In our Scream Queens preview, we take a look at one of the most highly anticipated new series of the season from American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
In the midst of American Horror Story season 3 titled Coven, show creator Ryan Murphy and his long time writing partner Brad Falchuk realized that they really enjoyed writing for Emma Roberts and her ultra bitch character Madison Montgomery.
That particular season was filled with as much humor as there’s ever been on American Horror Story and the dynamic that was established on the show gave Murphy the inspiration to carry it forward to a new idea that could be the perfect series made for network television.
Admittedly, American Horror Story can get rather graphic and well horrifying so there was no way a series as mature as that would fly on network TV, but what about a scary series diced up with a healthy dose of humor and a cast of pretty faces just begging to get killed or turn killer.
And at that moment, Scream Queens was born.
“Brad (Falchak) and I were talking around season three of American Horror Story when we were doing Coven and we were talking about how much we loved writing some of the comedy of that, particularly Emma’s (Roberts) stuff,” Murphy explained.
“So we were talking and two years later we had another conversation about what if we do something that is sort of a little more network oriented and keeps that horror vibe alive? Brad and I were both obsessed with Halloween so we were talking what if it’s like Halloween meets Heathers? So from that came Scream Queens“
It didn’t take long for Murphy and Falchak to find a home for the series on FOX, but what about the cast of characters that would fill out the series? The entire show was created based around someone Emma Roberts played on American Horror Story so she was naturally a perfect fit, but what about the rest of the cast?
Well with Roberts in place to play the lead, she needed somebody strong to play against her and that’s when Murphy got the idea to call up the original scream queen to see if she would be interested in joining the series.
To his surprise, she said yes without ever reading a single word of the material.
THE ORIGINAL SCREAM QUEEN
In 1978, Halloween was released in theaters and what started out as a small time slasher film made for around $300,000 would become one of the most successful films of all time after grossing over $70 million at the box office. The film helped build a franchise that’s still going strong in 2015, but the movie also served as the launching pad for a 19-year old Jamie Lee Curtis transform into one of the most sought after actresses in the history of horror films.
Curtis would go on to star in several more Halloween features not to mention a slew of other hits including Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda and True Lies. No matter how many other movies she did throughout her career, Curtis was always attached to her first major role in Halloween and when Ryan Murphy came calling with an idea that would pay homage to that film with her seminal turn as the damsel in distress turned monster killing heroine, she didn’t need to hear much to officially sign onto the project.
“If you’re going to hire Jamie Lee Curtis, you want to see her kicking ass and fighting back and doing all the things you love seeing her doing,” Murphy said.
“She came in and I said ‘look if you don’t do this show, we’re not going to do it’ and I meant it. Because it was such a specific, it was an homage, it was me paying something back to her and it was all very complicated and thankfully she said yes.”
Curtis hasn’t been as active in her acting career recently as she joked when asked why she hadn’t appeared on a Murphy led series before now.
“I’ve been selling yogurt that makes you shit for six years,” Curtis said with a laugh.
In Scream Queens, Curtis plays Dean Cathy Munsch, who oversees the students at fictional Wallace University, and she will butt heads with Roberts’ character as well as many others during the first season of the show that debuts on Tuesday night.
On the surface, Curtis’ character will definitely tick a few boxes as the school administrator with a stern hand and a rigid personality, but don’t think for a second that Murphy doesn’t have a few surprises in store for her this season.
“I think everyone has many colors. We lock people into boxes and expect them to be one thing and I think what Ryan Murphy has done so beautifully is to show that human beings are really quite complicated,” Curtis said. “I think if we look at our lives, everyone is complicated.
“If you peel back a layer of one person you’re going to find something dark. If you peel back another layer, you’re going to find something incredibly wacky. I think that’s really what the genius is — you think you know who Cathy is as well as you think you know all the characters and then more will be revealed. The more that’s revealed is contradictory to the original impression and that’s what makes you come back every week.”
Another reason fans of Curtis should pay close attention to the two-hour debut of Scream Queens is to see her pay tribute to the movie that helped launch her career nearly 40 years ago.
“There is a direct homage, I knew I needed to throw in one from Halloween at some point in episode 2, there is a wordless homage that I threw in just as me tipping my hat for all of you Laurie Strode lovers out there,” Curtis teased.
SO WHAT IS SCREAM QUEENS ABOUT?
20 years ago at Wallace University, a student was murdered at the Kappa house that not only become big news around campus but the kind of story that lives on forever as an infamous college urban legend.
Now in 2015 with the Kappa sorority as the featured backdrop for the series, a killer masked as a Red Devil shows up looking for revenge and it reignites another string of savage killings with everybody on campus as a potential victim on the chopping block.
The Kappa sorority is led by Chanel Oberlin (played by Emma Roberts), a control freak president who takes her fashion as seriously as she takes her pledge week hazings. There will definitely be overtones of Madison Montgomery in Chanel’s demeanor (for obvious reasons) but despite her pristine appearance, there’s more to this pretty girl that just what’s on the surface.
“Chanel is the president of Kappa Kappa Tau. She takes her job as sorority president very, very seriously,” Roberts said. “She’s very fashionable and very bitchy and you’re going to love her and hate her and hate to love her and all of the above.”
Chanel is flanked on either side by a host of other Chanels (clearly a tribute to Heathers) with actresses Abigail Breslin, Billie Lourd, and Ariana Grande all playing a part in the snobby sorority that’s turned upside down after Dean Mensch makes a new rule that they must accept any new pledges who attempt to join them.
That opens the door for several new students to become official Kappas including Lea Michele, who plays a neck brace-wearing dork named Hester.
Somewhere along the way some pretty boys also get thrown into the mix including Nick Jonas and Diego Boneta and of course the Red Devil killer, who begins knocking off students in record numbers as Wallace University becomes a kill zone in quick order starting with the debut double episode on Tuesday night.
WHO IS THE KILLER?
Like all good slasher films, there has to be an antagonist and this time around on Scream Queens it’s somebody called the Red Devil killer.
Now we will surely learn more about the mythology surrounding the killer in the opening episodes airing Tuesday, but more importantly than what he or she’s all about is who he or she might actually be.
Part of the premise of Scream Queens — much like the film Scream before it — is to figure out who is behind the Red Devil mask killing off students like cans of Red Bull on the night before a big exam.
Murphy loves to tease future happenings with his series — he will often times leave a trail of bread crumbs during one season of American Horror Story with clues about the next iteration of the show — and the same can be said when it comes to identifying the killer on Scream Queens.
Murphy had a lot of fun with the actors and actresses on the show because he made it possible for any of them to play the killer and he swears by the end of the two-hour premiere, there will definitely be clues on who is behind that Red Devil mask.
“The thing that we started on this show that I thought was interesting that isn’t really done is, I did the first episode, and when you watch it after every take we would work with an actor or actress on a scene and we would say OK now do a take where you are the killer. So every actor sort of had to get into that mindset of switching the performance,” Murphy said.
“We have a two-hour premiere and you definitely meet the killer in that premiere and if you go back and watch it after the end, I think it’s very clear who (is the killer).”
HOW IS THIS SHOW DIFFERENT FROM AMERICAN HORROR STORY?
One of the most creative parts of American Horror Story is that the show resets every season like an anthology series with actors and actresses returning from one version to the next but ultimately playing different characters with a completely different story.
The first season of American Horror Story might be set in present day while the second season jumps back a few decades to the 1960’s.
Well, Scream Queens will have some similarities to American Horror Story (assuming the show is picked up for a second season) except while there will be a new setting and a new cast of characters, a chosen few will survive the first season and appear on the next season as well.
It’s a big wrinkle from American Horror Story where surviving Scream Queens means that character will stay alive for the next season of the show as well.
“It’s similar but different. The thing with Horror Story is every year there’s a new story, there’s a new theme, the actors play different characters,” Murphy said.
“On Scream Queens there are survivors who go on to a different location but the characters you hopefully love will continue and many of them will not. People live and people die and that’s a horror trope and we pay homage to that.”
The show will definitely be a bloodbath because Murphy promises that only a handful of original characters from season one will still be alive to see what happens in season two.
WHEN AND WHERE DOES THE SHOW AIR?
Scream Queens launches this Tuesday night at 8pm ET on FOX with a special two-hour premiere. Following the first two episodes, Scream Queens will then shift to its regular 9pm start time every Tuesday night on FOX.
Rest assured, we will have detailed recaps for Scream Queens launching on Tuesday with a full breakdown of what happened, the characters we are bound to meet and any other Easter eggs we might catch during season!