Of the many characters Denis O'Hare has played on American Horror Story, Hotel's Elizabeth Taylor is the clear fan favorite. Taylor may, in fact, be one of the best characters to ever come out of the show, stealing every scene she was in -- no easy feat when your scene partner is Lady Gaga as a glamorous vampire. Liz had one of the show's rare happy endings: after leaving her family behind to live authentically as a woman, she found a home and a family at the Hotel Cortez, full of murderous ghosts and the aforementioned glam vampire. She found love with Finn Wittrock's Tristan, reconnected with her adult son, and was able to stay at the Cortez for eternity, thanks to a compassionate throat-slitting by the Countess.
In a new interview, O'Hare says he hadn't even realized that Elizabeth Taylor was trans when he was offered the role, telling Entertainment Weeklyhe "felt honoured to play this character, and when we did it in 2015, this was sort of the last moment when a cisgendered [sic] man could play a trans character or play a female character." O'Hare was of course referring to the growing dialogue about the need for trans characters to be played by trans actors.
"My rationale for that was: we didn't know what the character was when it was written," added O'Hare. He went on to explain that all Ryan Murphy told him about the role was: "you're playing Liz Taylor -- smoky eye, fabulous shaved head, fabulous."
In fact, O'Hare initially "assumed that Liz was a man in drag who maybe had a male counterpart." But as the season wore on and "we got into it deeper, we all realized that wasn't the case... we didn't know that at first. As the character is growing into her own identity, I'm growing into her identity. It was really interesting."
American Horror Story is no stranger to unconventional and controversial casting choices. Last week, gay Olympian Gus Kenworthy defended his right to play a straight character on the show's most recent season, 1984. "I spent the first 23 years of my life playing a straight man," he wrote, adding that every queer man "has the experience at some point in his life of pretending to be someone he's not."