and they were going to do an actual black mass, and that was pushing it a little too far for me. I think with most of the horror films I’ve done so far, like American Psycho and even this now, I was more preyed-upon. I’ve yet to play the villain. Maybe with Lizzie Borden — we’ll see! [Laughs.]

Chloë Sevigny on Gaga, the Anti-Vaccine Movement