“Scream Queens” is a killer comedy-horror series from “Glee” executive producers Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan. Murphy and Falchuk are also executive producers of “American Horror Story.” In “Scream Queens,” Kappa House, the most sought-after sorority for pledges, is ruled with an iron fist (in a pink glove) by Chanel Oberlin (played by Emma Roberts). But when Dean Cathy Munsch (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) decrees that sorority pledging must be open to all students, and not just the school’s silver-spooned elite, all hell is about to break loose, as a devil-clad killer begins wreaking havoc across the campus.
An over-the-top, biting satire, “Scream Queens” (which premiered on Fox on Sept. 22, 2015) is part black comedy, part slasher flick and a modern take on the classic whodunit, in which every character has a motive for murder…or could easily be the next victim. “Scream Queens” ensemble cast includes Lea Michele, Abigail Breslin, Nasim Pedrad, Oliver Hudson, Skyler Samuels, Keke Palmer, Billie Lourd, Diego Boneta, Glen Powell, Lucien Laviscount, Niecy Nash, Nick Jonas and Ariana Grande. Here is what Roberts and Michele said in a roundtable interview with me and other journalists at 2015 Comic-Con International in San Diego.
Emma, you’ve worked with Ryan Murphy before on “American Horror Story,” while Lea has worked with him before on “Glee.” You’re basically Ryan Murphy’s young TV divas. How does it feel to be working together on “Scream Queens”?
Michele: We love it! He’s a smart guy.
Roberts: We’re his hags. [She laughs.]
You both have great vocal chops. Between the two of you, who do you think is a better screamer?
Roberts: I don’t know. I feel like we both lost our screams by Episode 1.
Michele: We lost our voices …
Roberts: From screaming so much.
Michele: I went into the recording booth and screamed five times. And I told them, “For the rest of the season, those are your five screams that you can use.”
Roberts: You also have to protect your voice.
Lea, people are saying that your neck-brace-wearing character Hester is going to get some of the biggest laughs in “Scream Queens.” Why do you think people are saying that?
Michele: I love women in comedy who use their physicality. I always a huge fan of Cheri Oteri, growing up, and Gilda Radner and Molly Shannon. I love that! That’s the inspiration that I drew upon. It has nothing to do with [Hester’s] severe scoliosis but more of her physicality as a person, her awkwardness and her gawkiness. That’s what I brought into this whole experience.
If you could choose how to die on screen, how would you like to die?
Roberts: I would let Ryan Murphy choose because he always makes the most epic deaths. Any script we read where someone dies, you can’t argue with it because it’s always so epic. I kind of trust that they’ll take us out how we deserve to go.
Michele: If I’m singing at the top of my lungs and get stabbed with a neck brace or a microphone, that would be great!
Would you like to be the mysterious killer in “Scream Queens”?
Michele: Yes, 100 percent!
Roberts: [She says to Michele] Actually, no, I’ll let you be the killer, and I’ll be the survivor.
Michele: That’s totally fine, but what about Season 2? They make up and kill together.
Roberts: This is why we don’t write.
Michele: If being the killer means we can be on the show next season, then totally!
What’s it like to work with Ryan Murphy?
Roberts: Lea and I both adore him, and I feel like he really gets us, and we really get him. And the three of us on the show, it’s so funny, because we’re like, “Ryan called me, Ryan texted me.” I feel like we all have the same humor.
It’s really fun. I feel like he takes a lot of stories that we told him and puts it in the script sometimes. We’re like, “Oh my God, that sounds familiar.” So yeah, it’s fun to work with someone you’re so close with, and now [Lea and I] have become close.
Michele: He’s such a genius. Obviously, anything [Emma] said, I couldn’t have said any better. I’m so honored as a person to be in his group, because I think he’s so loyal. He keeps his family intact. But also, being his friend. He’s such a genius.
I think people like him come around only once every so often. To know him as a person, but to also be part of this acting clan, he’s enlisted these really incredible people. It’s such a huge honor. I adore being his friend just as much as I love working for him. That doesn’t happen very often as an actor in this business.
If you could choose anyone from “American Horror Story” pr or “Glee” to be on “Scream Queens,” who would it be and why?
Roberts: I’d say Sarah Paulson. I love her so much. She’s the best, and she’s so talented. She’s so funny. It’s crazy because she’s the most amazing actress.
She can cry on a dime. She delivers these speeches that bring you to tears. And then off camera, nobody makes me laugh more. I’d love to see her do comedy.
Michele: I’m really good friends with Becca Tobin from “Glee.” She has that blonde hair, sorority girl spunk.
Roberts: Chanel No. 7!
Michele: Chanel No. 7! I think she would be great. I’m having so much fun working with Emma. We’ve become good friends. I’d love to have all my friends around.
What are your favorite TV shows right now?
Michele: Oh my God, I’m so into “Ray Donovan” right now, I can’t even! I’m so into “Game of Thrones.”
Roberts: I have to get into that. It is so good. Oh my God, the thought of getting in bed tonight and putting it on …
Michele: Is it going to ruin reality shows for me?
Roberts: In the best way.
Michele: I am so obsessed with “Game of Thrones,” I went up to the woman who plays the witch. I went up to her. We were at bar in a hotel after a long day, and I was like, “You have to bring Jon Snow back to life.!”
And she was like, “Everyone keeps saying that to me.” I was like, “Listen, I’m on a TV show. I get it. It’s really annoying when people come up to you and talk about your show, but if you don’t bring Jon Snow back to life, I’m going to go crazy.” And she saw me in the lobby today, and I was so embarrassed. That was my one geek-out moment.
Lea, do you have anything to say to the fans of “Glee”?
Michele: I just want to say, “Thank you so much.” I know we never really had a chance to go overseas for our concert tours, but I’m so grateful through social media that we’re able to communicate and share our experiences in the States. And I think the “Glee” fans will equally love “Screams Queens” as they did “Glee.”
What’s it like working with Jamie Lee Curtis?
Roberts: She’s amazing. We love Jamie Lee Curtis. She’s so talented, but she’s also just an amazing human. She came to set and brings up juice and books and notes. She’s just so generous personally and professionally. And that’s really rare.
Michele: She’s a normal person. And to come from such a lineage. Her mother was such an amazing actress. And she’s had such success. But when you meet her, she’s such a normal person. Her husband is an incredible director.
And so, to see how she’s kept her life intact and normal, it’s really so inspiring for me to look up to her and go, “I want to know what you did over the years to keep your head on your shoulders, to become the strong woman that you are today, such a great mother and wife.” That’s the kind of person I look up to.
The show is called “Scream Queens,” but what about the guys on the show? Who gets scared the most? Who might scream like a girl?
Michele: I’ll say this: Obviously, the show is very female-driven, but we’re so lucky to have the nicest group of guys. They couldn’t be any more gentlemen to us girls.
Roberts: They’re always helping us. We have our heels on, and they help us out of the car.
Michele: I worked with Glen [Powell] until 3 in the morning in a cemetery the other night, and he was just so sweet. We’re very, very lucky. We’d never say a bad thing about our gentlemen.
For more info: “Scream Queens” website