From high school dreams to American screams - Features - TV & Radio - The Independent

From high school dreams to American screams

Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy has unleashed his dark side, as Sarah Hughes discovers

Most people find working on one television show to be an exhausting affair; however, most people are not Ryan Murphy.

The co-creator of Glee is currently juggling three shows – in addition to Glee itself (currently airing its third season on Sky) he is heavily involved in its reality spin-off The Glee Project while new drama American Horror Story, which starts on FX tonight, has been one of the surprise successes of the US television season.

Murphy is also involved with a film adaptation of The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer's award-winning Broadway play about the Aids epidemic, and co-writing a half-hour comedy with Allison Adler for NBC about a gay couple's attempts to start a family.

"The thing is I just want to do the opposite of what I've done before," Murphy says. "It's like dating – you know if you're going to fall in love then change it up a bit. When I wrote Glee, I was coming off [plastic surgery drama] Nip/Tuck and I really wanted to be happy because I felt like everything was getting too dark.

"Then after two seasons of Glee it felt as though that was too much sweetness and I needed to change that up so [long-term writing partner] Brad [Falchuk] and I pitched American Horror Story, which we'd actually been working on three years before Glee, because now the time felt right for that. Now the new sitcom is going to be a really sweet half-hour comedy about a subject matter that's very close to my own life and that I feel passionate about."

That said, Murphy won't be abandoning the dark-hearted American Horror Story any time soon. The story of an unfaithful psychologist, his grieving wife, their moody daughter and the extremely creepy house that they move to in order to start afresh might not have been a Glee-style breakout hit but its combination of clever horror references, knowing one-liners and genuine chills has seen the ratings increase each week. The fourth episode pulled in three million viewers in America.

Murphy and Falchuk are aided by a strong cast including a scene-stealing Jessica Lange as the very steely magnolia next door.

"I've been obsessed with Jessica since I was a kid and my favourite performance ever is her turn as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire," Murphy says. "When we were writing Constance, in my mind she was how Blanche would have turned out had she been stronger so I sent the script to Jessica. Then I spent weeks begging her to do it because she's never done TV before. Luckily, she agreed, as it turns out she's hilarious. We've changed part of the character in response to how funny she can be."

As to Glee, Murphy remains sanguine about the criticism thrown at the show last season – "We got a lot of flak for the themed episodes but those were also the highest rated," he says – and claims to be unconcerned by the fact that a more stripped-down third season has seen lower ratings and fewer record sales.

"The Broadway music lends itself to the story we're telling," he says. "It's important that the music reflects the storyline and it's not as though we don't still have some big songs."

And while the two shows are very different on the surface, Murphy argues that they are more similar than you might imagine. "Everything that Brad and I have done has a lot of emotion and charge and feels very heightened," he says. "Glee's not the real world, it's the world that we wish we lived in and American Horror Story is the world that we're terrified we might be living in."

'American Horror Story' starts on FX tonight at 10pm. 'Glee' airs on Sky One, Thursdays at 9pm

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week