Photos: (top) Getty, (below) FX
Finn Wittrock may have only starred in two of Ryan Murphy’s projects, the HBO adaptation of The Normal Heart and the current season of American Horror Story, but it’s safe to say the 29-year-old actor has been adopted into Murphy’s world. “Once you’re in his camp he’s incredibly loyal to you and incredibly supportive,” Wittrock says with a laugh. “I owe him a lot.”
Considering the breakout moment Wittrock is currently enjoying, he may owe more than he realizes. Prior to this year, the former soap actor’s biggest primetime role was a four-episode arc as Dale, a gay prostitute, on Showtime’s Masters of Sex. Paired with the adaptation of Larry Kramer’s award-winning play about start of the AIDS epidemic, Wittrock’s exposure to a larger audience came with playing two different gay men on TV. Yet, the actor is not fearful of getting typecast or even taking on such roles that might scare of other young Hollywood actors. “Because no one knows who I am no one has kind of pre-boxed me or preordained what I’m supposed to be,” he says. “I’m more interested in the actual personality in the character and the actual depth that’s involved rather than their sexual preference."
One character that Wittrock never expected to take on is the part of Dandy Motts on Freak Show, the fourth iteration of Murphy’s anthology series on FX. The actor signed onto the show with only a vague notion of what Murphy had planned. “I knew that he was writing it to sort of be put into my mouth,” Wittrock says of Motts, a stunningly handsome man-child with a fetish for freaks and a murderous streak. “Although this is a very extreme character, you sort of know that you can do it because you trust that he knows that you can do it.”
As for the dark and twisted nature of Motts, Wittrock doesn’t want to think why Murphy chose him to play the part. Though, when it comes down to it, it’s really about the challenge Murphy presents to his actors. Sarah Paulson, an AHS regular, is taking on her most emotionally challenging role as conjoined twins, Bette and Dot Tattler, with two distinct personalities and even Jessica Lange is being pushed to her limits in her farewell season. “It’s a stretch for me,” Wittrock says, “and that’s what’s really exciting about it — and keeps it very alive.”
The test has proven successful for Wittrock, who is stealing scenes from his Emmy-winning co-stars, such as Kathy Bates and Lange. Yet, the actor doesn’t dare suggest he is taking any limelight from either actress. It’s all just a matter of what ends up in the script. “The writers are very inspired for writing this character,” Wittrock offers. Where Motts ends up this season remains to be seen but it’s not the last fans will see of him.
In December, Wittrock will appear in Unbroken, the Angelina Jolie-directed film based on the real life journey of World War II hero and former Olympic champion, Louis Zamperini, who spends two years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Filmed last year, the experience was a difficult one. “We dropped a bunch of weight; we went to some dark places,” Wittrock says. Though, he believes all of it was important to telling this American war story and that it enhanced what he brings to AHS. “To have something that’s totally fictionalized, totally invented, I think I try to approach it as if it was a real person,” he says of playing Motts. “And bringing it as down to earth as possible — making him as human as possible.”
As for the future, everything is still much up in the air. When asked if he’ll take on another Murphy project, Wittrock is open to the idea under one condition: “Whatever it is, I want it to be completely different. If I do the next thing I want to be the exact opposite sort of person. And I feel like he might give me that.”