The Real Scream Queen

Move over Lea Michele and Emma Roberts. Ryan Murphy has a new ingénue stepping into the TV spotlight.

Photographed by Roman Yee

When writer-director and all-around genius Ryan Murphy calls, not even the most in-demand actors let him go to voicemail. This is the guy who got A-listers Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson to do Glee and icons Lady Gaga and Naomi Campbell on his upcoming series American Horror Story: Hotel. Now he’s enlisted singing-and-dancing mega-millennials like Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas, and Lea Michele for his new Fox show Scream Queens, even though there isn’t any singing and dancing to be found. Instead, the high kicks and falsettos have been replaced with bitchiness and stillettos—and, of course, murder.

The horror-comedy—an homage to all things Heathers, Clueless, JawbreakerMean Girls, and Scream—is largely set at the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority house, where a serial killer has set his or her sights on them during rush week (think: The most elaborate, fashionable game of Clue, ever). We quickly meet Grace Gardner, who wants to join Kappa Kappa Tau to make her feel closer to her mom, a former Kappa who died when Grace was young. Little did Grace know, things have changed a lot since she saw those smiling retro pics of her dear, ol’ mom.

Now the chapter is ran by Queen B Chanel Oberlin (played perfectly by Emma Roberts), who reigns over her scared-to-death underlings. The sorority prez, who is permanently stuck in bitchy-resting-face mode, couldn’t possibly be bothered to learn their names, so she calls them Chanel #2 (Ariana Grande), Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd), and Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin), and they all must dress in coordinating Jackie O-inspired ensembles. (Oh, and in case you were wondering what happened to Chanel #4, she couldn’t take the constant belittling and overall bitchery, so she quit school and ran home to her parents.)

As Grace and fellow misfits (amongst them Lea Michele and Keke Palmer) try to pledge the Kappas, not just hazing—but homicide—awaits them with at least one murder promised per episode. The show is over-the-top, and yes, nothing is off limits, including (but not limited to) racism, fat-shaming, eating disorders, homophobia, classism, and bullying. Lines like “Good evening, idiot hookers,” and “What fresh hell is this?” will no doubt be coming out of the mouths of babes soon enough, and a new fashion trend will be launched pretty much every, single episode. But among all of the stunt casting, gimmicks, fashion, and laughs, the real star of the show is Skyler Samuels (and I’m not just saying that because she sent me an adorable hand-written thank you note with EOS passionfruit lip balm and red Swedish Fish after I interviewed her).

NYLON sat down with the talented 21-year-old—and real-life sorority girl at Stanford University, where she’s an intellectual property and marketing major—to talk about the sure-to-be-a-hit show, fan-girling over her castmates, and what her Theta sisters think about her being on a show that makes fun of sorority girls.