TV & Film

'American Horror Story: Asylum': Zachary Quinto On Being Bloody Face And What's To Come

After five weeks of naughty nuns, electroshock therapy, aliens, severed limbs, Nazis and a serial killer in question, Bloody Face was finally revealed on "American Horror Story: Asylum" (Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX) ... and it's not Kit Walker (Evan Peters).


Dr. Oliver Thredson (Zachary Quinto), who was assigned to Kit's case, helped Lana (Sarah Paulson) escape, which was obviously too good to be true. When they got to his "Mad Men" meets "Hannibal" home, Lana figures out that he's Bloody Face and now, she's chained to his basement floor next to he frosty body of her dead girlfriend Wendy (Clea DuVall). But why Lana?

Quinto took the time to talk to HuffPost TV via phone following the shocking episode about playing Bloody Face, why Thredson targeted Lana to tell his story, that brutal aversion therapy scene and how he manages to not let the dark twists and turns of "American Horror Story: Asylum" take over his mind at the end of the day.

I have to say I was surprised by the reveal that Dr. Thredson is Bloody Face. I heard that Ryan Murphy told you right off the bat. How did that affect how you wanted to play the character up until Episode 5?
It put me in a position to be able to build a character that people could, at the very least, not question and then maybe on the other side of the spectrum actually trust. And that's fun, to know that he was withholding and manipulating the situation and serving ulterior motives and keeping secrets. That's always fun stuff to do as an actor, so for me it was really great to go in with that inclination.

Yeah, and it makes viewers want to go back and reassess certain things that they saw, like when Thredson and Lana were leaving Briarcliff, he says to Frank, the guard, "I don't work here anymore ... as a matter of fact, I never did." There are so many ways to read that -- could it be that he's not really a psychiatrist?
No, he's really a psychiatrist and has definitely been medically trained and has those credentials. I think he means more that he wasn't serving the asylum. He wasn't serving anybody's agenda but his own, and he got what he wanted and now he's going to take it and leave. His allegiance is only to his own twisted agenda, and to no one else.

When he told Lana before the reveal that he wanted her to tell his story, what do you think he meant by that exactly?
Well, in the next couple of weeks, you really get to know more about what drives him and what led him to this place, and I think he feels like he wants some conduit for that story, some outlet for it, somewhere for it to land. He sees Lana as that in different ways -- in very literally ways, in terms of her as a journalist and her ability to actually tell a story, and also in the role that he needs someone to play in order for him to feel fulfilled and in order for this appetite somewhere to be satiated.

Ryan Murphy hinted that Lana and Thredson had been in the same room before meeting her at Briarcliff. Did he target her specifically because she was a journalist or is there more to it?
No, there's more to that that you'll find out about at the same time -- I think that's all in next week's episode. Things will be clearer, and motives will crystallize.

Do you think he had a problem with Lana being gay, like Sister Jude did? Or was that just a reason for him to get close to her?
Oh I don't think he has a problem with it. In a lot of ways -- as barbaric as it seems now -- the therapy that he executed with Lana in Episode 4 was actually reflective of pretty forward-thinking at the time -- that something could be done to really condition someone against what we now accept, for the most part, as a very primitive part of genetic composition. What he was doing was ultimately more complicated and sinister, in terms of gaining her trust by trying to help her, knowing that it would likely not work. I see him not necessarily believing in that kind of therapy or that kind of conditioning, but it did represent, at the time, a progressive way of thinking. It certainly beat electro-shock therapy or lobotomization or any of the other horrific tactics that were used to treat different ailments at the time. But ultimately, he was trying to gain her trust because then he could take one step further and be more radical about breaking her out of the asylum, and he was more likely to have her complicity and her trust, which ultimately he did get in the end. He's incredibly calculating and incredibly smart and has thought five steps ahead of pretty much everyone else around him. I think that was an example of that more than any reflection of his tolerance or ability to condone homosexuality.

What was it like filming that aversion therapy scene? Because it was one of the more difficult scenes to watch, as a viewer.
Yeah, it was one of the more difficult scenes to film. I was so grateful to film it with Sarah Paulson, who's a really great friend of mine who I've known for a long time and have a profound respect for as an actress and a real ease of rapport and connection [with] ... it made it a lot easier to go into it with somebody that I trust. We just had to make sure that we were there for each other and everyone had what they needed. There was a respect and everybody knew what we were a part of, including our crew. It was all really well-handled. There's a lot of professionalism on the set, and everybody's bringing a lot of experience and a lot of respect to what they do, so it's never an issue to have to go to those places, which all of us have to go to at a certain point in our experience on our show.

Do you all have moments of levity to snap out of the dark storylines while shooting the show?
Oh yeah. I think the more awkward or difficult the situation that we find ourselves in on set, the more we do what we need to to combat it. There's laughter for sure, and then there's other outlets too ... I've spent a lot of time on set this year with my banjo. I've been learning how to play the banjo [laughs], so I've taken to bringing it to work with me. There's actually something about the tone and quality of the sound of that instrument that I think naturally lightens the mood. It is brutal storytelling, and that's kind of really exciting once it's on the air, but to get it there takes a lot of work ... everybody's working hard to do that, and that's always the best kind of environment to be in.

We know that the next episode focuses on Thredson, and how he came to be who he is, and also on Arden and the Monsignor and someone becomes evil. Is there any connection between Thredson, Arden and the Monsignor?
Not really, no, other than they have different paths ... the episode is called "The Origins of Monstrosity," so it is just examining everybody's own journey to that in their own way. But the stories don't particularly overlap -- they're self-contained and running parallel, which is always disappointing for the actors who I never get to work with -- Joe Fiennes or James Cromwell. I would've loved to have had more to do with those guys, obviously. And Lily Rabe, who's another good friend of mine, who I think is doing great work on the show. That's the sort of disadvantage on our end, but obviously, for the audience, it allows more stories to be told. You're following multiple characters at one time -- that's part of the structure of it. So they don't really overlap, but you get more of a sense of all of our paths that led us to the points we're at in the show now.

You knew you were Bloody Face, but were you also told who modern-day Bloody Face is?
We're almost finishing up this season now, so a lot of those answers are being presented in the scripts that they're writing now. So I may have an inkling or two, but we'll let it all unfold as they intend for it to. But yeah, things are starting to come into clearer focus, and I think people will find that this season drives forward through the story in a really powerful way as the season goes on. It's really cool to see how all the stories come together and move toward some kind of resolution, for better or for worse.

What scene has been the most difficult for you to film? Or have we not seen that yet?
You haven't seen what that one is yet, but they're definitely coming up, so stay tuned. [Laughs.]

The cast keeps saying it just gets worse and worse, and I'm terrified.
Yeah, it gets pretty brutal.

The audience has been so focused on the identity of Bloody Face and now that we know, is there another big reveal coming up that you're excited for?
Yeah, there's a bunch coming up actually in the later parts of the installment. There are, for sure [some] that I'm excited about people getting clued into. I just read the latest script last night [for Episode 11] and that's a huge one for reveals. It's "American Horror Story," so not everybody can stick around till the very, very end ... getting to that is going to be really fun for the audience, I think.

Is it hard not to take this show home with you?
No, it's really important for me to not to take it home with me, actually. I find the joy of what I do is I get to go to work and really dive into something and immerse myself, and then leave it there. Every actor is different, but I'm also running a company and producing stuff ... [laughs] I need to be able to be sane and articulate and grounded throughout my days, so I've found ways to leave even the most brutal stuff behind ... for the most part.

What scares you most about this show?
Some of the brutality of what happened in that asylum is really horrifying. When you think about actual places like that that existed and the ruins of those places ... what gets left behind, energy-wise and spiritually. I think that stuff is really tremendously frightening and something that we're diving into, headlong, in this show. That's one thing that does freak me out.

Fans loved you as Sylar on "Heroes," and now there's this ... do you like playing these killers?[Laughs.] I just never would've anticipated that that would be such an instrumental part of my creative or professional journey. But I enjoy complicated, dimensional characters, and they certainly are both that. From this point moving forward, it's informed me, I've learned a lot, I've grown up. I certainly have the desire to do other kinds of work, and that's one of the great things about "American Horror Story" -- I know I'm not going to be playing the same character for six seasons. If I do go back to the show at all, then, by the nature of it, I know it'll be in a totally different capacity. It was a different decision than if it was a more traditional television structure. I don't know that I would've been so open to or willing to immerse myself if it had the potential of continuing in an ongoing way. That's the kind of other luxury of this amazing world that Ryan's created -- the diversity of it and the ephemeral nature of each installment. Then it becomes something else, and that's really exciting.

The show just got renewed for a third season, and they've already announced that Jessica Lange will return. I know you probably can't or won't say if you'll return or not, but if you do, I think Ryan owes you and Sarah an easier season.
[Laughs.] Well certainly Sarah! The poor thing ... I can't. Once people look back on everything that Lana goes through this season, I think it's going to be a pretty shocking journey. But I know Ryan well enough to know that he has very specific ideas and visions and a very vivid imagination. Now that it's official, I'm sure that it's cooking in his brain, and if it involves me then I'll know that at some point and we'll figure that out. I'm just excited that the show's doing so well, and I'm so glad to be part of it as more and more people are watching it, and that it's expanding and growing. That's always exciting -- that doesn't happen all the time.

"American Horror Story: Asylum" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

"American Horror Story"