How Ryan Murphy Got Matthew Morrison to 'Return to the Motherland' for 'AHS: 1984' (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
When American Horror Story: 1984 first premiered in September, it marked Matthew Morrison’s official return to Ryan Murphy’s world after six seasons of playing Will Schuester on Glee, which ended in 2015. During that four-year gap, the actor immediately returned to the Broadway stage in the musical adaptation of Finding Neverland before dipping his toe into other series, with guest-starring roles on Grey’s Anatomy, The Good Wife and Younger. “I went away,” Morrison tells ET, revealing he needed a break from Los Angeles, where the Fox musical dramedy filmed.
It was a rare move for one of Murphy’s many recurring players. Once cast in a Murphy project, many actors often return to the producer’s expanding universe of TV and film projects. Following Glee, actors like Cheyenne Jackson, Darren Criss, Lea Michele, Matt Bomer and Ricky Martin went on to star in various TV shows, including American Crime Story, American Horror Story and Scream Queens. Meanwhile, Morrison seemed to be one of the few actors who did one and was done.
But that all changed when Murphy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in December of last year. During the reception that followed, Morrison recalls Murphy coming up to him and saying, “I have something for you.” Thinking he was just being nice, the actor didn’t think much of it at the time. Then, a couple of months later, while filming the BBC One dance competition series The Greatest Dancer in London, he got a phone call from Murphy. “He said, ‘I would love for you to be in this season of American Horror Story,’” Morrison says. “I was kind of floored. I was overjoyed. Honestly, to be back in the world that he and Brad Falchuk have created is so delightful as an actor because it really pushes you.”
“There are so many things out there that you can do and sometimes you do things for the paycheck,” he continues. “This is one of those things you do for the love of it because they do write such compelling and interesting characters.” And when Murphy calls, he adds, “you return to the motherland.”
The way Murphy pitched him to Morrison, Trevor was a background dancer for Jane Fonda’s workout video before he got fired for stealing focus from the actress. “That’s all I needed to hear,” Morrison says. Of course, that was just the jumping-off point for him.
So far on the nine-episode season, Trevor has impressed many of his coeds with his endowment, hooked up with Montana, and managed to survive a slaughtering of his own. Believed to be dead by the end of episode four, Trevor returned two episodes later -- the franchise’s 100th -- as Margaret’s kept man who finds himself back at Camp Redwood years later, and in the arms of Montana’s ghost ahead of Wednesday’s “bloodbath” of a finale.
In fact, Morrison was warned that Trevor’s demise was only temporary. He says that “they called me right away, before the script even came out, and said, ‘When you read it, you’re not really going to leave the show. We’re all coming back as ghosts.’” While the twist was a delight for fans, who may have thought Trevor had been offed too soon, Morrison’s favorite turn on the show was seeing how his character’s love affair with Montana unfolded over the season. “Their whole love story started with a dip in the lake and now we have this fully-fledged, beautiful romance,” he says, adding, “I have absolutely loved working with Billie Lord. She’s just so much fun to be on set with and we just had a wild time.”
While Morrison had a great time on set, the role did require the actor to grow a mustache (which he nicknamed “Tom” after Tom Selleck and recently said goodbye to on Instagram), get comfortable with showing off a little more body hair, especially thanks to the snug tank top and particularly short shorts his character wears during much of the season. “I have big legs and I don’t really show them that much, so it was freeing,” he says. “I didn’t feel awkward by it. But I had to be aware of how I was sitting sometimes because accidents happen.” And when it came to Trevor’s noticeably, oversized package? “I don’t know why people keep thinking that’s a prosthetic,” he jokes, adding that the role did lead him “to do research on guys with huge dicks.”
Admittedly, the toughest thing for Morrison was the night shoots, which didn’t always line up with his son’s sleeping schedule. But considering it was only nine episodes filmed over five months, it was manageable and didn’t deter from his experience. “It was such a joy, honestly,” he says.
While busy developing his own projects, including an immersive theater experience he hopes to open in New York City next year, and returning to The Greatest Dancer, Morrison says that he’s open to working with Murphy again and “would be honored to come back for more” American Horror Story, which has been renewed for a 10th season. Just don’t expect the next Murphy project to be a revival of Glee. Speaking with ET ahead of the show’s 10th anniversary, he would love to do a reunion concert, but that’s it. “I think the show had such a moment at the right time and to recreate it now, it just wouldn’t have the same impact,” Morrison says.
In the meantime, the actor’s reveling in his contribution to American Horror Story as Trevor, who “has been very interesting and quite a joy to play,” Morrison shares.