After a celebrated career that's spanned four decades, produced a dozen iconic characters, and led to three Oscar nominations and one win, Kathy Bates has her pick of roles. But there is one thing she looks for in all the projects she takes on: a nice location.
"That's a big part of it," Bates told BuzzFeed News, with a laugh, in her trailer during an exclusive set visit in August. "I've been on the road for so long. When I look at something now, I want it to be fun and I want to have a nice experience because, at my age, what are you going to do? Sit home and watch your old movies? If you make good memories with your work, that's what you take with you. It's not necessarily what you did, even though you're proud of that too. It's the actual doing of it that's important. If it's not fun, then you don't want to do it anymore."
For the past two years, Bates has headed to a nice location and had a fun filming experience on the New Orleans set of American Horror Story. She joined as the malevolent Marie Delphine LaLaurie in 2013's third season, Coven, and returned as bearded woman Ethel Darling in the current fourth season, Freak Show.
"It takes a lot of faith in Ryan [Murphy, executive producer] because you don't get a lot of information when you sign on," Bates said. "Sometimes that's frustrating because you don't know where it's going, but the group itself draws you in. Like, last year I didn't have much to do with Sarah [Paulson], and this year, I'm getting to work with her quite a lot. Also with Evan Peters, so that's cool."
Bates paused, momentarily tongue-tied. "Excuse me," she finally said. "I talk in my Baltimore accent even when I'm off set because it's such a tough accent that I feel like if I don't, I won't get it back."
In addition to the beard she wears to bring Ethel Darling to life, Bates has applied another element to her Freak Show character: a very thick Baltimore accent. "Ryan has a good friend from Baltimore and I'm all about that stuff. So I asked if I could have a Baltimore accent," Bates said. "And he said, 'Yes, but not too much.'"
While Murphy may have wanted something subtler, Bates felt "you either sound like you're from Baltimore or you don't," so she came up with the intense accent fans have noticed since the Freak Show premiered earlier this month.
To hone her chosen dialect Bates — who does not work with a coach — relied heavily on two sources: listening to interviews with Barbara Ann Mikulski, a United States senator from Maryland, and a "Baltimorese" website. "It has all the words and a link to 'The Star-Spangled Banner' in Baltimorese," Bates said of the online lexicon and the song she performs almost every morning to get into character. "When I found it, I was like, 'Hoooly moooly! That's it!'"