A horror movie, right there on your TV
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A horror movie, right there on your TV

Alexis Martin Woodall begins the conversation about American Horror Story: Apocalypse with a line she says she has borrowed from another of the show's co-executive producers Tim Minear: "I'm going to say that the story begins with the end of the world, and then our world begins," she says.

"It starts in the real world, it's very tangible, and it's a familiar panic," she adds cryptically. "But if you think about it, the apocalypse as a launching point, all joking aside, what's the fantasy of what happens next? Because if we are still here, the world didn't totally end. So what we are experiencing is …"

American Horror Story: Apocalypse.

American Horror Story: Apocalypse.

Her voice trails off.

Getting to the bottom of American Horror Story: Apocalypse is a tricky business. Nobody wants a spoiler. And no one speaks in plain English. But we're hungry for something. We do know it's a story that will connect to two previous chapters of the show's anthological franchise: 2011's Murder House and 2013's Coven.

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But that's about it.

"Really and truly, it's that, as always, there is a specific mystery to the show that is better unfolded," Woodall says. "It is an experience. And this season is a very different show for us as always, and it's a great experience. And so, unfortunately, I can't give you specifics …"

Well, specifically, we do know this: Emma Roberts and Sarah Paulson are reprising characters from previous instalments, namely Roberts' Madison Montgomery and Paulson's Cordelia Goode, Billie Dean Howard and Venable, while Leslie Grossman plays a character named Coco St Pierre Vanderbilt and Billie Lourd plays Mallory. "Just Mallory," Lourd says, when pressed for detail.

If you follow such things on social media, you'd know it also stars the legendary Joan Collins, playing the grandmother of Evan Peters' character who is, according to reports, a "comedic hair stylist".

The connection to 2011's Murder House and 2013's Coven is still unclear but for those who missed them, the former was about a couple who move into a tainted mansion and begin encountering a supernatural presence in the house, while the latter explored the dwindling descendants of the survivors of the Salem "witch trials" witches.

Paulson, who is one of the mainstays of the show's repertory company-style cast, pipes up to note that there is a very tangible awareness on the show's set, among the show's cast, that what they are making is somewhat unusual. In many ways television has not seen a horror drama with a revolving door of cast members like this since Dark Shadows in the 1960s.

"We are all aware that there's a very unique reality to this world we get to live in and that we are all here again season after season playing different parts, sometimes reprising things, but every year you get to do something new and different with a group of actors that you admire," Paulson says.

"I think it's always very cool when you see a character walk on the set for the first time in their costume, and last year you were the bearded lady, and then this year your outfit is really something [else]," Paulson adds. "I think there is a great sense of admiration and respect that everybody has for each other as well as we know we are getting to do something that's a great deal of fun."

Kathy Bates, another recurring player in the series, concurs but adds that each season – there have now been eight, including Apocalypse – is vastly different to the one before. "Sometimes you'll do shows and you're in the baby pool, you know, it's not very deep. You're kind of trying to make something out of it," she says.

"This, I feel, every time you read the scripts, you just go, 'oh, I didn't notice that'," she adds. "And this season, I have to say, maybe it's my character but I've gotten really obsessed about figuring out every word I don't know. Part of that is the internet because you get to look up stuff and it leads you down these rabbit holes and stuff.

"I've been kind of obsessed you know, but it's been good," Bates says. "I feel like, in a way, it's taken me back to when I first started working in the theatre."

American Horror Story: Apocalypse premieres on Showcase, Thursday, September 13, 8.30pm.

Michael Idato is a Senior Writer based in Los Angeles for The Sydney Morning Herald.