Heads-up, horror fans: A horde of icons is coming to Charlotte, including this ‘AHS’ star

·5 min read

Actor Denis O’Hare may be most recognizable from his parts on multiple seasons of FX’s long-running anthology series “American Horror Story” and his outlandish “True Blood” character Russell Edgington.

But long before he was a horror icon, he was a theater-turned-character actor.

The 61-year-old O’Hare returns to Charlotte this week for his first appearance at the Mad Monster Party horror convention, which will see him reunited with “AHS” actors Dylan McDermott, John Carroll Lynch and Alexandra Breckenridge (who also did a stint on HBO’s “True Blood”).

Other Mad Monster guests include Robert Englund of Freddy Krueger fame; Robert Patrick (“Terminator 2,” “The X-Files”); original Kiss drummer Peter Criss; Lance Henriksen (“Aliens”); David Morrissey (“The Walking Dead’s” Governor); Deep Roy (“Star Trek,” “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory”); “Bill and Ted’s” Alex Winter; Keith David (“They Live”); and stars of the original “Child’s Play” as well as its Syfy/USA Network spin-off series “Chucky.”

O’Hare spoke to The Charlotte Observer about his favorite “American Horror Story” roles, his foray into the horror genre and horror conventions, and where he’d like to work next.

Q. Last summer, the “American Horror Story” spin-off series, “American Horror Stories,” revealed the origin of your character Spalding from Season 3 of “AHS” — including how he came to live with the witches and where his fixation with dolls came from. What’s it like, as the actor behind him, to learn more about a character like that?

I always do my own backstory if it’s not fleshed out. As an actor, I do too much work on that. With Spalding in Season 3, I got a script where he got his tongue back. I talked to some of the writers and decided to go with a Mississippi accent. (Writer) Manny Coto knew that and set (the “American Horror Stories’” episode titled “Dollhouse”) in Mississippi, or a similar world. Of course, I had a very different idea of who Spalding was. For me, as Spalding, the witches erased my memory. I would never have known that. I created my own backstory. As far as why I was working in this house and who my father was in the “Stories” episode, I thought it was so well done.

Q. Do you have a favorite of the many AHS characters you’ve played?

I love a lot of them for different reasons. I love Liz (from “Hotel”) because it was a complete character. I got a backstory, a love story and a death scene. Liz in particular is the emotional center. It’s hard to root for the other characters. The Countess (played by Lady Gaga) is cool and she wears great clothes, but Liz is mortal. She’s just one of us. She’s the audience’s way in.

I loved Larry Harvey (Season 1) because he was the first one. I understand him beyond words. I have a lot of sympathy for him. He didn’t get an ending, and he’s left in jail. His story line is dropped.

Q. What about returning to old characters?

The challenge is: Unlike characters on a TV show, actors age. It’s hard to play ourselves after certain amount time. If there was a “True Blood” revival, I don’t think you’d want to have the actual original actors.

Denis O’Hare, left, photographed at a 2011 panel discussion in L.A. with actress Cloris Leachman.
Denis O’Hare, left, photographed at a 2011 panel discussion in L.A. with actress Cloris Leachman.

Q. Mad Monster is a horror convention. Were you a fan of horror at all?

No. I was never a horror guy. I was a theater actor. I mostly did plays. I only did plays and started dipping my toe into musicals.

Q. You weren’t interested in “genre television” then?

I was afraid of it; snobbish about it. Like doing “Star Trek” — Noooo! Eventually I auditioned for “Star Trek: Voyager,” the one with Kate Mulgrew as the captain. I didn’t get the part. Once you start living your life and realize how hard it is to make a living, you’re happy to take a “Star Trek.” “True Blood” was the first horror thing I did, and it was out of the blue.

Q. Haven’t some of your jobs brought you to Charlotte before?

I did “Banshee,” which was really fun. I did a movie of the week in the ’90s for Hallmark Hall of Fame with Blythe Danner called “Saint Maybe.” I have fond memories of Charlotte. I hadn’t done much TV then, and didn’t make a lot of money. They used to give you per diem — $40-a-day per diem, or whatever it was. I was there for two weeks. I was thrilled to get that per diem. I squirreled all that money up and went out and bought two pairs of pants at the J. Crew. They were red corduroy.

Q. Do you like doing the conventions?

I’m a very social person. I genuinely like hearing from the fans. I like to hear what they think shows are about, what their experience is. I meet some fascinating people. I feel like it’s an amazing opportunity to just meet normal people. As an actor, I’m around other actors who aren’t normal people. Nurses or drone pilots, teachers, graphic designers. I always spend a lot of time asking them about their lives because I find it more interesting.

I like seeing the other actors. I can be a fan. When Barbara Eden was there, or Dawn Wells, who was Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island,” and Butch Patrick, who played Eddie Munster. I got to meet Malcolm McDowell, George Takei, and had Carrie Fisher throwing glitter at me at Dragon Con.

Q. With the cancellation of “The Nevers,” are there any current shows that you’d like to do?

I told my agent to get me on “Severance.” I love “Dopesick.” It’s extraordinary.

“Yellowjackets” — Juliette Lewis; my god, she’s so good. They’re all good. I just started watching “The Sandman.”

Mad Monster Party

When: 6-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Embassy Suites by Hilton Charlotte/Concord Golf Resort and Spa, 5400 John Q. Hammons Drive NW in Concord.

Tickets: $35 Friday and Sunday, $45 Saturday, or $80 for a three-day pass if purchased in advance. Prices are higher at the door.

Details: madmonster.com/madmonsterpartycarolina2023.