Tonight (October 7) the world will finally check in to the madcap world of the Hotel Cortez, for the fifth series of Ryan Murphy's cultural phenomenon "American Horror Story."
A good portion of the "Hotel" cast -- Lady Gaga aside -- are mainstays, which is why this experience has been so special for former "Glee" actor Cheyenne Jackson, who makes his "AHS" debut in tonight's episode, "Checking In," as the fancy New York fashion designer Will Drake. (Even more special? The fact that Murphy convinced him to join the cast in the middle of a spin class. Soul Cycle works wonders, kids.)
MTV News hopped on the phone with Jackson ahead of the premiere, to discuss everything from what kind of horror we'll be seeing to romancing Lady Gaga to why in god's name he looks like all of the other dudes on the show:
MTV: We know that your character comes to the Hotel Cortez from New York, but there has to be more to it than that. What draws him into this crazy universe?
Cheyenne Jackson: All of the characters in this anthology, nobody is ever just a straight up protagonist or antagonist -- everybody's morally ambiguous; all kinds of shades of gray. Will Drake is very successful. He's made a lot of money, he's in all kinds of stores. He's all that in terms of modicum of success and fame, monetarily speaking. However... he's lost his passion for creativity, and his edge.
The Hotel Cortez, he's heard about it, and as soon as he gets in there, things are going to start happening again. He's gonna start having great ideas again. He's going to be inspired. And several of these residents -- I'm trying to think about what I can say... definitely the Countess has a lot to do with Will.
... A lot of personal things going on manifest in his art, and also with his relationship with the Countess and his relationship with another person within the hotel that I can't say yet. But both of those relationships and this whirlwind of personal crisis he's going through and living in the hotel, all three of those things start an upheaval in his life and sh-t goes down. Let's just say that.
MTV: It's been revealed that Gaga has a foursome with her boyfriend, Matt Bomer's character. But we've also heard that she has a relationship with you. Is there anything as crazy as a foursome coming up on your docket?
Jackson: Yeah, I know I'm allowed to say that she has a relationship with my character. So, the Countess and Will definitely have a connection on different levels. And it just causes all kinds of chaos for each of them personally, and all the people on the periphery. Just like you surmised.
MTV: Is he a "good guy," though? Watching the premiere, I really couldn't figure that out.
Jackson: Well, that's the beauty of the show... even the people that are "bad" are justified. They have their reasons. I mean occasionally there'll be a serial killer or a monster in the series... but that's what's so fun about the characters that Ryan has created. It is not black or white. Definitely when you first get to know my guy, you go "Oh, he's a fashion guy. He's a dad. He's doing this." But, you know, everybody has skeletons in the closet. And they come tumbling out.
MTV: I need to get this out: we've noticed that you, Bomer, Finn Wittrock, Wes Bentley, and Max Greenfield have a similar look. Finn told me last month that that means something, plot-wise. What can you add, and what was it like being in that group of handsomes?
Jackson: Well, of course I've realized that and seen that, and thought the same thing. Many times throughout my life people have said Matt Bomer and I resemble each other. I don't really see it, but I definitely understand what they mean -- coloring and what not. And Wes as well; the dark eyebrows... yeah we've definitely, the four or five of us, have definitely talked about it on set. And about what could it mean.
Some people are of the mindset that it could be just arbitrary. And then some people definitely believe that nothing that Ryan does is by accident. So there must a reason and it will be explained. I don’t know, I'm somewhere in the middle. But yeah, I definitely notice it. Especially when we were starting, the newer AD's and stuff would get us mixed up, which I thought was pretty funny. One of them was like, "Oh, could you sign here?" "Oh, that's Matt. That's not me." "Oh, sorry Finn." "No, I'm Cheyenne."
MTV: There are worse people to be physically compared to.
Jackson: Right? I will take it. I will take it.
MTV: So, back to Will being a seemingly single dad. There's a whole lot of creepy children running around the hotel in the trailer and the opening credits, so it doesn't seem like the Cortez is a great place to bring a kid. Will that storyline start to impact your family?
Jackson: Yeah, definitely... who are these creepy kids? What do they mean to all of us? And then there's my kid, and what's his deal with the rest of the kids? There's definitely thematic things that I believe will pop up throughout the season. Fatherhood, parenthood, loss -- really deep things that so many people can relate to...
That's what I think is going to do so well, is [the show] tapping into your deepest, darkest fears that could actually happen. And of course, combined with all the spectacular sex and blood and writing and acting.
MTV: Is Will a good father?
Jackson: Oh, for sure. Definitely. There are a lot of things that he hasn't necessarily done correctly in his mind, but fatherhood is something he's really proud of. He has a great relationship with his kid. They have a great connection. And the reason why he's a single father, all of that, is revealed later on. It's a great part.
MTV: How would you describe the horror this season? We saw supernatural horror in "Coven" and "Murder House," and just straight up slasher horror in "Freak Show." From what we know of "Hotel," there's murder and kidnapping... but we also know that Gaga's Countess is 100 years old. Does that mean there's some supernatural horror, too?
Jackson: That's what I think is going to be fun about this year, is that there's a great detective murder mystery with John [Bentley] and his wife; a really wonderfully fleshed out piece juxtaposed with these wacky, dark, twisted sad characters in this hotel. And somehow it all kind of comes together and makes sense. And they're all connected in a way. Potentially, some supernatural people who are 500 years old... yeah, I mean, it's a whole smorgasbord of everything you said.
MTV: You've worked with Murphy before, on "Glee." What's the biggest difference between filming that series and "AHS?"
Jackson: Oh my god, well there's less dancing. I mean, it's just a different feel. You know, I joined "Glee" in season two when it was the biggest show. It was just a giant, cultural phenomenon, and the energy was manic and crazy and exciting. So in that sense, it's very similar. The set of "Horror Story" is incredibly exciting and the stakes are very high, and there's a lot of money, and everybody's at the top of their game. And the hair and makeup and production; everybody wins all of the Emmys. You know, it's the A-team.
... And it all starts with Lady Gaga, who we call Stefani. She's so full of joy; she's so kind. And she's like mom. She's very maternal, strangely. She just hugs and kisses everyone and really cares. You know, she really wanted to get rid of any weird worshipping anybody had, so we could get down to creating what we're creating. And I think people are going to be really pleasantly surprised at what she's created. It's pretty awesome.
MTV: Does that mean you were invited to her pool party?
Jackson: Oh yeah. Definitely amazing. It was one of those moments where it was midnight, and Ryan and Sarah Paulson and Chloe [Sevigny] and my husband and I were in this pool that she decorated red. And it's just like, "Is this real?" Ryan said, "Is this real life?" It definitely felt surreal in the best way. She's everything you want her to be. She's over the top, but she's also this cool, 29-year-old Italian chick.
MTV: Finn wouldn't tell me who was the last actor standing. Please tell me you will.
Jackson: Oh man. It wasn't me. We left at about 12:30. My husband and I are sober, and there were a couple of other sober peeps so we all... I don't know. I honestly don't even know. I'm not trying to hold anything. I don't even know.
MTV: OK, I'll just keep asking. So, finally, is there any one scene coming up that you're most excited for fans to see -- or most nervous for your family to see?
Jackson: Yeah, I do have something in a few episodes that I did have to call my parents, I had never done anything like it. And they're definitely going to see much more of me than they'd ever want to. It's something I've never done, but the script is amazing, and it's perfect for the character... but it was really, really challenging and scary and liberating. So yeah, I definitely had that conversation with my parents and they were like, "Okay, we'll be fine."