How the ethereal Lily Rabe found success on American Horror Story

Lily Rabe as Misty Day on American Horror Story: Coven (Photo: Michele K. Short/FX)
Lily Rabe as Misty Day on American Horror Story: Coven (Photo: Michele K. Short/FX)

The actresses dishes on Ryan Murphy’s show, working with Stevie Nicks and (possibly!) returning for Season Four

Lily Rabe is one of only five actors to appear on all three seasons of Ryan Murphy’s terrifying anthology series American Horror Story. In the current run, Coven, Rabe’s Misty Day has gone from being a Stevie Nicks-obsessed “swamp witch” to an accepted member of Miss Robichaux’s Academy. (Last we saw her, she was being locked inside a coffin by the petulant Madison Montgomery.) Played to near-perfection by Rabe, Misty is one of Coven’s most dynamic characters. And tonight, she finally emerged from that temporary tomb (pretty pissed off, but who wouldn’t be?) Rolling Stone recently sat down with the actress to learn more about Murphy’s macabre show, working with Stevie Nicks and (possibly!) returning for Season Four. 

When did Ryan Murphy tell you what he had in story for this season?

When he asked me back, I remember him telling me that I was going to be playing a witch who was obsessed with Stevie Nicks. One of the things that the show has done so well every year are the names of the characters. They’re just flawless. And when you find out your name the information starts to trickle in about your character. It’s a mixture of things you know, things have a sense of and a lot more that you find out along the way (you get the script the day before you’re shooting). It’s all over the spectrum in terms of information, so you just have to be ready to roll with the punches and be on your toes. You have to be pretty game.

You’ve been on all three seasons. Is getting to do something different a big pull?

That, and Ryan. It’s a massively appealing thing; a television show. You have a steady job for five or six months and you have this feeling of family. And yet you get this incredible luxury of playing someone new every year. S0 in that way it’s more like doing a film because you start each season with a beginning, a middle and an end. That definitely keeps me coming back. And I love working for Ryan. He writes such great characters, especially for women.

What was it like to finally meet and work with Stevie Nicks?

Leading up to it, I did all these interviews. I was in such a white hot panic that I wasn’t going to be able to keep my head together. But talking about it and having to answer questions made me amazingly relaxed. Stevie has the most incredible energy and she’s just so warm, so within five minutes I felt like I’d known her for a really long time. There was an enormous amount of ease. And another thing – I got to have such a freak-out as Misty Day that, as Lily, I was able to keep it together.

Can we expect a pissed-off Misty in the finale? Or will she be her usual cerebral self?

She’s definitely a love-not-war kind of gal. She always leads with love and empathy and compassion first. She’s a very sensitive creative. However, this was pretty extreme. She is who she is, but she’s definitely pretty fired up. I would be too.

Between Nora, Sister Mary Eunice and Misty Day, who’s most like the real Lily Rabe? Who is the most different?

Misty Day is the most like me. I share very little with Nora and Mary Eunice. People that I’m closest to in the world have really enjoyed this season because they’ll tell me, “I love that she’s such a goober like you are.” She’s also the closest to me because she’s someone who really, really believes in the goodness of people and she really roots for people. And I love Stevie, too, so we share that. [Laughs]

So are you coming back next season?

I can’t say.

Would you like to be back next season?

It’s a great job and I love being a part of this show. And for all the reasons that we talked about, it’s definitely not something one tires of.

Now that you’ve done ghosts and possession and witches, what’s left?

Oh, man. Anything. I just know Ryan will come up with something better. It would be fun to fall in love on one of his shows. If I’m back, I know it’ll be great and I’ll have great stuff to do.

Scott Neumyer / Rolling Stone / Wednesday, January 22, 2014

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