The new Fox series premiering tonight is a horror-comedy hybrid, and it’s a total scream.
She’s the original scream queen and a horror film icon. Now Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the genre that made her famous for a new anthology series created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the team behind Glee and American Horror Story, along with Glee writer Ian Brennan.
Their new project, Scream Queens, is a send-up of sorority life on a college campus that’s terrorized by a killer dressed as a red devil. Think Heathers meets Scream.
“Scream Queens has a much more satirical, cartoonish quality to the attacks than American Horror Story does,” Murphy said of the show’s tone at a press conference in Los Angeles.
Curtis elaborated, telling Bio and a small group of reporters, “By taking comedy and melding it into horror, this show has all those elements of being fashionable, political, sociological, and they serve it up in a matzo ball of brilliance.”
The real irony, it turns out, is that Jamie Lee Curtis doesn’t even like horror films.
“I personally don’t love them,” Curtis admitted. “I scare very easily, and there is nothing about being scared that I like. People are not allowed to walk up to me and scare me. My children learned very early on: Don’t scare Mommy. Don’t give me a surprise party, either.”
Curtis, 56, leads the cast of Queens playing the school’s bitter dean who wants to boot the snooty Kappa Kappa Tau sorority house off campus. When she’s forbidden from doing so, her Plan B of attack is to force the designer-clad elitists of KKT to accept ALL pledges, not just the cool kids.
The new pledge class of outcasts (hello, Lea Michele in a neck brace) may think sorority president Chanel Oberlin (played to bratty perfection by Emma Roberts) and her minions (called “The Chanels”) are their biggest nightmare, but once classmates start turning up dead, the real horror begins.
The pilot opens with a flashback to a tragedy from 20 years earlier that somehow ties in to the present-day murder mystery at Wallace University (shot on location in New Orleans). The season-long mystery will have you wondering each week whodunit – and who the next victim will be. Everyone’s a suspect, and everyone – including the main stars – is vulnerable to getting killed off.
But it’s the razor-sharp writing that might have you in stitches. Much of the wicked — and, at times, offensive — dialogue comes from Roberts’ character.
Roberts told reporters in August at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour that she does occasionally cringe at some of the lines she has to deliver (sample: “Good evening, idiot hookers”).
“There are times when reading the script you’re thinking, ‘Oh, my God, this is insane, who talks like this?’” Roberts said. “But you have to accept your character and come from their point of view, and know that this is not real. But there are definitely times when I had to apologize to the girls when cut was called.”
Don’t worry, the Dean gets in plenty of zingers, too. “I’ve never had words like this to say,” Curtis told us, “peeling away someone’s veneer with my words, with my very hard, biting, stiletto words. It’s AMAZING what I get to say.”
“This is the best part I’ll ever have in my life,” Curtis gushed.
In addition to Ryan Murphy vets Emma Roberts (American Horror Story) and Lea Michele (Glee), the ensemble cast includes Skyler Samuels (also of American Horror Story) as sorority pledge Grace Gardener, whose deceased mother belonged to the sorority; Keke Palmer (Masters of Sex) as Grace’s roommate; Diego Boneta (Pretty Little Liars) as Grace’s love interest; Oliver Hudson (Nashville) as Grace’s father and university professor; Nasim Pedrad (Saturday Night Live) as sorority chief Gigi; and Little Miss Sunshine herself Abigail Breslin, who gets the honor of playing “Chanel No. 5.” Guest stars include singers Nick Jonas and Ariana Grande, and comedian Niecy Nash.
Scream Queens debuts with a two-hour premiere on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 8/7c on FOX. [It’s regular time period is Tuesdays at 9/8c, beginning Sept. 29.]