Interview: Angela Bassett Shares Her Third Tit Experience in ‘AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW’

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Screen shot 2015-01-21 at 8.55.36 PMPreston Barta // Editor

Alright. Get ready. The season finale of AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW is here. It’s been a wild ride this season, but can you really expect anything less when it’s from the mind of Ryan Murphy?

Before the curtain come down for the final time, let’s look back at the season from the eyes of Angela Bassett, who plays Desiree Dupree on the show. We spoke with Mrs. Bassett about working with Ryan Murphy, her reaction to her character and experience putting on the third breast.

When you signed on for FREAK SHOW did you know what the part was? What was your reaction when you found out what the part was?

Angela Bassett: “I didn’t have a clue whatsoever what the part might be, what it might encompass when I signed on. I just knew I had a great time the previous year, and if that was any indication, it was going to be a wild ride. I think it was about two weeks before I was scheduled to come down to start shooting that I got the, you know, the hot off the press script. I sat down to read it to see and I remember wondering, ‘Now, how am I going to know who I am?’

Then you read the stage direction, ‘African American woman in her 40s, hermaphrodite, three breasts, and a ding-a-ling.’ You’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ You immediately close the pages, and have to walk around, and process that for a minute. You’re thinking, ‘What does that mean?’ Oh, my gosh! If they thought I was crazy demonic last year, what are they going to think this year?”

So did you freak out and call Ryan?

Bassett: “[Laughs] No. I wasn’t scared like that. I just knew that it was absolutely going to be something that I had never done before. What does an actor crave, but new challenges? This certainly was going to be one of those.”

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW "Show Stoppers"- Episode 12 --Pictured: Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree. CR: Michele K. Short/FX.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW – “Show Stoppers”- Episode 12 — Pictured: Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree. CR: Michele K. Short/FX.

I imagine it was. Because this season’s theme revolves around a troupe of performers, do you feel like the AMERICAN HORROR STORY cast is sort of a family of performers as you go from season to season? Do you feel like more of a part of that now that this is your second time on the show?

Bassett: “Oh, Absolutely! I feel like it is a traveling troupe of performers. That’s true. This year I feel more a part of the family. You know, having been here before, having established those relationships, not the brand new girl. We’ve got some other new faces. I feel like I’ve been around the block at least one time with them. I feel more comfortable. I was excited. I’m still excited, but I feel more a part of the family this year, most definitely.”

What was the process that turned you into Desiree? How does she get that third breast? How long did it take to put on?

Bassett: “Well, I go in. I go into my regular makeup artist. She applies the appliance to me, so that it’s there basically. Then I go over to the special effects trailer where her husband makes sure the edges and everything sort of blend seamlessly. I guess I can say that. From there, he and the other special effects gentlemen will begin to apply the paint. They’ll start with brown. They spray it on. They’ll start with the brown. They’ll go to the red, and yellow, and green. It’s amazing these colors and undertones that they claim you possess. You’re like, oh, those are weird, weird colors. Then he’ll take a photograph of it to make sure that it appears as if it’s my own and based on that he’ll maybe go in, and do so more painting, and carry on. That’s it. It takes maybe from start to finish about an hour, just enough time to check out a Netflix episode of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK or something.”

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW - "Test of Strength"- Episode 407 -- Pictured: (L-R) Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree, Kathy Bates as Ethel Darling. CR: Michele K. Short/FX.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW – “Test of Strength”- Episode 7 — Pictured: (L-R) Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree, Kathy Bates as Ethel Darling. CR: Michele K. Short/FX.

What was your initial reaction when you first tried on the prosthetic?

Bassett: “Well, I was glad it wasn’t on my face. I’m claustrophobic. It’s amazing. You can just a little after about 14 hours of it being on. The initial appliance was extremely heavy. I think it was made of silicon. It started out fine, but after about hour number 12 and on it became hot and heavy. I believe it started sagging, which I’m like, what is the point of having three sagging breasts? No, this is not good. They reworked it and made it out of foam, which I was so, so pleased about because it’s the difference of night and day. Still after about 12 hours that internal heat, you begin to sweat. You begin to itch. You can’t really provide relief because you can’t get to yourself, you know?”

Right.

Bassett: “You’re scratching foam. It’s much lighter. It’s much more bearable. I guess I’ve grown accustomed.”

I read an interview where Ryan said the seasons are all connected. Any idea how Desiree or Marie will both fit into the larger picture?

Bassett: “Not one, nor have I considered it. Is that right? The only connection I was able to make was Pepper from Season 2 to Season 4. No, I haven’t thought about that. That gives me something to think about. Have you?”

No, I haven’t, but I am so excited to see how everything connects and intertwines. I think we’ll be all in for a very big surprise.

Bassett: “Okay. Sounds like a great college term paper to me.”

Indeed it does. Thanks, Angela.

Season finale of AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW airs at 10 p.m. e/p.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.