Denis O’Hare on His ‘AHS: Hotel’ Character and the ‘New Frontier’ in LGBT Roles

Denis O'Hare arriving at the TCA/Fox/FX party last month. (Fox)

We know that Denis O’Hare is playing a character named Elizabeth Taylor in American Horror Story: Hotel,” but, true to form with the FX anthology series, details beyond that are quite close to the vest.

One thing we do know is that the fifth season of “AHS” is the first without Emmy winner Jessica Lange, but having new faces come to the franchise like Lady Gaga, Cheyenne Jackson and Wes Bentley will surely soften the blow.

But what else can we find out about the new season? During the Q&A session at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour last month, O’Hare spilled a little of who we’ll see him play this time around. “I am playing Liz Taylor, movie icon,” he said. “I’m not actually playing Elizabeth Taylor, but I’m playing a person who is inspired by the awesomeness of things like “Butterfield 8” and “Cleopatra,” and eye makeup like that…I work in the [hotel] bar, which is fantastic. It’s called The Blue Parrot Lounge. It’s an extraordinary part of our set and we even have our own homemade coasters that have the Hotel Cortez emblem on them. They’re gorgeous and I’ve already stolen two.”

I bumped into the out actor later that day at a TCA party and was able to grill him a bit more about his experience thus far shooting the highly anticipated “Hotel” season of the series, which was created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk.

How is this role different than what you did last season on “Freak Show?” I do see your head is shaved.

Denis O’Hare: Many parts of my body are shaved. [laughs ] I’ve shot three episodes. We’re kind of doing it piecemeal. You’ll do five days on this one, three days on that one. You know, they always start out rocking. There’s no warm-up. You’re in it.

It's an amazing set. It's a six-story set with a working elevator. It's crazy. I love my part. So far, I've done a fantastic scene with Matt Bomer. I shot with Wes and Chloe and with Kathy Bates. It's just good stuff. I'm very much in the mix.

Is it common place that you won’t know everything going in, or is there some backstory for your character?

DOH: I do it for myself a little bit but some of it is intuitive. The scripts help. We got the first three scripts this year, which was great. In the third episode, I have a sort of nice clue as to who I am, which really helped. I have a strong sense of who the character is, but I’m discovering it as I go along.

Is there a sexuality part to your story?

DOH: The jury is out on that one. I can’t answer that question, but stay tuned. We often don’t know a lot of things.

The 'AHS; Hotel' TCA panel: {l-r) Chloe Sevigny, O'Hare, Cheyenne Jackson, Finn Wittrock. (Getty)

You can do it all anyway!

DOH: It’s nice of you to say. I always feel like I’m going to fail and every year you go, “Oh God.” And this year especially when [Ryan Murphy] told me what it was, I really did sort of take a pause. I said, “I’m scared to death, but all right, I’m excited. I’m in.”

I’m guessing it’s good to be scared like that, right?

DOH:  Yeah, you should be scared. You don’t want to be doing the same thing over and over again. I know I don’t want to do the same thing. It’s good to be scared.

The show can be scary and creepy to watch, but is the set a creepy place to be?

DOH: You know, this one, not yet, only because I haven’t been in the creepy parts, but the stuff I’ve read is really creepy and if I were doing stuff in the basement, I’d be scared. Don’t go downstairs.

Hotels can be creepy…

DOH: Think about it: “The Shining,” “Bates Motel”…

Can you say who your character is tied to the most?

DOH: It’s hard to say. I’d say my character is tied to Kathy Bates in a way, but it’s hard to say because we’re shooting out of sequence. I cover a lot of characters but Kathy Bates and I sort of work side by side since I work at the hotel.

O'Hare as Stanley in last season's 'AHS: Freak Show." (Fox)

Do you go back and watch your work? Did you watch "Freak Show?"

DOH: I watch everything once, but I can’t watch it more than once. Usually with friends I’ll watch it live, which is a little painful, but I’ll watch it once.

Are you ever surprised at what you've done when you watch? Whether it's "American Horror Story" or even "True Blood," you've done some crazy s**t.

DOH:  When I do a take, I’m pretty crazy. I don’t plan my takes. I just do whatever I want to so my takes are wildly different so they can choose. I never know what they’re going to choose, but it’s not good for me because I don’t have any control over what they choose, but it’s just the way I act.

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I wouldn't say the coming-out story is dead, but we're seeing more characters who are already out and just living in the world. What do you think of that?

DOH: I just saw a thing online of Eddie Redmayne [in “The Danish Girl”] and then I saw a picture of Alexander Skarsgård dressed up in drag, and this seems to be the new frontier. And then with Caitlyn Jenner, it feels like that’s the new frontier, the new normal, it’s the door we’re knocking at. I do think it’s a positive thing that we, as characters, can show up now and we can afford to be good gay people or bad gay people or stupid gay people or murderous gay people or psychotic gay people. We’re not representing a race or a group. We are simply like everybody else and that’s a positive development, I think.

What else do you have going on outside of the show?

DOH: I did a little movie on Edgar Allen Poe for PBS and that’s going to come out in 2016. I wrote a screenplay and trying to get it made with Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer’s production company. We’re trying to get it cast and get it made.

You like to work, don’t you?

DOH: Yeah! I do! I play a lot of video games so I’m not above that. I love it, but last year I was at Sundance and I was reading a book called The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing and I realized all the books I haven’t read. I’m 53 and I’m only reading maybe two books a year. I can’t waste any time so I wake up every morning and think there’s no time to waste!

“American Horror Story: Hotel” premieres October 7 on FX. 

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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