Jessica Lange Wouldn’t Do Gore, So Ryan Murphy Took a Different Route With Her in ‘AHS’

American Horror Storyvia a combination of blood, violence, intrigue, scintillation, and more — takes audiences on mystical and haunted adventures, often commenting on society and culture along the way. Though gore is a common aspect in Ryan Murphy’s anthology, one of his biggest stars refused to do such scenes. Jessica Lange doesn’t love gory moments, so she and Ryan Murphy found a different way to give her characters a little unpredictable flair. 

Jessica Lange and Ryan Murphy of AHS
Jessica Lange and Ryan Murphy | Christopher Polk / Staff

Lange on Ryan Murphy, ‘AHS,’ and gore 

Throughout American Horror Story, Lange has taken on some of the show’s most memorable characters – from the relentless and merciless Supreme Fiona Goode to the whiskey-drinking, critical, and biting Constance Langdon. Yet, while many of her other co-stars suffer at the hands of knives and grotesque murders, her characters keep their hands rather clean (only in the literal sense of the word). Speaking about what she won’t do for Murphy, Lange explained: 

There are things that, I tell you, I won’t do. But we have come to kind of an understanding. For instance, in American Horror Story, my characters never had to… Over those four years of doing that, I wasn’t involved in the really gory aspect of that series. I said, from the beginning, I didn’t want that. The thing that interests me was the psychological danger. You know, the failings. But I did not want to do the other stuff. And he always respected that. So instead, he would give me, like a Bowie song to sing, which was a great trade-off.

Jessica Lange quoted by ScreenRant

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Lange explained that she and Murphy came to an agreement. He didn’t’ need her in the gory scenes, yet he would employ her in other ways, which led to the actor using her vocal talents a handful of times. 

Lange was drawn to the show’s psychological aspects — its deep exploration of individuals traumatized, fractured, beaten, battered, and lost. And, every time she sang, the show’ eerie appeal would slowly float to the surface.

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Jessica Lange’s memorable ‘American Horror Story’ numbers 

In the above quote, Lange is referencing to the two David Bowie songs she sang in American Horror Story: Freak Show: “Life on Mars” and “Heroes.” Both renditions are intoxicating, yet also quite unsettling. Lange’s presence has a way of sticking with the soul, and when she sings, she only further implants herself – her characters — into the mind. 

Lange also sang “The Name Game” in American Horror Story: Asylum. Though the number is on the lighter side, when you remember the contest and take in the actions occurring around her, and the uncomfortable asylum, it doesn’t quite ring the same. In short, though Lange didn’t partake in the gory scenes with knives and axes and all that, she did get to wow audiences with a song here and there.