Cheyenne Jackson On The Sheer Thrill Of Joining 'American Horror Story: Hotel'

the actor talks gaga, horror movies, and the latest season

Photography by Myles Pettengill

After a countdown lasting months, everybody's favorite terrifying TV show is back—and this time around, there are some new additions to the family. American Horror Story: Hotel has checked Cheyenne Jackson in to Ryan Murphy's creepy cadre of actors, and judging by last night's premiere, he's game for what may just be the show's most bonkers season yet. Playing a wealthy fashion designer named Will Drake, Jackson has fully embraced the anything-goes attitude of AHS, working on scenes with Lady Gaga and rocking what's bound to be one of the greatest wardrobes in the show. We spoke to the actor about horror films and what to expect this season from Hotel.

You previously worked with Ryan Murphy on a couple episodes of Glee. How was this experience different?
It’s the tone of it. There’s obviously less singing and dancing, so that makes it pretty different. Ryan is just one-of-a-kind. His mind is so brilliant and amazing, and what’s fascinating is that he can do both of those genres and absolutely nail them. What was similar is the energy on set and the fact that he’s doing something special. I was in the second season of Glee when it was at its most popular. How it’s different is that it’s American Horror Story—it’s dark and moody and intense and dramatic and sexy. It’s a different world, and the stakes are high and everybody on set is bringing their A-game, so it’s definitely a different world than Glee.

How did you get involved in Horror Story?
I’ve been friends with Ryan for a few years. Initially, I auditioned for Will Schuester on Glee and obviously didn’t get the part, but he remembered my audition and that’s how he got me on that show. Then he hired me to be on this pilot last year for HBO, which ended up not going. So I think he was just always looking for something great for me, and he asked me about a year ago and he said, “I have this wonderful part, but would you be interested in joining this sort of family?” Uh, yes! I would!

Are you a big horror fan?
I really am. I never really thought about it. It wasn’t something that I sought out, but I really do love it. I love to be scared. I love to put myself in those situations. The very first scary movie I saw was accidental—a babysitter let me see The Shining when I was was seven. I remembered that exhilarating feeling—the peril and the life-or-death situations. I’d just get goosebumps. It’s really fun to live in that world. I am a fan, and I’m a huge fan of this show. I’ve seen every episode and I’ve seen a couple seasons twice. So, being on that sound stage and being such a fan made it doubly exciting.

Do you think that this experience acting in a horror show will change how you view scary movies?
I don’t know about that. Because when we’re shooting it’s not scary. But when everything is put together with the music and the special effects and all that. I don’t think it will.

So you mentioned The Shining—do you have any other favorite horror movies?
Definitely. Rosemary’s Baby, and fittingly, probably Misery