It’s so good to have Kathy Bates back where she belongs.
The Oscar-winner took season 7 off from American Horror Story to do the comedy series Disjointed on Netflix. But Bates has returned with a vengeance on AHS: Apocalypse, playing both a human and robotic version of a former Mossad agent and support system for antichrist Michael Langdon (Cody Fern).
With the finale of Apocalypse next week, EW talked with Bates about getting robotic and becoming pals with co-star Joan Collins.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you decided to come back, did you know you’d be playing a robot this year?
KATHY BATES: No. No. No. Nor did I know that I would become a Satanist. I have to tell you, when I got that script and they had me praying to Satan, I called them down to my trailer and I said, “Dudes, I am not praying to Satan. Cody can pray to Satan because he is Satan.” But I was quite serious about it because I’m a two-time cancer survivor and I’m not gonna screw around with that! [Laughs] It’s bad enough I have to say “Hail Satan” a couple of times. I know it’s entertainment but I just didn’t want to do it. But Tim [Minear] gave me a little more information about it but it was the same as it was every year. They give you kind of a rough idea and then you get a script and go, “Oh my God! I didn’t know that was going to happen!”
Tell me about the hair — was that your idea?
It was [co-creator Ryan Murphy’s]. They actually wanted it to be platinum. I said, “My scalp won’t take it, guys.” So, we came up with black and I actually love it! I think I’m going to keep it for a while. It kinda perks me up.
You skipped last season, so how has it been being back on AHS? Has it been fun to reconnect with everyone?
Oh god, yes. And you know who I just adore? We’ve just fallen in love — Joan Collins. I just adore her. We’ve been out to dinner a few times. I just love her and her husband, Percy. They’re just keepers. That’s been an unexpected pleasure. And I’ve adored working with Cody. I saw him of course in Versace and I thought he was wonderful. I’ve tremendously loved working with him. But I have to say, when the witches came striding across the field, suddenly they all became a group and it was just the two of us. So, I didn’t get to see very much of Sarah Paulson or Billie Lourd or Leslie Grossman or Adina Porter or any of those girls, so it kinda made me sad because I didn’t get to hang with them.
You and Gabby Sidibe became so close during Coven — did you all get a chance to spend any time together?
No. I mean she was going back and forth to Empire. She was even texting that she had to wear her bloody clothes on the plane because she was running late and she said people didn’t even bat an eye. No, I just adore her. Just a hug here and there. I think we got to hug each other when I was being cooked.
What was that like to be burnt at the stake? Was it scary to be up there?
No. It was sort of funny. I was all tied up at the stake and our unit production manager came over and we were talking about schedules! [Laughs] It wasn’t scary. I was just trying to figure out how to do it. Ryan said, “Oh I love it when you get all Shakespearean!” [Laughs] It was so great to be back with everybody!
Do you think Ms. Meade is the darkest character you’ve played on AHS?
Yeah, she’s…I don’t know if I can really describe her because she’s kind of a cipher in a lot of ways. I really plugged into the whole Mossad thing. She was a killer and she was emotionless about that. She was very robotic and mechanical and still, and I think she was full of fervor and rage and all those things. But it was kinda cool to play someone as still as that.
I love the first episode when Meade and Venable (Paulson) get all dressed up and just sit by the fire and chat. Do you think those characters had a romantic relationship?
No. I didn’t. I know people felt there were sexual undertones. But we never discussed that and certainly now that we’ve gotten through the series and we know what’s going on, she came from the Corporation with Venable. I think Venable was pretty aware who Meade was.
I interviewed Cody a few weeks ago and he raved about working with you. This is one of his first major gigs. How has it been working with him?
What I first noticed about him is how focused he is and how much research he does and how much he thinks about it. He gave me a beautiful book of Blake’s drawings. We talked a lot about craft together and shared a lot of notes. He’s well aware this is only like the third thing he’s done. He’s very excited. It takes you back to when you were young. I’m still passionate about what I do but it’s fun to see him so excited and so focused and working so hard and being part of that. I think he’s doing a wonderful job. I love his stillness. He’s incredibly prepared and is really seizing the opportunity to do his very best.
He’s very thoughtful. Like he had a whole backstory to his hand movements as Michael.
I know. We kinda compared notes like that. In a way, although I played such an austere character this season, I kept a bible. There are so many layers with things going on, like with the apples and the story of Adam and Eve and the creation. I found I could just go deeper and deeper and deeper into the material. I found myself getting really excited about the themes this season.
How was Paulson as the director?
I have to say, she’s a wonderful actress but she’s an even more wonderful director and here’s why: She has real authority on the set, even when things are crazy and they get crazy because we’re rolling so fast. She doesn’t falter. She keeps the reins firmly in hand. Obviously, she knows what actors need. She’s very clear on what she wants. And she knows camera so she can be very specific of what she needs to see in the frame and what we need to give her. I loved her episode. The other thing I noticed about her episode that I really liked was that she used more close-ups. [Laughs] She didn’t cut away from them like so often they do. I loved the pace of what she did. I’m really proud of her and so happy and I hope she does more. I think she’s outstanding. Outstanding!
Can you tease next week’s finale? Is this like a battle royale between Meade and the witches and Michael?
It’s definitely coming to a head. That was one where we were shooting two or three episodes at the same time so I’m actually having a hard time actually remembering! [Laughs] But I think it’s going to be really great from what I can remember. I think also it will be a real surprise.
Will you come back for another season of AHS?
I don’t know. I’d love to! I love working with Ryan. He’s such a genius. And Tim is a love. It’s like coming home. I also really love John Landgraf and I love FX. It feels so good to be there.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.