Actor Mat Fraser talks ‘American Horror Story’ at Fan Expo CanadaSeptember 22, 2016
From the theatre to music to the hit TV show American Horror Story, actor Mat Fraser has had a very interesting career. Recently we had the chance to talk to him during a media round table while he was in Toronto attending Fan Expo Canada.
Media: What was the most interesting part about working on American Horror Story?
Mat: Well for me, two things. I worked in freak shows and side shows myself since about the year 2000. I did a lot of study on it, the history of it and I was definitely the most knowledgeable person on set, they started coming to me and asking me stuff. So reproducing a real authentic looking freak show scenario and world was thrilling for me but there was a lot of really wonderful parts, the comradery, the reclaiming that it wasn’t all bad being in a side show, that was also really thrilling for me. It was something that I always wanted to be a part of but didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to experience. The other thing was it was the biggest production I’d been in to date, prior to that my biggest project had been a BBC film, so the sheer scale of the show was incredible. It didn’t scare me, I like to rise to challenges so I was super excited. One more thing, and this is more of a personal and professional thing, nothing sexual, simply about acting, was having a bed scene with Jessica Lange. I was a little be nervous when it was time to do the scene but not Jessica. She pulled me in close, she made it really intimate, she nailed the scene, nailed the intimacy between us, the two actors because she’s a star in every sense of the word and I was very lucky to be a part of that.
Media: What was it like to get a call from Ryan Murphy about being a part of the show?
Mat: I didn’t get the call from Ryan, I got it from Eric who’s the head of casting. I was actually on tour in Germany as a drummer as well as an actor. There’s a theater company that does musicals and I was the drummer so I was the lowest person in that production, the drummer is always the least musically inclined, right? The drummer position also paid less than the actors so technically I was indeed the lowest person and then I got a job that superseded anything that anyone of them were doing so the irony and deliciousness of that moment was not lost on me. I was very exciting and I didn’t realize the magnitude of what it was I was being offered and so I did a bit of research, like how many people watch the show. In Britain we don’t know the difference between one American series and another and yet there I was on a show that was second only to The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones at the time. It wasn’t overwhelming as like I said, I rise to challenges but super exciting, thrilling and I’m very proud to have been part of it He’s a scary dude, Ryan, when you meet him the first time. He’s so good at what he does that everyone around him feels the pressure to be as good as what they do, that extends to everybody. The first time I met him was my first scene and nerves isn’t the right word but concern to do a good job in front of Mr. Murphy was more than that kind of concern I can ever remember feeling. However, he’s just like any other lovely director, talks to the actors, works with us to get what he needs, he’s really awesome.
The GCE: The show is called American Horror Story yet it changes each season. Do you think this is the main reason why people find the show so interesting?
Mat: I think that’s it exactly, the repertory theatre aspect for me. Who are they going to be this time? Once American Horror Story is done with a theme, they’ve explored all the dramatic themes of that particular scenario then they drop it and move on to a new one. It allows the show to be fresh and exciting and to keep the excitement going. As the seasons move on, you can’t wait to see what theme or idea they are going to explore next. The Walking Dead for example, now seems to be well, we need some stuff, let’s shoot the zombies, get the stuff and go home. That’s all that seems to happen on that show now. That isn’t the case with American Horror Story and I think it’s that new, refreshing feel each season that keeps people coming back.
Media: Can you talk a bit about the comradery on the set of American Horror Story?
Mat: Well, there was a lot of comradery on set. When you work together away from home, in New Orleans for six months, six days a week and the last three weeks we worked seven days a week you become a family, you make attachments. Somebody’s got to be mom, Kathy was great at being mom. When you are weird and different like me and there are other people on set like that, that is sort of a family. The supporting players like the carnies, Phil and Dave and all of those people, they were there the whole time so we did become this smaller group, freaks and roustabouts, not in the way we were treated, we were all treated as equals but we became a small comradery group in that way. Then the greater group of the whole show, we ended up going to this place called the Country Club, during the day a social club, private, drinks, swimming, food and Wednesday night was American Horror Story night and they’d watch it. We got invited and would get nice seats and free drinks so I told everybody about it on set and eventually everybody but Jessica was there. One night Kathy and Sarah and a few others paid for a night at the country club and we had a private party there and it was super, super special.
Media: You mentioned you were a drummer. Is that something you do in your spare time?
Mat: It is and I almost forgot to tell you all about my band The Spazms, check us out on Facebook and on Sound Cloud. Our first single, Radioactive Japanese Jellyfish is just about to come out. I’m the drummer, I was in rock bands for seventeen years, never had a dime, we toured Europe, played in Montreal once as well. So yeah, I’m a rock drummer, kind of Zeppelin and punk mix, not the heavy death metal stuff, I only have one bass drum but I still love it , I still do it. I’m an older guy so people aren’t going to sign me so I’m free, I don’t have to worry about that stuff, I do it just because I enjoy it. I have a little guy called The Velvet Crayon, little twisted guy in a wheelchair, like a crazy Jimi Hendrix, turns his guitar upside down, smashes it against the wheelchair. Then we have this giant guy named Double Bass Kenball, he’s studying to be a lawyer so we might lose him someday and we look really weird and I like that. Our sound is something between The Butthole Surfers and The Cramps, more Cramps really and I love it.
I want to thank Mat for taking the time to talk with us.