The actor reflects on 10 years of ‘American Horror Story’ and what's next for the ‘Law & Order’ spinoff.
Ten years after American Horror Story first premiered in 2011, Dylan McDermott returned to the franchise once again as Dr. Ben Harmon -- this time to close out season 1 of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s hit spinoff, American Horror Stories, in the aptly titled episode, "Game Over." While speaking with ET, the actor says, "It’s just incredible to play the same character for 10 years, do other projects and then come back. You know, American Horror Story has been so great to me."
In the finale, McDermott makes his return as Ben, first as a version of himself when two strangers (one of which is played by Noah Cyrus) enter the infamous Murder House in what turns out to be a video game that opens the episode, and then later as the ghost of Ben that fans know from the end of American Horror Story season 1.
If the layers upon layers are tricky to keep track of, McDermott agrees. “I had to keep it simple for myself and play to the reality [of the situation],” he says. “And then they can do what they wanted to do with Ben. But I couldn’t think about it as an actor. I couldn’t think about being in a video game.”
That said, it was a welcome experience playing the character again, marking his third time playing the psychiatrist after Murder House and season 9’s Apocalypse. (The actor has also played other characters in season 2’s Asylum and season 8’s 1984.) Not only did his wardrobe from season 1 still fit a decade later (“My size has not changed!”), he also got to “pass the torch” onto a crop of franchise newcomers.
The episode saw the return of the two-part series premieres stars, Sierra McCormick, who took over as Rubber Man, Kaia Gerber and Paris Jackson. “I’ve been around and all of a sudden, all these young people are coming up, entering the American Horror Story-sphere,” McDermott says, noting he really enjoyed getting to work with Mercedes Mason in a therapeutic scene where Ben is confessing about what he could and couldn’t get away with. “I just really enjoyed the writing... There was something complex about it that I really enjoyed.”
It also involved Ben crying once again (“This is a guy who cries every day”), with the episode making a reference to the infamous scene where he masturbates and then cries in his office during season 1. Or as McDermott puts it, “crybating.”
But with the finale seemingly putting an end to the Murder House lore and Ben’s story as fans have come to know it over the past decade, McDermott says his character has been tortured long enough. “He’s at a point now where he’s just drinking and smoking all day and just trying to find some kind of relief,” he continues, suggesting that the fire that engulfs the house freed his spirit. “If his soul moved, I think that would be a good thing for him… But at the same time, maybe that was just a video game and he’ll be back. We don’t know.”
While McDermott seemingly said goodbye to playing Ben, a character he’s forever grateful to Murphy for, he’s ready to say hello again to Richard Wheatley on Law & Order: Organized Crime.
Introduced in season 1 of the Special Victims Unit spinoff that marked Christopher Meloni’s return as Elliot Stabler, Wheatley quickly became one of the most iconic antagonists the Law & Order franchise has ever seen. And after the explosive season 1 finale, the actor was invited back to reprise the cunning and fashionable Internet drug cartel lord in a recurring capacity for season 2.
“Sometimes these characters come along and they just take over… And you get out of the way,” McDermott says, relishing the opportunity to play the role again. “So, there’s something about this character that’s just so fulfilling for me. And then, of course, the audience is responding because you’re so into it. It’s infectious.”
So what can fans expect of Wheatley when the series returns on Sept. 23? “I think it’s going to be a barn-burner,” the actor says. “I think he’s going to go nonstop. I mean, this is a guy who is plotting, who is scheming, who is doing push-ups all day long and getting ready to get out [of prison].”
And once he does, he adds, “Look out! Because there’s no stopping him now. He’s unleashed.”
American Horror Stories season 1 is now streaming on FX on Hulu.