Behind the scenes photos from Leslie Grossman’s Instagram
Out: What is it like to play the Antichrist?
Cody: It’s been the greatest privilege of my acting career so far. Between this and Versace, if for some reason the apocalypse came tonight, I’d be pretty happy with what I’ve done.
Out: How much did you know going into the season?
Cody: I didn’t know anything, I didn’t even know the theme, we found out when everybody else found out. We did know obviously that there had been an apocalypse, but I found out that I was playing Michael Langdon two days before we started filming. My first scene was the interrogation with Venable. All that Ryan had told me was that I’d be wearing a long, blonde wig and that I would have an affinity for capes. I went into the piece thinking I was the protagonist.
Out: Do you think that in a way, Michael is the protagonist of Apocalypse?
Cody: I think he is, but that’s from my perspective. I understand that the witches are the protagonists, particularly Cordelia. It’s in many ways a continuation of the Coven story, but running parallel is the story of how I see Michael, which is this very betrayed, broken, lost young man who finds his way into the apocalypse because of circumstance, not because of destiny.
Out: There’s a conversation of nature vs. nurture: we know from Murder House that there was evil in Michael from birth, he wouldn’t have been murdering his babysitters if there wasn’t, but it’s become clear in the latter half of the season that he’s lost and is being manipulated by people with their own agendas.
Cody: We see him at 15 when he’s grown 10 years overnight, and the way that I always played Michael was that the murders are an impulse that he can’t control and he doesn’t understand. His consciousness is that of a 6-year-old boy when he’s a teenager, but he’s struggling to come to terms with his body and his desires, but he’s not fully formed. When you follow that, to me Michael’s story is a parable. There’s two ways of looking at the story of the devil: the way that people have interpreted the bible, and this polar opposite that Lucifer so loved god that he refused to bow down before men. Here we have god’s favorite angel in this kingdom of heaven, who was then made to bow down before god’s next making, and ultimately that leads to him being cast out of Heaven, and it wasn’t like Lucifer was wrong. Man then goes about destroying the earth. That’s what we’re doing right now, we’re destroying planet Earth, and it seems that there’s no remorse for it. I really leaned into that with Michael, this young boy who was cast from the kingdom of Heaven, who was cast out of the normal rigors of society, out of what people find acceptable, and then is used and abused and abandoned and broken, and what happens when you have no love in your life, where does that energy go?
Out: One of the ways I’ve been reading this season is a commentary about the state of gender politics. The warlocks essentially bring about Armageddon by attempting to topple the matriarchal power the witches have over the coven. Michael in a way is this avatar for misogyny and male entitlement. Was that intentional?
Cody: I absolutely believe that was intentional. The thing about Ryan Murphy is he’s able to weave these incredible social commentaries into this fascinating world he’s created. Certainly in this season we are looking at bringing down the patriarchy, about what happens when a matriarchal society is enforced and the hubris of men begins to take flight. It’s not dissimilar to what’s happening in society today or what has been happening for hundreds of years. Ryan certainly weaves that into his writing. The gender battle is being fought and Michael is the avatar for it but is certainly not a part of of it. He is manipulated into this gender battle but he himself is not misogynistic, but there’s certainly something to be said for the fact that he needs a very strong mother figure in his life and has mommy issues. His mother tries to kill him in the Murder House, Constance commits suicide, Cordelia takes away Mead and he has this robot who he has to program into loving him. I think he has an enormous respect for Cordelia. He needs strong women in his life, and if he just took Cordelia’s hand when she offered it, if he just overcame his insatiable thirst for revenge, he could’ve gone another way.
Out: One of the standout episodes of the season was “Return to Murder House,” what was it like to find out that not only was Jessica Lange returning but that you’d get to act opposite her?
Cody: My ovaries exploded. I can’t begin to describe to you how overwhelmed I was. The first scene I shot with Jessica was the scene where Michael finds her dead body after she’s committed suicide, and I was so excited and nervous and afraid of that scene that I spent the whole day shaking like a life. When we got to it I was so excited and overwhelmed, it was very hard for me to drop into the chaos around what I needed to go into. Sarah, who is just the most exceptional human being in the world not to mention the hardest working and the most talented, took my hand and said, “Don’t be afraid of this, you’ve got to really go there,” and then jokingly, “Imagine that at the end of this if you didn’t get it that Jessica would think you’re a bad actor.” It was terrifying! I was certainly able to move past a wall, that’s what was blocking me, I was so afraid of judgement, that wasn’t coming from Jessica of course, it was coming from myself and my own process. Working with Jessica will go down as one of my life’s greatest achievements.
Out: What was it like to not only act alongside Sarah Paulson but to be directed by her in “Return to Murder House?”
Cody: One of the greatest joys. As an actor, to step into the director’s chair, you have a certain upper hand because you understand how actors work and how to communicate with actors. Sarah very much comes from a place of absolute respect for the emotional process of the artist. First and foremost she’s looking out for you as an artist, which elicits such extraordinary performances because you have so much trust in her, so you’re willing to give her anything and everything. She’s got such a deft hand as a director, watching it was gobsmacking, and was working under the most extreme pressures imaginable. Not only was she playing Billie Dean and Cordelia in another episode in the same time as this was filming, she had to film 72 scenes. In contrast, the episode before had 32, so she was filming almost double what any other director on the series was filming, while playing two other characters in two other episodes with under one week of preparation, it was truly a feat.
Out: She certainly wears a lot of hats…speaking of which, you had a very special hat yourself. Let’s talk about that wig.
Cody: I loved that wig. If I could wear that wig on a daily basis I would. Wearing that wig was everything.
Out: How long does it take to get into the Rubber Man suit?
Cody: It takes about 20 minutes and a lot of lube, and once you’re in it you’re in it, you can’t take it off. So I was in that suit for 16 hours. I think I held the record for being in the suit the longest.
Out: Can you settle this debate: was Michael the Rubber Man suit who has sex with Gallant?
Cody: No, not physically anyway. The Rubber Man is also a demon, so when someone is wearing the suit, they become the Rubber Man, but when nobody is wearing the suit, Rubber Man — through the power of Murder House — becomes a demon, and that demon is in many aspects controlled by Langdon. Langdon uses every means at his disposal to warp and manipulate and draw out the innermost desires in a human being, he draws out their shadow self and he’s able to play with that shadow and create scenarios that tempt a person into giving into the evil inside of them. Because the Rubber Man is there and then Gallant realizes he’s killed Evie. There’s some mind games going on there in how Michael reveals Gallant’s innermost desire, which is deeply Oedipal, because we [we wonder], is he fucking his grandmother? Because the realization is that the Rubber Man is Evie and he’s just slaughtered her in his bed. There’s so many layers of darkness there. That’s certainly how I thought about it.
Out: I’m sure you can’t reveal anything about the finale tonight, but can you tease a bit about how Michael’s journey ends?
Cody: There’s something deeply beautiful and tragic about the way that the story ends for Michael. It was genuinely one of the hardest scenes that I shot in the series. The end of the series, knowing that this was going to be the last time I — I’m getting sad about it now — I loved Michael so much, the past nine days since we finished filming it have been very hard. I loved Michael so much and I wanted so much for him, I just wanted love for him. The way the series ends for Michael is very moving.
Out: Are you open to returning for another season of AHS?
Cody: Oh my god, in a heartbeat. The experience is beyond comparison. Moving forward there will hopefully be great triumphs in my career, hopefully I’ll get to play characters that are as complex and layered as Michael, but this will forever have been the most formative experience of my acting career and of my development as an artist. To work with these extraordinary women at such an early point in my career, to work with Sarah Paulson and Frances Conroy — fuck me, Frances Conroy is one of the most talented, hard working, fierce actresses. To work with Kathy Bates and Joan Collins, the list goes on and on. To be in the same room as Billy Porter, who is an American treasure. The entire experience was so exceptional and magic. I know I’ll never have that back, that moment, it’s gone. I would come back in a heartbeat.
The final scene of each season of ‘American Horror Story’. (2011-2018).