Though American Horror Story: Freak Show has only just begun, the influence of Ryan Murphy’s anthology horror series’ third season, American Horror Story: Coven, is still seeping through our culture. From the show’s endlessly quotable lines (“Balenciagaaaa!”) to the saturation of its reimagined, wide-brim witch hats on runways across the globe, Coven shattered expectations and catapulted American Horror Story to another level of TV fame. In honor of the season’s DVD and Blu-ray release, a handful of journalists (including yours truly) were invited down to the delicious deviant city of New Orleans for a Coven-inspired fan event. The festivities included a welcome brunch, a tour of the historic Buckner mansion, a rich display of last season’s costumes, and a Q&A with Jamie Brewer (Adelaide in Murder House, Nan in Coven) and Emmy award-winning costume designer Lou Eyrich, as well a surprise visit from Naomi Grossman (Pepper)!
Nestled in the gorgeous Garden District of New Orleans, the Buckner Mansion was built in 1856 and is the largest pre-Civil War era home in the entire city. It served as the exterior for Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, the school of witchcraft run by Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) and Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange) in Coven. The house was also featured in much of the season’s promo meterials, including those now-infamous shots of the school’s young pupils Madison (Emma Roberts), Zoe (Taissa Farmiga), Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), and Nan (Jamie Brewer) walking up the front steps and the seasons’ powerhouses–Lange, Angela Bassett, and Kathy Bates–in impossibly long, black dresses.
As we made our way into the mansion, we settled in with some die-hard American Horror Story: Coven fans dressed to the nines in pilgrim and Wednesday Addams-inspired black dresses, giant black hats, pointy boots, and all manner of creepy, crawly accessories. Fans and journalists alike took in the macabre decorations and costume displays. After everyone was seated, Carissa Pavlica, the Q&A’s moderator and managing editor of TV Fanatic, introduced the event’s guests, actress Jamie Brewer and costume designer Lou Eyrich.
When asked if being back inside the mansion brought back any memories, Jamie Brewer laughed and admitted, “Yeah, it’s a lot… the academy [was filmed] outside of this house. And the balcony scene as well, where you see Emma Roberts as Madison, Queenie, Gabourey Sidibe, and myself, and then [shirtless Luke],” she added, to resounding applause. When asked what the scariest moment on set was, Jamie remarked that both the zombie scene – where she rescues Luke from an onslaught of the undead on Halloween night – and having a love interest were a bit intimidating. “It’s neat, because I got to save him in the scene, and drag him back to the back yard!”
Lou was quick to add that “people may not realize this – the actors for the zombie set, sometimes – because it had to be shot at night – sometimes they wouldn’t even come to work until 10 o’clock at night, and then all the zombies had to get on their make-up, which took hours and hours. So they would sit in their chairs, and they wouldn’t start shooting sometimes until 2 in the morning.”
That wasn’t the only arduous part of filming American Horror Story: Coven. Lou Eyrich, who has been the costume designer on the show for seasons 2-4, had to create multiple looks for each character ranging from the 1600s to the present. “It just took loads of research in the beginning, and prep time,” Lou said of the process. She also shared that, unsurprisingly, Kathy Bates’ murderous, woman-out-of-time character, Delphine LaLaurie was the most difficult, “because of all the fittings and the corsets and crinolines… Also she fancied herself as a Parisian, so she went and bought her fabrics in Paris and had her dresses made back in Harlem, so we studied a lot about French dresses.”
When asked which of the witches they’d most like to portray, Jamie settled on a mix of Cordelia and Fiona, while Lou knew her choice immediately: “Madison! Love that Mad attitude.”
Overall, Jamie and Lou had an incredible time on cast, so much so that both of them have returned for Freak Show (though Jamie is still not sure who she’s playing). Jamie shared that the whole cast and crew really are like a family. “There’s a positive light in [so] many. The heart is what matters the most. If you follow your heart, it’s endless. There’s no limit.”
The pair was then joined by actress Naomi Grossman, who portrays American Horror Story‘s first ever crossover character, Pepper, from Asylum and Freak Show. Naomi said hi to the audience, fresh off a shoot on the Freak Show set, and then introduced an advance screening of Freak Show‘s second episode–which airs on FX tonight! We won’t spoil anything for you here, but let’s just say Dandy might be our new favorite character…
Lastly, the fans were treated to a tour of the entire Buckner mansion, including an in-depth look at some of the historical and modern costumes from Coven and insight from the New Orleans Black Hat Society. All in all, it was a wonderfully spooky day in the bayou. Though we wish we could have brought you all with us, we did manage to manifest some photos of the day for you. You can peruse the magic for yourself in the gallery below:
Stay tuned for more interviews and a full gallery of costumes from the American Horror Story New Orleans fan event, watch the new season every Wednesday at 10 PM ET/PT on FX, and come back to Nerdist every Thursday for our episode recaps!
Photos by Skip Bolen/Getty Images for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.