American Horror Story: Asylum has started to delve deeper into some of the lives of Briarcliff Manor’s patients, and during part one of “I Am Anne Frank,” the murderous past of Grace (played by Lizzie Brocheré) was revealed to the audience, as well as fellow patient, Kit (played by Evan Peters).
Recently, Brocheré graciously took the time to discuss her role on American Horror Story: Asylum during a press call. She shared what about the show appealed to her, reading up on Lizzie Borden to get into character, and what it’s like working with Evan Peters.
American Horror Story is kind of a pretty twisted, dark show. What do you think about this show that appeals to people and what appealed to you when you were thinking about joining the cast?
What appealed to me is that I had this feeling in the first season that behind all the horror and sometimes provocative style of American Horror Story, there was something where it was talking about our society nowadays and there was something that was most disturbing, that’s where the horror was rooted and very deranging when you watched it. What I loved about the second season was that it was even more of that for me.
I could feel this asylum as some kind of purgatory, but that felt kind of familiar in the 2012 society. To have all these different human sciences, or paths of religion science, psychology with the characters of Sister Jude, of Dr. Arden, and [have] them trying to understand or give answers to the unknown or the unknown that you can have in the human being, you know, try to give answers and all of them failing in their quest and at the same time being beautiful in it and horrible, and I love that place.
I love that place of trying to understand the human nature and the darkness in it and trying to go beyond the labels and the comfort zone of normality, questioning what’s normal and what’s not; what’s sane, what’s insane; what’s bad, what’s good; what’s, you know, all these things. When you’re honest with those questions, the frontiers are so, so much greater than what we pretend they are, so all that was fascinating to me.
The show is set in the 1960s, what do you think that time period adds to the overall tone of the show?
I think America in the 1960s was a very interesting period concerning civil rights. So when you’re doing a show that questions the norms of society concerning human beings, you know, when you’re doing a show about asylums, I think it’s interesting to set it in the 60s and at the same time though, something about it definitely gives it a very precise, I mean, a very esthetic design that I also like.
Since the show is called American Horror Story, have you noticed anything particularly American about it as far as the style of horror or just the storytelling, coming from France?
Everything is American about it. All the myths and legends, and the mythology are very American. I don’t recall zombies as being very European-not zombies, but aliens are not American. All of the imagery is very American rooted. Even the thrill and the excitement of horror is not something that is very French, that we have in France; if that makes any sense.
What do you make of all of that? Is it interesting to be a part of that now?
It’s great. It’s fascinating, which also you’ve exported a lot of that in horror mythology. I grew up in it, even on the other side of the Atlantic. I like it; it’s so exciting.
How do you get into character to play Grace?
How do I get into my character to play Grace? There’s so many different ways, but I think what I worked on the most was [her] back story, because when we started shooting, we already had the first four scripts, so I had the back story of Grace in the fourth episode. I think that since she was based on this American character, Lizzie Borden, I read a lot about Lizzie Borden.
I discovered a source book with her inquest testimony; I loved reading it out loud. I thought she was so smart and strangely fascinating, that character. I don’t know if it helped my acting, but it was necessary for me to know a bit more of that character, who was a very important American figure. I had no clue who she was.
I did a lot of-this is going to sound weird, but I did a lot of stretching, yoga and dancing, almost ballet. I felt, you know, you want her to be moving very smooth maybe, and she’s very sexy, so you want her to be moving in a smoother way than I do. So that was a little job. And Grace, I don’t know if she’s somewhere in me-apart from that big back story and all that; her sarcasm, her way of seeing life, and that little liveliness she has.
She has all these lines that are so true. I don’t know; she was just someone I knew. I don’t know how to say it. It wasn’t that hard to tap into her, apart from the killing of my dad and all of that.
The asylum itself feels like a character on the show, so how much does that environment help you get into a scene?
It makes the scene. There’s no question about where you are. I remember one of the first days on set when the first scene was something in the solitary, and I’d be visiting the solitary cells. When you’re in that hallway with all the solitary doors; ooh, you have no question of where you are. It’s such a particular asylum. It’s such a designed asylum. I don’t know if you can feel the whole weight of the metaphor that it represents, you know?
Can you tell us a little about shooting your character’s murder scenes?
Oh, shooting the murder scenes, that was so fun. It was fun because we wanted to-the whole crew was so happy to change my look, and they were really excited about doing some kind of flashbacks and knowing a little bit more about Grace. So everything, costumes, hair, for example, I don’t have the same haircut at all. They really wanted to show Grace as she was before the asylum, and everyone was really excited about that.
The actual murder scenes, there was a lot of blood, a lot of different axes. I think we had six different axes that are still in the props office, and they’re all on the walls. You have one that’s a rubber axe, and then you have another one that’s a real axe, and you should never mix it up with the other one. Then you have another one that’s a half cut awe, so that you can pretend that it’s in the body.
Then you have, for example, when I kill my stepmom, we have these effects guys that were behind the body of my stepmom, [I’d get] blood on the face each time that I hit her. There were so many people in that closet, but it was fun.
Is it scary while you’re on set?
Yes, because the story was so dark, and then all these flashbacks we shot, for example, when I hide in the closet, and it’s a fake flashback, but still, we did it for real. I hide in the closet and I dove back and I go back and I think that I’m saved and then there’s this foot with blood dripping on my shoulder right next to me. So realistic, so realistic. It was crazy. I couldn’t open the closets after that for a week at my place.
How do you on a day-to-day basis overcome the intensity of shooting and then going back into your normal life?
Well, apart from that week (shooting the murder scene), I was pretty much okay. I have very different ways-the crew, for example, is so much fun. [Joking] with the crew when you get [off of the set]; that helped me so much. Otherwise, in my day-to-day basis, it would be, I guess, a bit of yoga. I go biking, read, watch shows; I go to music concerts. I’ve taken a lot of road trips since I’ve been here. I’ve been to the Joshua Tree. I’ve been camping out on the Channel Islands. Each time that I have two or three days off, I’m off somewhere in California.
Did you watch season one at all and how the relationship was working with Evan Peters, who played Tate, and if you’ve seen his work before and what that was like?
I have seen season one before, and I have to say that one of the reasons I loved season one was because of Tate. I came out of watching season one and said, “Wow, who’s that? He’s awesome.” I was really excited to be working with [Evan]. How has it been working with him? He’s great. The thing is, since we’re in an asylum, we haven’t been collaborating much. It’s a lot about characters being alone with their little story and kind of colliding in the scenes.
For the first three episodes, I didn’t feel comfortable collaborating with him on scenes, because you don’t want to get too familiar. You want to keep that kind of distance. With [episode] four, we kind of bonded and trusted each other more as our characters were themselves more.
What lies ahead for Grace?
What can I tease? So much is happening to Grace, poor Grace. I don’t really know. What I like about my character is [that she] kind of joins a storyline that I cherish a lot, which is the alien storyline, and that is something that I’ve been really looking forward to.
American Horror Story: Asylum airs Wedneday nights at 10 p.m. on FX.
Photo credit: Frank Ockenfels/FX