In Cody Fern's defense? The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story star had no idea the character with the "long, blonde hair and an affinity for capes" he was set to play in Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's American Horror Story: Apocalypse was not only a "big bad" – but the ultimate "big bad." Two days before production on the Murder House/Coven crossover season began, Fern was given a revised script that changed his character's name from "Elijah Cross" to one that American Horror Story fans – and Fern himself – would find all too familiar: Michael Langdon.
Yes, that Michael Langdon…the Antichrist baby from the end of Murder House, except all sorts of grown up (and somewhat explained in 'Return to Murder House'). Now with eight episodes down and one more to go until the FX series' season finale, Fern spoke with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss how he researched the part, his fear of religious fundamentalism, and his thoughts on The Church of Satan's reaction to how Satanism is portrayed in the series:
● Fern's "homework" for the part included reading up on Ayn Rand and John Milton – but the "genesis" of his research began with the obvious:
"I did a lot of research and in different areas. I started off by reading the Bible. I'm not a religious person, but I read the Bible many years ago. So I read particularly the Old Testament. Not to offend anyone, but it's quite a read. It's true that it's filled with rape and incest and murder and hatred. It's a very black book. But in reading it, what became apparent to me is that people interpret this however they want. Then the second most fascinating thing about researching the Old Testament is that Satan is only mentioned like three times. Everyone says, "He's mentioned here and they're talking about him there." But that's only if you want to interpret it like that. Who's to say that's not the sweeping hand of God in your book that you attributed to the devil because you see this section as bad and this section as good? So I found that really interesting and that really helped.
I read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Atlas Shrugged shows when you have a singular vision of something and how quickly you can become attune to that vision and devalue others quickly based on their principles and ideologies. I read so much; John Milton, William Blake, Dante's Inferno. It's been a wild few months!"
● Regarding the Church of Satan's recent denouncements of the series (see below) for its depiction of their faith, the Antichrist, and church founder Anton LaVey, Fern believes they're welcome to their opinions – but finds the idea of organized religion "overwhelming," "frightening," and not something he's interested in"
"I heard about it. I really don't want to offend anybody, but I find all forms of religious fundamentalism frightening. The response from the Church of Satan is of course … warranted in some respects and in others, not. I find the whole idea of religion overwhelming and frightening and not for me. So, let them make statements. Listen, I have people calling at me "Hail, Satan" in the streets. That's my life at the moment! I went out to the other night for the first time since being on this show and I wasn't thinking about the impact that the show had. I just can't think about those things. But there were so many people calling out "Hail, Satan!" and that was fun for me, because I had gotten so focused on the religious side of things. But with the Church of Satan, the black Bible is an interesting read."
On behalf of their faith, High Priest of the Church of Satan Magus Peter H. Gilmore wrote a response to the series' 'Return to Murder House' episode on October 18, 2018. Entitled AHS Apocalypse and Anton LaVey, the post was highly critical of the series for its lack of historical accuracy, for playing into long-standing myths and falshoods about their faith, and for how it represented their founder LaVey.
You can read an excerpt from the The Church of Satan's response below, and the entire response at their wesbite:
"I had ceased watching American Horror Story after its third season since experiencing its incoherent plotting and inconsistent writing I found a waste of my time. Granted, there are some striking visuals and the acting of people like Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy and Sarah Paulson is exemplary (others, not so much). However, in this eighth season, a mashup of earlier seasons now spinning a yarn about the aftermath of a nuclear war caused by the Anti-Christ, I had to sit through an episode as it mentioned the organization I've been running for over 17 years, and its founder, Anton Szandor LaVey, whom I considered a friend and who named me a colleague.
As I expected, the dialogue is smirky and belabored, and the contents, both musical and visual, seemed desperate to touch as many bases from prior devil-themed films as possible. These include moments from films such as THE CHANGELING, ROSEMARY'S BABY, and THE OMEN, amongst others. Other pop culture references are there both musical and in the dialogue (FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH gets a nod during a bit of fapping). And of course lines from REVELATION are spoken, as is typical in such productions. On the soundtrack we get a whiff of Marc Almond's "Tainted Love" and I expect the show's producers knew that at one time his initiation rite into the Church of Satan was, in his own words "a theatrical joke that got a bit out of hand." Orff's "Oh Fortuna" from his popular choral piece Carmina Burana supplies the background to the ritual, imitating choral soundtracks for filmed diabolical rites which are typically influenced by Goldsmith's Oscar-winning score for THE OMEN."
On November 2, Gilmore went live with a post entitled The Rise of "The Satanic Unease," and in one section, he took direct issue with the most recent episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse ('Sojourn') and what he claims was "an intentionally snarky parody of the Church of Satan" that represented his faith in a false light:
"The latest AMERICAN HORROR STORY: APOCALYPSE episode seems to be an intentionally snarky parody of the Church of Satan, again with Devil worship and more human sacrifice. This time the victims are "the good guys," a social worker and a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders. Their Church does have a fine "Volunteer All-Sinners Choir" that smartly intones from Carmina Burana again. The leading preacher, played by Sandra Bernhard, has an outfit inspired by mine from our 6/6/06 Satanic High Mass, and she humorously berates her daffy congregants for not being evil enough. Their underground chapel in an old building looks in part inspired by a tacky South American Luciferian church, though it is aesthetically better because they have professional production designers and a budget. Their insipid reluctant Anti-Christ shows up, as does their take on LaVey in a vision that taps THE EXORCIST amongst other films. No Baphomets in sight this time, but plenty of upside down crosses and pentagrams. They even riff on artificial human companions, something proposed by Anton LaVey—robots intended as a means for people to find sexual satisfaction without importuning others."