Dylan McDermott: Scared Straight

The American Horror Story star explains why, even at 50, he’s not afraid to show some skin.

BY Brandon Voss

November 16 2011 4:00 AM ET

DYLAN MCDERMOTT STEEL MAGNOLIAS X390 | ADVOCATE.COMRyan Murphy has a reputation of being a very exacting director. What’s he like as a boss on American Horror Story?
I believe that Ryan Murphy is a genius. His instincts remind me of Andy Warhol. I recently went to the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh, and you can see a lot of echoes of Andy in Ryan’s work. Like Andy, Ryan’s finger is so on the pulse of culture that he’s ahead of culture. Their aesthetic and their vision of the world are very similar. Ryan is also so unafraid. Most people in show business are so afraid to fail that they don’t take any risks, but all Ryan does is take risks. He puts himself out there all the time, and it’s his bravery that really separates him from everybody else. When I first heard about American Horror Story, even before I read the script, I was so intrigued by it. I was looking for someone to take me to a different place, and I needed someone like Ryan, someone with a vision who was brave enough to take me there. A lot of times you end up doing something that’s middle of the road, and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do something controversial, and I certainly got that with Ryan. I was really happy when I got the role.

And you get to work with openly gay actors like Denis O’Hare and Zachary Quinto.
Yeah. Certainly, when I was first coming up in the business, I worked with gay actors who were in the closet and had to remain so, but from the Rock Hudson years to where we are now, it seems like more and more actors are comfortable being out, and that’s great. I think we’ll get to the point eventually where it doesn’t matter at all, but it just needs more time. People’s tolerance is still questionable out there in the world, but I feel like it’s getting better. James Lecesne, who cofounded the Trevor Project, is a friend of mine, and I’m happy to be involved with that wonderful organization.

You and Denis O’Hare in particular have remarkable chemistry.
Oh, I can’t say enough good things about Denis O’Hare. I love the guy. Every time I do a scene with him, I’m completely blown away. I was a fan of his way before we worked together, and working with him has taught me so much. He’s such a huge talent, but he’s also a beautiful person. He’s loving, kind, and generous — the whole package. I hope he gets everything he deserves in life.

You also worked with gay filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato when you played nightclub impresario Peter Gatien in Party Monster.
I love those guys and think they did a great job. I’d seen the chilling documentary on the subject that they did before the movie, and I thought they were terrific directors, so I immediately signed on. I’d gone to the Limelight, and I remember that murder happening and all the drugs like Special K. That whole scene fascinated me, so I really wanted to be a part of that film. I remember there was a mural of Peter Gatien on St. Mark’s Place when I was a kid, and then I ended up playing him with his eye patch and all.

Did you ever hear from Peter about your performance?
Yeah, a couple of friends actually told me that Peter was really happy that I had played him and that he liked my performance.

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