Interview: Lily Rabe Talks American Horror Story: Asylum


Actress Lily Rabe spoke with the press recently about her turn in American Horror Story: Asylum, in which she played Sister Mary Eunice.  Previously, she has slipped into the shoes of Nora Montgomery in season one of the FX series.  Eunice proved to be a much larger role for Rabe, and a greater challenge.

Head inside for the discussion participated in.

Needless to say…  There are spoilers within.

Question:  I’m curious how far in advance did you know what your character’s fate was going to be?  Did you kind of have an idea about that from the beginning?

Lily Rabe:  I had some sense, yes, I knew that she probably wouldn’t have a very happy ending, so I did have a sense and then sort of as we went along the specifics of how that was all going to happen became clearer as we went along.  

Question:  What was it like for you to kind of explore the light and dark sides of a character like Mary Eunice?

Rabe:  Yes, I think the death scene, the way Ryan and I really talked about it it’s really sort of an assisted suicide.  Her situation really wasn’t survivable in the sense that even if they had done some sort of exorcism or something at that point, we sort of felt that whatever might be left of that girl was so damaged and destroyed and that death sort of became her only way out.  Yes, playing that through once the possession happened that was such a wonderful challenge and a sort of dance really to live between with both the lightness and the darkness existing at the same time in that battle and then that losing battle really.  

Question:  I know you’ve said that that you don’t want to be seen, it was kind of daunting when you knew you had to be lip synching and you’re all by yourself, but were there any scenes that involved other people that either the subject matter, or just anything about it made them kind of you dreaded them coming up when you saw them?

Rabe:  You know the cremation scene was very, very difficult for me.  When I read it, I knew I thought, oh, this is going to be tricky, it’s going to be a little tough, but it was much harder than I had even imagined it would be.  But other than that, you know I really like when I read a scene and it scares me.  That sort of makes me excited.  I was so even though, yes, lip synching or not really lip synching, singing along with the ear bud or whatever, it was such a thrill and the director sort of gave me the whole room.  He just had it set up so that they could shoot the whole room, and I could really have total freedom to do whatever and that’s really so much fun, so for the most part I really like when I read a scene that scares me and makes me sweat a little bit thinking about doing it.  That’s usually a good sign to me.  

Question:  What did you find the most difficult part of the whole role?

Rabe:  Well, you know, I think some of the murders having sort of in those moments where she was just absolutely sort of in her completely taken over by the devil and throwing these actors around and slitting their throats and stabbing them ruthlessly and all of that sort of, you know I’ve been the victim a lot, so I’ve often played the person who’s getting raped or murdered or abused.  And so to actually be raping and murdering and abusing people is a whole different kind of challenge and one that it was very difficult at times and sometimes I would sort of go home from work and just kind of stare at the wall for a couple of hours.  But I can’t complain, because easily if whatever kind of knocks you out working is the kind of work that I want to be doing because it’s always those challenges that are the most exciting and the things I hope to get to keep doing in my work.  

Question:  I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about Dr. Arden’s relationship with Sister Mary Eunice and his decision in the end to kill himself, who is that a victory for, if anyone?

Rabe:  Oh gosh, a victory, I don’t know, I don’t know.  I never thought of it.  I always thought of it as sort of the perfect ending for the two of them.  It seemed so fitting and of course we were always talking about, James Cromwell and I were always sitting around talking about Shakespeare like big theater dorks and so we felt like we’d gotten a nice, Ryan had given us a sort of beautiful Shakespearian ending in a horror story Shakespearian ending.  But I think it seemed sort of completely sort of the perfect end to the very, very, very bizarre and complicated and dark love story of sorts.  I think for him he really had loved her for so long and been so devoted to her; and I can’t speak for Jamie, but I feel like that was just maybe the last straw for him.

I think in the way that she dies, which is certainly I think I said this earlier to someone, but more of a sort of an assisted suicide, a sort of consensual death with the Monsignor.  And I think that she’s certainly trying to free herself and also get this devil that she has become away from everyone else.  I think it is sort of her most heroic moment and also sort of her only, really her only choice at that point.  But I think that, yeah, there is having taking Dr. Arden away with her is certainly not a bad thing for everybody else who is left alive, although there’s still a whole lot of stuff to work out and a lot of evil left around that’s for sure.

Question:  Will you be back in season three?  Have you started talking to Ryan about it?  I know that you can’t probably say, but what kind of character do you think you would like to play, because I know that he sort of goes through the actors and asks a little bit what they’d like to do next and kind of tries to give them something different than what they’re done before.

Rabe:  Yes, well, he certainly succeeded in that this season with everyone so brilliantly and I’m sure he will just of course do that again.  I don’t know.  I think Ryan’s ideas are usually better than mine, but yes, I don’t know.  I don’t know, but certainly something you just want to do something different.  That’s the joy of what the setup is.  

Question:  But you do think you’ll be back.

Rabe:  I have no idea.  I can’t say a word.  I’m so sorry.  I know it’s such a boring interview sometimes with us at American Horror Story, so that I just can’t say a word.     

Question:  I really enjoyed how you embodied the devil in Sister Mary, I’m wondering how did you approach it because I feel that the combination of comedy and horror and I’m wondering if the director  somehow guided you on how to play the devil in your character? 

Rabe:  Yes, you know the truth is the way that I approached it really was to figure out before we started shooting the most important thing to me was to really figure out who Sister Mary Eunice was and not really worry about the possession or the devil because to me so much of what a possession is is specific to the person.  So that to play the sort of dark side or underbelly of someone or their sort of shadow taking over it’s really about knowing who that person is before that event has taken place of this dark thing sort of taking over.  So it was more about figuring out who she really was through and through.  

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