One of the bright points this season on American Horror Story: Asylum came from one of its darkest places. Lily Rabe, who had a recurring part in Season 1, played the innocent Sister Mary Eunice who, several episodes in, becomes possessed by a demon. Rabe flourished in her role, and we were sad to say goodbye to the devil running Briarcliff when she was finally taken down in last week’s wonderful episode “The Name Game.”
Although there’s always a chance we haven’t seen the last of Sister Mary Eunice, Rabe spoke with reporters to seemingly say goodbye to the character. She wouldn’t confirm whether she’d be back next season in a new capacity (after the way she dominated Asylum it only makes sense that she would return), but Rabe did talk about how much fun she had with Season 2.
“If you’re going to do the show, you just kind of jump off the ledge, and you don’t expect you’re going to have any parachute or anything; you just have to jump and know that that’s part of the thrill of it,” she said. “Part of the thrill of being on that show is just sort of diving in completely. Things would scare me or make me really nervous, but nothing ever felt like this is too far or this is something I don’t want to do. I never had that feeling about any of it.”
Rabe admitted she knew pretty early on that Mary Eunice “probably wouldn’t have a very happy ending.” When she finally did go, the character had what Rabe calls an “assisted suicide,” as her character understood that letting Joseph Fiennes’ Monseigneur kill her was the only way she could be saved.
“Her situation really wasn’t survivable in the sense that even if they had done some sort of exorcism or something, at that point we sort of felt that whatever might be left of that girl was so damaged and destroyed that death sort of became her only way out,” Rabe said.
The last we see of Sister Mary Eunice is when she is being cremated, and James Cromwell’s Dr. Arthur Arden climbs into the oven to die with her. Rabe said that was the hardest scene for her to shoot, although she and Cromwell felt it an appropriate sendoff for their characters.
“I always thought of it as sort of the perfect ending for the two of them. It seemed so fitting,” she said, adding that she and Cromwell likened the tale to a Shakespearean tragedy. “We felt like Ryan [Murphy, the show’s co-creator] had given us a sort of beautiful Horror Story Shakespearean ending. It seemed sort of completely the perfect end to their very, very bizarre and complicated and dark love story of sorts. I think for him, he really had loved her for so long and been so devoted to her.”
Rabe had the opportunity to work with just about every actor on the show, even Mark Consuelos’ Spivey and Mark Margolis’ Nazi hunter. Of all of them, Rabe said that her storyline with Jessica Lange’s Sister Jude was her favorite.
“My storyline with Jessica was perhaps the most powerful to me because I think it’s sort of the most tragic,” Rabe said. “It’s actually the one that involved the most love. Even though Jude was very cold to Eunice in the beginning, I always believed that cruelty would come of a place of love and a place of seeing her potential and knowing she wasn’t living it. Where we started and where we ended up, that to me was probably the one that was the most powerful.”
She added of Lange, “She’s an incredible actress. She’s got an amazing work ethic. She’s generous, she’s present, she’s everything you could want in a scene partner, and also she’s a really great woman.”
Rabe said she felt Sister Mary Eunice with her even when the character was fully possessed, which is likely what helped her get through what she calls the most difficult part of the shoot.
“In those moments when [Mary Eunice] was completely taken over the devil and throwing these actors around and slitting their throats and stabbing them ruthlessly and all of that [was the hardest],” she said. “I’ve been the victim a lot. I’ve often played the person who’s getting raped or murdered or abused, and so to actually be raping, murdering and abusing people was a whole different kind of challenge. It was very difficult at times and sometimes I would just got home and stare at the walls for a while, but you know, I can’t complain.”
Rabe also called those scenes some of her favorites, saying, “I’ve never had the opportunity to do such horrible, horrible things to people.”
She revealed she was allowed to perform her own stunt when Mary Eunice was pushed over the railing to the floor of the Briarcliff entryway below.
“They let me do the whole thing. I was on wires,” Rabe said. “My stunt double was someone I’d worked with before, and they talked to me a couple weeks before shooting me and asked me what I thought and I said, ‘Let me do as much of it as I possibly can,’ and they let me do the whole thing: The throw and the fall and all of it. That was a lot of fun, I really like that kind of thing.”
American Horror Story: Asylum airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.