Living up to its name, the premiere episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse, the FX anthology horror show’s eighth season, began with a bang. Titled “The End,” the Apocalypse premiere started with the panicked scramble as nuclear annihilation speeds toward Los Angeles, and continued through the aftermath. And what a weird denouement it turned out to be, with society’s richest and genetically best scraping by under the oppressive thumb of a mysterious, cult-like group called The Cooperative.
Among those unfortunate survivors is Adina Porter’s Dinah Stevens, a former talk show host who, as Porter put it when she spoke with GameSpot after the episode aired, is happy just to be alive. She may be surviving on increasingly small portions of nutritionally questionable gelatinous cubes, forced to listen to the same song on repeat night after night, unable to choose even what she wears, and under constant threat of being shot in the back of the head and fed to her co-habitators–but at least she’s still breathing.
Unsurprisingly, “The End” raised way more questions than it answered. We didn’t learn a lot of details about, well, anything or anyone, from the Cooperative itself to the mysterious Michael Langdon, who showed up at the episode’s conclusion to obliquely connect Apocalypse back to earlier AHS seasons. And we didn’t learn much about Porter’s character, Dinah, besides that she’s an Oprah-like figure who bought her way into the end of the world.
Itching to know more, we chatted with Porter about the show’s oppressive-seeming set, the Cooperative’s ironclad class system, and how much she worries about the actual apocalypse.
GameSpot: So, we met your character this episode for the first time, we found out your backstory, you’re an Oprah-like figure. But I wanted to hear from you, what else can you tell us about your character that we didn’t learn from the premiere?
Adina Porter: What I remember being told, while being fitted for my purple dress, is that I am a self-made billionaire, like Oprah, had a talk show, well read, and loved by all, and rags to riches, so I didn’t inherit my money.
Evan Peters’ character had a line, where he was saying his mother was a huge fan, and then your character kind of said, “If I had a million like her,” it seemed to hint at some kind of a downfall for your character maybe before the apocalypse–are we going to get into any of that later?
I don’t think so. I mean…I think that Dinah loves being employed, and no one likes when their star is even fading just a little bit. I bet you that Dinah’s the kind of character that, if she went from the number 1 top show to the number 2 top show, she’d still complain about that.
You mentioned the purple dress. The aesthetic of that place is so interesting, and it kind of is what we would expect from American Horror Story, but it’s not what we would expect from the apocalypse. When you think of a post-apocalyptic show, this isn’t what we picture. I mean, what is it like being in that environment, wearing those crazy dresses and everything?
Well, it’s lovely, it’s very glam. I mean, you hold yourself differently, you walk differently in heels, right? And you walk differently with a corset, and you walk differently when you have skirts and you hold yourself differently. So I very much enjoy that. My career, I have played lots of folks that are–it’s rare that I get to play someone who’s beautiful, so I was very much enjoying that. I think this is the third in my career where I got [eye]lashes. So I was having a ball.
Was is the set like? Does it feel like an underground bunker? When you’re watching it, it seems so oppressive, the show is doing such a good job of making it feel like this crazy, claustrophobic, just bonkers space, so what does the set feel like?
Well, fantastic, that’s great! Maybe because I’m from New York and I have spent time in very small apartments–I mean, the bunker is still bigger than any house I have ever lived in, including the one I’m living in now. So it still felt like an upgrade to me.
I guess it must just be the way it’s shot, and because it’s so dark, and the candlelight, and there’s no windows–the only shots we see of outside, after the bombs, is the fog everywhere, nuclear winter. So maybe it’s just the juxtaposition.
I’ll throw this out there: When I imagine myself, or Dinah, being in this situation, I can see choosing to focus on the grandeur of it all–holding on to whatever I can, of still being a little bit on top, but grateful for being alive. So while being in that space, we could choose to be upset about not being able to see the ocean, and if Dinah chose to do that? It’s a quicker way to go crazy. But if you choose to be grateful for the fact that I am a Purple, and I have servants, and I’m going to be happy for being alive, it helps keep one’s sanity a little bit longer. You know what I mean?
Yeah. So, speaking of that, what do you think of the sort of class system? It’s kind of unique in that some people bought their way there, some people were chosen based on their DNA, but it’s still very much an upper class and a lower class, inside the bunker.
Well, because I’m an upper class, I’m loving it. [laughing] Heyy! I heard it, I heard it. Who knows, who knows? If the apocalypse happened, I don’t know what kind of person I’m gonna be, I don’t know if I’m gonna be a person who says, “Just let my next generation survive,” or feeds my children to the wolves, and be like, “You don’t know what you’re missing.” So my character, if I wanted to die, if Dinah wanted to die, there’s a lot of lovely ways to have done it. I want to survive and therefore I’m surviving, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.
When we think of the apocalypse, it’s often about society falling apart, right? And all these divisions kind of evaporating because ultimately they’re all superficial anyway, right? We don’t often envision the system becoming stricter. As you see it, from your position, do you think that that’s one of the thematic through-lines that we’re gonna be exploring this season?
That is a really good question. Well, there’s two ways for me to answer this. Honestly? I don’t remember, because I hand in my scripts to be shredded after I’m done with them. Because A), I don’t want them lounging around, and then someone’s finding them somewhere, or my kids accidentally taking it to school. So, as soon I’ve finished, I shred.
I also have to shred kind of mentally, because I’ve got so much going on in my life. With being a mom of two young kids, you can’t hold on to it. You’re there in the moment, and you let it go. And I have my own personal opinions about societal groups, and what happens when the s*** hits the fan. And I’m afraid of saying anything, because I don’t want it to be interpreted about what happens in the future.
But us humans, we are social beings, and I personally all the time question–I wonder what it would be like, if I grew up in a society where I am told what to do? And I have spent time in other countries and other societies where it’s more tribal, and I know what I’m supposed to do at three, I know what I’m supposed to do at 13, I know what I’m supposed to do at 21. And sometimes, that can seem very appealing, because I don’t have a choice and I know what to do, and then I shake myself and go “Adina, you hate that!”
When I thought of the apocalypse, I thought that it was gonna be a level playing ground. It surprises me that it’s not. But then again maybe it doesn’t surprise me. There are rich people with bunkers, and are prepared for, are set to survive, after everything’s gone.
That’s the surprising nature of the show, right? I mean, I think American Horror Story has sort of moved over the years from being about more campy stuff, mad scientists, serial killers–to, especially last season, and especially now, things that are sort of more immediate, existential, real world fears. I mean, nuclear annihilation a couple years ago, seemed a lot further off than it does now. Personally, I think about the possibility. Is it something that keeps you up at night?
It doesn’t keep me up at night, but I don’t waste water. I don’t waste water because A), I’ve lived in places where sometimes the tap turns on and nothing comes out. I mean, my kids share their bath water. And then I take the bath water and I pour it on the doggie run. I mean, I don’t waste water. And you don’t have to even leave the country to have places that don’t have clean drinking water. So, that’s not as bad as a bomb dropping and all of us being out in the streets, but I don’t take for granted that our world is safe, and that I’ll always have food, and I’ll always have water, I’ll always have electricity.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse airs Wednesdays on FX.