‘AHS: Asylum’: Zachary Quinto Says Show Becomes ‘Even More Disturbing’

Zachary Quinto as Dr. Olivr Thredson -- CR: Michael Yarish/FX

The identity of Bloody Face was revealed on this week’s “American Horror Story: Asylum” and it was a shocker.

When the man behind the flesh mask exposed his identify to his next victim — journalist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), who he is holding captive in his chamber of horrors — it turned out to be none other than Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto).

So where do we go from here?

“Next week’s show is called ‘The Origins of Monstrosity,'” Quinto revealed on a conference call the afternoon after the episode aired. “It really dives into a lot of the roots of the characters in this asylum.”

Quinto also promises that things will get “a lot more disturbing in the coming weeks.” Read on for his take on Season 2 of “American Horror Story: Asylum,” airing Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on FX.

When did you know Dr. Thredson was Bloody Face and did that inform your performance at all?

I knew from the very beginning. It was part of the conversation I had with Ryan [Murphy] about me coming back for the second installment of the show. It very much informed the character that I was building from the beginning. As a result, I felt like my responsibility became to create a character that people could trust, or at least initially, and have some hope that perhaps he’s the one voice of reason and sanity in this chaotic world. It was actually more exciting for me to know from the beginning. It gave me more to play with, more to hold back, and more secrets to keep.

How was this character different from Sylar, who you played on “Heroes,” because as an actor you don’t want to repeat yourself? Is that something you were concerned about?

I think any time an actor revisits territory that they’ve been in before, it can be a source of trepidation, as it was for me. But part of the reason that I love what the opportunity stood for was that I got to know going in … I got to really build something. With “Heroes,” that character was built before I was ever attached to it. There were eight episodes of anticipation built up before you met Gabriel Gray [aka Syler] in “Heroes,” but I had no participation in that.

So for me it was exciting to go in having all the information and being part of the process of creating the character. That to me was a difference and I thought, “That makes sense.” It also has a similar structure to the journey that I had on “Heroes,” or the reveal as they say, which proved very effective in that scenario and I felt could serve the story in this iteration, as well.

It’s also more rooted in character and relationship and less in the peripheral elements, like superpowers. I liked that this was grounded and real. Something I’m drawn to is always that connection. And it’s not a six-year commitment as it could be with another show. It’s self-contained and it was an immersion that I am not going to be repeating or carrying on for an extended period of time. That is an environment in which I thrive, so I was really excited by all those elements.

What were your thoughts on the aversion therapy scene? A lot of people think they can change gays that way.

I think the scene was very reflective of a pervasive mentality of the time, as unsettling as it is. I think it was powerful to revisit it and present an audience with a reflection of that kind of really abhorrent thinking. Obviously, we’ve come a long way since then and that’s great. There’s so much progress made and more work to do.

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So, I think it’s always good when you’re an actor to allow your work to act as some kind of a conduit for social discourse — an examination of where we are as a society. I think this installment of the show is really doing that in a lot of powerful ways, that being one of many. It’s another reason why I’m grateful to be a part of this kind of storytelling and this environment.

What was Dr. Thredson’s motivation for subjecting Lana to aversion therapy?

I think a lot of his actions in the first four and half episodes were serving some ulterior motive. I think he was trying to gain Lana’s trust, some proximity and intimacy with her. He was definitely trying to show her that he could be there for her, that she could rely on him, even through something as ugly and brutal as that.

I have heard that you and Sarah Paulson have a good friendship. How has it affected your scenes with her on the show, especially considering things are only going to get darker from here?

I have such a respect for Sarah as an actress, but it’s a rare and unique opportunity to show up to work with a really good friend. Oftentimes, friendships are formed on set through these experiences of working together in such intimate ways. It’s even a richer experience when you already have that foundation of friendship. There’s implicit trust and sensitivity to each other, our needs, our instincts, and our individual process.

It’s really a remarkable gift in a lot of ways. We also are able to have more fun and laugh at situations a little bit more. There’s less awkwardness to cut through so I think it strengthens the connection that the characters share, whether it’s friendship or torture or hostage, whatever it may be. I love going to work anyway, but particularly with Sarah.

Was everything about Dr. Thredson that we’ve seen a ruse, or is there a side of him that believes in psychiatry?

I think he definitely believes in it. Part of being a psychopath is an ability to dissociate from one reality and create another one completely. I think he does that expertly. His level of medical training, intuition and instinct, I think he’s very skilled. I think that’s what allows him to get away with it as long as he does. I think he does believe in it, which is another layer of tragedy in the character. He could’ve been something else. He could’ve made a much more significantly positive contribution if he had only rechanneled his energy.

Is the 2012 Bloody Face still Dr. Thredson?

Wouldn’t that be cool? You’ll find all that out. I just read the next episode last night. It was pretty freaky and cool. It’s really driving to a point. The story of “Asylum” is really going to pay off in a really great way. I think all the questions people have from the episodes that are airing now will definitely be answered.

Do you think you’ll be back as a different character in Season 3?

I just read today that the show got picked up for a third installment, so that’s very exciting. I’m so glad it’s doing well and people are responding to it. FX has been really great and so supportive and innovative with the stuff that they’re doing so it’s great to work there and be a part of it.

I haven’t had any conversations with Ryan about the third season so I have no idea. I love my job, I love the people that I do it with, so I always want to keep doing that. If he has plans that involve me, I’m sure I’ll get a call at some point.

Does playing Thredson have an emotional effect on you?

It does to a degree. I consider it my responsibility to myself to discern the boundaries in my life… as a trained actor, that’s what I learned to do as well… I learned how to navigate these complicated landscapes and stay grounded. I know I can let myself go in certain ways because I won’t let myself go in others.

“American Horror Story: Asylum” airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on FX.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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