After three weeks of Madison Montgomery’s fur vests, sharp tongue, and bandage dresses, American Horror Story: Coven fans are likely worried that after Wednesday’s episode, titled “The Replacements,” they’ll no longer have the teen starlet turned witch-bitch’s humor to lighten the mood on the twisted FX series. But Emma Roberts, the real actress behind Madison, hinted to BuzzFeed that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of her.
The actress, whose now-boyfriend Evan Peters has started on American Horror Story since its first season in 2011, seemed like a prime possibility for the cast of Coven. The third season of Ryan Murphy’s franchise is set in New Orleans at Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, where Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) teaches young witches how to foster their talents.
“It was a complete surprise when he asked me to be on the show. I mean, I’ve been a fan of American Horror Story since the first episode. I’ve wanted to be on it, but I just never really thought that they would put me on,” Roberts said in a phone interview with BuzzFeed. “When Ryan called me, literally, while he was talking to me, I was jumping up and down all around the rooms of my house. I was just so excited and to top it all off, the role is a dream role so I got very lucky.”
As opposed to being cursed with the talent of screwing men to death like Madison’s roommate Zoe (Taissa Farmiga), or being blessed with the power of clairvoyance like Nan (Jamie Brewer), or the odd ability of being a human Voodoo doll like Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), Roberts’ Madison started to reveal that she had multiple gifts, ranging from controlling the minds of others, to setting curtains on fire with a mere glance, to flipping over a bus full of frat boys.
Headmistress Cordelia’s mother Fiona (Jessica Lange), the Supreme, aka the strongest witch in each generation who has multiple powers, felt threatened. Her solution was to take Madison under her wing (cue an adorable, but ill-fated bar scene with the two ultimate bitchy witches shooting pool and taking down shots at a local bar). But in the final moments of this week’s episode, Fiona slit Madison’s throat, worried that she was the next in line to take over the coveted Coven title of Supreme.
“Getting to work with Jessica was one of the main things that made me want to do the show,” Roberts noted. “I mean, when I spoke to Ryan, he said, ‘You’re going to have scenes with Jessica’ and I got so excited because I’m such a fan of hers. And to do those scenes with her in tonight’s episode, the one where she kills me and the one where we go out to the bar together, that was so much fun to shoot. She’s so amazing. I just watch her on set. I catch myself staring at her all the time and have to try to keep it together.”
Despite being a fan of both American Horror Story and Lange, it took some thinking on Roberts’ part before she agreed to play Madison, largely because of a very harrowing scene in the seasons premiere where her character was gang raped at a frat party, leading her to flip over the frat’s party bus with a simple flick of the wrist.
“That was something that Ryan talked to me about beforehand. When he was telling me about the role, he said, ‘Look, this happens so I want you to be OK doing that,’” Roberts recalled. “I feel like the me a couple years ago would have been like, ‘No, I’m not doing that.’ But it was kind of one of those pivotal moments where I was like, You know what? I could easily say no and not do this and miss this amazing opportunity or I can kind of just go there and take a chance. And I’m so glad I did. It was really rough shooting it, just because it’s obviously an absolutely horrific and traumatic thing to happen to someone, but I felt like they showed it tastefully. And I also think that it’s something that was really relevant to the story … So I kind of just was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to sign on to do this show and I’m going to take whatever gets thrown at me.’”
Roberts said her mother, Kelly Cunningham, still struggled with the scene. “My mom called me and she was like, ‘I had to turn it off at that point. I couldn’t watch it,’” the actress remembered. And she could understand why. “There’ve definitely been some things where I’m like, ‘Oh my god! I can’t believe I have to do that!’ But, you do it and then after the first take, you’re like, ‘Oh, that wasn’t so bad,’” she said. “You’re with people that you feel comfortable with and safe with.”
In addition to the emotionally draining, Roberts has performed some rather scary scenes on Coven as well, including one in which Madison and Zoe decided to take advantage of the “potential” that was the mangled body parts of the frat boys killed in the bus accident. They used a resurrection spell and various arms, legs, etc. to “build the perfect boyfriend,” who happens to be played by Roberts’ off-screen boyfriend Peters. That, she said, was “actually fun.”
“I was obsessed with witches when I was younger, you know, like witch TV shows and witch movies,” Roberts says. “I thought it was so cool. So to get to say a spell for pretend was really fun and Taissa and I had a fun time doing it. We just kind of went with it and we had to wing it because there was just so much happening, as you can see, and so many different emotions happening. It’s creepy and it’s weird so we kind of all just went for it.”
But for all those very intense and frightening moments, there have been plenty of lighter ones, too. There’s already one line from Coven that’s happily haunting Roberts. “The thing that everyone keeps saying — and I’m like, Ugh, how did I say that?! — is, ‘My frickin’ vagina’s sweating,’” she said with a laugh of Madison’s quote from the premiere while wandering the streets of New Orleans in an all-black ensemble. “Everyone loves that one! Whenever people are commenting on Twitter and stuff, it’s always, ‘My frickin’ vagina’s sweating.’ So I’m glad I could bring that line to life.”
And Roberts is enjoying Madison’s versatility. “She gets to do a lot of comedy, but also gets to do serious stuff and I like that I get to have a totally different look than I’ve had before,” the actress said. “It’s a fun role because I feel like it’s more mature and it allows me to get to do so many different things as an actress, which is fun. I feel like projects like that are rare.”
The one thing she unfortunately hasn’t had the opportunity to do is the stunts in Episodes 1 and 2 in which Fiona has tossed Madison against a wall with a flick of her wrist. “That was a stunt. I wanted them to fly me into the wall, but they said, ‘No.’ Maybe next time,” she added optimistically.
The final scene in this week’s episode, however, when Fiona broke down and admitted she was dying and being stripped of all of her gifts, courtesy of burgeoning Supreme Madison, the audience saw a softer side of Ms. Montgomery. “When I agreed to do the role, I was like, ‘Even if on paper, she might not be likable, I have to do certain things to make her a little bit likable and have redeeming qualities.’ And I tried to do that because I didn’t want to just do the quintessential bitchy thing,” Roberts said. “I like that everyone was kind of on board with that because as the show goes on, you’ll see different sides of her … What I love about American Horror Story is, I feel like with every single character on the show, no one’s good and no one’s bad. Everyone has kind of the good angel and the devil on their shoulders.”
But good or bad, what could be next for what looked like a very dead Madison Montgomery. “We don’t even know what our characters are going to end up being ultimately,” Roberts said. “I think that’s what makes it so great is we’re all playing our characters one way and then we’ll get a script and we’re like, ‘Oh, so this happens.’”
Production recently wrapped on Episode 8 of Coven’s 13-episode run and, according to Roberts, fans better buckle up. “There are so many surprises. I mean, when I was reading upcoming scripts, my mouth was open. I was like, ‘(Gasps.) Oh my god!’ I definitely gasped more than once,” she said. “Just when you think you know where things are going, it just goes the other way.”