EXCLUSIVE: 'AHS: Cult' Director Gwyneth Horder-Payton Explains Evan Peters' Most 'Outrageous' Episode 4 Scenes
By Desiree Murphy
WARNING: Spoilers ahead! Do not proceed if you haven't watched episode four of American Horror Story: Cult.
American Horror Story: Cult is shaping up to be one of the most intense seasons yet.
Just when viewers thought Evan Peters' character, Kai Anderson, couldn't possibly be more insane, episode four happened, showing just how far the cult leader will go to get others to believe in him and bring them to his side. ET spoke with Gwyneth Horder-Payton, who directed episodes three and four of the FX series' seventh installment, over the phone last week, where she gave us all the behind-the-scenes details on what it was like bringing the most gory, uncomfortable and extreme scenes from the script to life.
During episode four, Kai meets up with his new trainer, Harrison (Billy Eichner). When Kai discovers that Harrison is being bullied at work by his boss for being gay, he encourages the fitness guru to put an end to his struggles -- by ultimately killing his boss with equipment from the weight room. But first, viewers see an awkward, X-rated encounter between Kai and Harrison in the steam room. The blue-haired anarchist masturbates in the shower, looking Harrison right in the eyes as he finishes. "Listen, I like p***y," he explained earlier in the episode. "But if someone is in my life, man or woman, and they're part of my crew, one of my people? I will fight for them. I will kill for them."
"I was blown away, actually, when I first read the script for episodes one through four," Horder-Payton recalled. "I called up the writers and I said, 'Oh my God, this is completely outrageous.' I just think it's fantastic."
"But that scene with Billy and Evan was fun," she continued. "It was fun to shoot, angle-wise, and to explore the adventurous suspense -- there was a lot of silence. It was such a sort of classic, horror environment to shoot the scene, which was, of course, already so well-written. It was so distorted, very uncomfortable. But Evan Peters just sort of goes there, so it didn't take much encouragement."
Kai's insanity is highlighted again towards the end of the episode, when he is seen talking Chaz Bono's character, Donald Trump supporter Gary, into sawing off his arm in order to vote in the 2016 election.
"That was challenging in some ways, but also fun to shoot," Horder-Payton revealed. "In fact, it was not only fun, but it was funny. Some of those things I find hysterical, in a strange way. I don't know what it is, but I find things like that, and Serena [Emma Roberts] being killed by the clowns, so over-the-top."
"That specific scene with Evan and Chaz took about two and a half hours to shoot," she added. "We shot it from all different angles. And like any cult leader, what they do well is, they read a person and they tell a person what that person wants to hear. That's exactly what Evan does."
So, what's the secret to getting the best possible performances out of the cast?
"Well, Evan's not too hard," she joked about the AHS fan-favorite. "But I do all sorts of things. I find every actor is different. Sometimes I see that they can probably make their own adjustments, and other times, some actors prefer some directions. It's really what I understand that actor to be."
Horder-Payton -- who's also directed for shows like Sons of Anarchy, Once Upon a Time and The Walking Dead -- said she first met show creator Ryan Murphy randomly "for two minutes" at an episodic director's night event a few years ago. Now, she says she's "literally only working for Ryan Murphy," and was ecstatic to get the call from him to come back to the AHS set after directing "Chapter 8" of last season's Roanoke.
"Last year, I had a lot of fun [with AHS]," she said. "It was just fun for a lot of different reasons, and the actors are at a level where it's just such a joy to work with such accomplished actors. No. 2, this year, I was drawn to it because of the subject matter. When I found out that it was about the 2016 election, I was like, 'Oh my God.' I was just so excited."
"It's important for me to work on projects where I think there's a social commentary," she added. "Where there's a mixture of drama, tragedy, glamour and a different kind of horror. Generally, Ryan's work is a fantastic mixture of all of those things. It's meaningful, but it's also high entertainment."
In addition to AHS, and Murphy's other FX anthology series, Feud, the two are currently working together on American Crime Story: Versace.
Earlier this month, ET spoke with Liza Johnson, who directed episode two of Cult. Read our full interview HERE and click on the link below to re-live the most memorable highlights from the premiere.
American Horror Story: Cult airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.