Fox Home Entertainment, FX, and Hill+Knowlton Strategies came up with one of the best press junket ideas ever, a recent New Orleans event for the release of “American Horror Story: Coven” on Blu-ray and DVD.
How could I turn that down? I couldn’t.
The event started off with a trip over to the atmospheric Buckner Mansion, a historic landmark not usually accessible to visitors. The mansion’s exterior was shot for Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies for the show. It is also considered one of the finest examples of Southern ante-bellum architecture, hailing back to the 19th Century. Built in 1856, Henry Buckner owned the mansion before it later served as a prominent business college for many years.
Andie Anderson, the house historian, was waiting to greet us – dressed with a black witch-type hat, holding a small voodoo-type doll (she wouldn’t tell anyone what it was for), she explained some things about the house, including the rumor that it was haunted (I didn’t feel any cold air suddenly go by, even though I was hoping to).
Anderson told us that the house was a gem in the Garden District. Spirits in the house, she related, have become legendary: “We know that they’re here, we hear them, we see them – you may feel a little chill at different areas.”
Some of the films shot there include “Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” and “Bullet in the Head” with Sylvester Stallone.
The press, along with several delighted fans, also got to see exquisite costumes used in “American Horror Story: Coven,” including outfits worn by Madame Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) and Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe).
There was a special screening of a new episode from “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” and a panel expertly moderated by Corissa Pavlica from TVFanatic.com. Emmy award-winning costume designer Lou Eyrich and actress Jamie Brewer (Nan) were on hand to discuss what it was like working on the show, with a short appearance from Naomi Grossman (Pepper) quickly at the end.
Brewer talked about how exquisite the costumes were and what amazing memories she’d had. When asked the scariest scene for her to film, Brewer didn’t hesitate:
“I had a lot of fear being attacked by zombies in a car and also a drowning scene.”
She also liked her love interest storyline with Alexander Dreymon (Luke Ramsey) and talked about how she loved doing a hospital scene with Patti LuPone and Alex.
Eyrich, when asked about her favorite character to design for, could never pick one – however she did say that “the costumes evolved as they (characters) became confident at being witches.”
She admired the actors playing zombies; sometimes they would come in to work at 10 p.m. at night, then go through hours and hours of makeup, sitting in trailers until the shooting time of 2 a.m.
Asked about having a power, which would they choose? Brewer wanted the power of clairvoyance, while Eyrich replied, “time travel, it would make research easier, take notes, come back, design it.”
Brewer was applauded towards the end when she said that she maintains a positive side in her personal life and surrounds herself with “a very positive light” as well.
One-on-one interviews were then conducted with Eyrich, Grossman and Brewer.
First up was Eyrich. It was fascinating to learn how she made her way from ironing costumes for Prince’s tours to winning an Emmy for costume designing – she also had a great mentor along the way.
Eyrich thought that the fans identified a lot with the costumes because was “something for everyone.” They had to do a “ton of multiples” meaning multiple costumes – finding the perfect outfit and then finding out that they needed perhaps five of them for that one character. There was “a lot of Internet work, a lot of phoning in favors.”
After winning the Emmy award, Eyrich also felt more pressure.
“I feel people will be watching and that I just raised the bar for myself – I’m a perfectionist and I’m always all about the details,” she added.
Although she never had a formal education in designing costumes, Eyrich found that she was good at it, that she could listen to the designer and know “what they wanted and come back with that.”
She was humble too, describing herself as the “luckiest” designer to get to work on the show with Ryan Murphy, having worked with him since 1989.
Next up was Grossman, who described her transformation from ordinary human to a freak – “they shaved my head. I typically arrive on set, close my eyes and let them go to work for two-and-a-half hours, a prosthetic nose, ears, crazy teeth” as well as contact lenses and a small piece for her hair.
Grossman was not vain at all, only wearing a wig for the year, “trying to go through the rest of my life not looking like a Hare Krishna.”
She was also excited by the thought of Matt Bomer coming to work on the show – “it’s so cruel that I look like the ugliest person on television, he’ll never talk to me!”
Joking around, Grossman mentioned that she wouldn’t mind if her onscreen brother got offed so she could have screen time all to herself (“I’m an only child” she laughed). She spoke glowingly of the excellent acting, compelling storylines and beautiful art direction.
Describing herself as “not a sucker for slayer/slasher films,” Grossman added, “with a show this well-made, I’m a sucker for great acting and a good story – if it happens to be horror, that’s awesome.”
And while she is scared of ghosts, “in general, I’m not much of a scaredy cat.”
“I like to think that fear is sort of this made-up emotion, it’s something we feel,” Grossman related.
“It’s what could happen and that’s what makes you scared – you get to decide if you want to give that your attention or how much power you want to give that. People are like, aren’t you afraid to cross that street or leave your door open, I’m like, no! If you want to worry yourself sick, then fine – I prefer to stay healthy.”
Grossman couldn’t say much about anything coming up with “Freak Show,” but the good news is that her character Pepper was transferred from “Asylum” over to “Freak Show” and as “Freak show” is set 10 years before she was happy to have more work coming down the line.
As to Brewer, she discussed writing being a big interest, as well as being a dancer, and talked about running from zombies on the show (scary!). A bright and upbeat person, Brewer ended up charming everyone, always finding nice things to say about the people she worked with and the television show in general.
Just as we were leaving the mansion, the “spirits” must have wanted us to remember them because we were all drenched with a massive onslaught of rain! With the beautiful setting all around us, that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm at all for this great event and for New Orleans in general.
Thanks again to Fox and Hill + Knowlton Strategies for an amazing experience from beginning to end – informative, fun and thrilling.