Adina Porter (‘American Horror Story: Cult’): I didn’t want Beverly Hope to be ‘an angry black woman’ [Complete Interview Transcript]

Adina Porter finally scored her first Emmy nomination this year for playing news reporter-turned-cult member Beverly Hope on FX’s “American Horror Story: Cult.” She is nominated in Best Movie/Limited Series Supporting Actress, a category that has been won for previous seasons of “American Horror Story” by Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates.

Porter recently chatted with Gold Derby senior editor Marcus Dixon about the funny story behind how she first learned of her Emmy nomination, the complexities of Beverly Hope and what to expect from the upcoming “American Horror Story: Apocalypse.” Watch the exclusive video above and read the complete interview transcript below.

Gold Derby: Adina Porter, you just got nominated for your very first Emmy Award for “American Horror Story: Cult.” Tell us, how did you find out about the nomination?

Adina Porter: That’s a good story. I’m in the dressing room, because I am part of “American Horror Story: Apocalypse.” It’s been announced so I can say it. So, out of the corner of my eye, we’re in the makeup trailer and I see Sarah Paulson on the phone and people are starting to clap and she says, “I’ve been nominated.” And then nominations started coming in, hair got nominated and everyone claps, and makeup got nominated and everyone claps, and there are stylists in the trailer who are from “[The Assassination of Gianni] Versace,” so there are hairstylists with their first nominations and clapping. So about 15 minutes goes by, I’m already teasing Sarah about what she’s going to wear, and Leslie Grossman comes up to me with her phone in her hand and points and says, “Adina, do you know you have been nominated?” And I said, “You’re lying!” And she goes, “No, ‘Hollywood Reporter’ just announced, ‘Adina Porter, Best Supporting Actress,’ but, ‘in a Drama Series.’” And then the entire trailer stops and says, “But it’s not a drama series. It’s limited series or movie.” And then Sarah Paulson says, “But they did the same thing with Jeff Daniels.” So then everyone starts getting on their phone and starts texting to find out what’s going on, and then Sarah says to me, “So Adina, what does your phone say?” And I said, “My phone is in my trailer because I’m a professional.” (Laughs.) And she said, “Go get your expletive phone and enjoy this moment.” So I got out of the work, and I went and I got my phone, but it still hadn’t blown up, because many years we had looked and nothing happened. My manager was walking her dog, my agent had repair people in, I called my New York agent, I told them. So it wasn’t until Sylvie, one of the makeup artists, went through all the 64 pages in black and white on the Emmy website, we saw it, and then I cried.

GD: You’ve been working in television for such a long time. I thought for sure “Roanoke” would be your first nomination so I was personally bummed, so it’s almost like this is a makeup, like, “We did you wrong last year, now we’re gonna make it up to you this year.”

AP: That’s very sweet of you to say. Thank you very much. It’s been a dream working on the series and I definitely get a lot of juicy material to react to.

GD: And you played Beverly Hope. She was the news reporter, she got mixed up in this deadly cult led by Evan Peters, who should have been nominated if you ask me.

AP: Absolutely.

GD: How did you go about perfecting your newscaster voice? Because there’s an art to it, isn’t there?

AP: Absolutely, there is a cadence to it. I guess just listening to people. I have to say, this wasn’t my first experience in a newsroom. I was on HBO’s Aaron Sorkin’s “Newsroom” for three years. I wasn’t a reporter there, I was in the bullpen but I got to steep in the news reporter world and sharing pertinent information with a smile. There’s a phrase called tragedy porn, where you are sharing information that is incredibly uncomfortable to talk about, but it also as newspeople, we know it keeps the audience tuning in, still. I got back into that vein and listened. It wasn’t until about a couple of episodes in that Ryan Murphy told me the name of the local newsperson who Beverly Hope was modeled after. I was like, “Oh, really? Okay, that’s really good information to know,” and went and researched her.

GD: The fourth episode was a really strong one for you. That was the flashback episode that showed how you got indoctrinated into this cult and that’s actually the one that you have submitted for the Emmy voters to watch as well. What is it about this episode that stood out to you as an actress?

AP: Well, it was quite a rollercoaster ride. It starts out on Election Day, with me giving some exit polls, interviewing on Election Night, so we thought it’s voting so that was kind of appropriate but I get to do all these twists and turns. We are broadcasting from an election site but then I am challenged by a younger, sexy reporter who get airtime because she is sleeping with the head of the network. I get to share how incredibly unfair it is, so there’s ageism as well as sexism going on. You get to see Beverly Hope deal with navigating trying to do a good, honest job as a news reporter, but it’s an uphill battle because I am dealing with someone who will do sexual favors to get on the air. But then you also see Beverly Hope turn on a dime in a landfill, which was incredibly fun to do, because there is the truth of being in heels in a landfill and the smell of walking in a landfill and the smell of viewing a decapitated body in a landfill, but it’s network news so you gotta put on a smile and report it. But then I also get to take my mask off, my newscaster mask off, my “I have it all together” mask off, and reveal to [Kai], Evan Peters’ character that I would love to trust someone. I would love to have someone in my corner but I’ve been denied that so many times that I don’t really believe it myself. I really did not want Beverly Hope to be an angry black woman and the writers let me share her vulnerabilities and we see that in Episode 4. Then the mask gets back on and I’m slashing people for the rest of the show.

GD: And you have a lot of scenes with Emma Roberts. You guys were going head to head. Is that fun as an actress to just scream and yell at somebody?

AP: (Laughs.) Yes it was, and she’s quite a hoot to play against. Sure, yeah, you know what I mean? She has quite a lot of stingers about my breasts and everything else that should not be in consideration when we’re talking about being a news professional. I let them land but I have a couple of choice words back for her as well.

GD: Beverly had this strong arc from the very beginning to the very end. We’ll talk about the end in a second. Is that one of the great things about “American Horror Story”? It allows all of you guys to play a complete character from beginning, middle and end.

AP: Oh, absolutely, all of the incredible twists and turns. Great writing takes time, so you’re not gonna have the entire script laid out for you, so in lots of ways, you can only play the given circumstances that you have in the moment and then be open and aware to whatever twist and turn comes next. It’s never predictable. I thought from the beginning that Beverly Hope, you can put her on the “good guys” category, but I guess she pushed too far and decided… well, one person’s bad guy is another person’s revolutionary, right?

GD: Right. Would you call her a villain or would you just call her a complicated character? She wasn’t pure evil like Kai was pure evil.

AP: No, right. A friend of mine came up to me after watching the show and she’s like, “You’re sick, Adina.” And I was like, “No, Beverly’s just misunderstood.” But you know what, I think we all can be evil. If you push me too far, we all have an incredibly evil side. That’s why you gotta be careful being a mom, because your kids know where your buttons are. They’ve installed them (laughs). We all can be evil. She’s misunderstood. She got pushed and yeah, she became evil.

GD: You have the great moment in the finale on the stage of the debate with Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters where Sarah kind of had the final line there but you actually were the one to pull the trigger on Kai. What was that moment like just to be the heroic character there at the end?

AP: Vindicated. Yeah, I’m a nasty woman (laughs). It was incredibly empowering and it was also payback, ‘cause I trusted Kai on so many incredible levels. The first we did it, full disclosure, in front of all the background artists, they cheered. They didn’t even know the entire story but just the body language of what was going on, they could tell that someone was getting some payback. And then the director had to go, “Okay, everybody. We don’t cheer when someone gets shot in the head. Let’s be fearful that she might turn the gun and start shooting at the audience.” They didn’t do me wrong so I wouldn’t have done that.

GD: How was Beverly, if you could compare her to your “Roanoke” character, Lee? Did they have any similarities? Were they completely different?

AP: I think they were similar in that they both chose to rationalize some choices that they had to know what wrong, but both of them decided to drink the Kool-Aid, one literally, and get revenge when they could. I think they are different in that my “Roanoke” character, the tension of being a police officer, the disgrace of being fired for doing your job, she started taking pills, her family turned against her. Beverly did not have the intimate betrayal of a husband and a child turning against you, which is a whole nother level. When your team turns against you, the person who you thought would stand by you, your husband and your daughter, that pushes incredible buttons. I feel like Beverly, it was more rational choices to go crazy and I think my character in “Roanoke,” it happened more organically and she was pushed to “fight or flight.” For her, it was more organic. Physically she had to fight, and Beverly was more calculated, more analytical.

GD: You guest starred way back in Season 1, which I completely blacked out of my mind, and then when they asked you back for Season 6 five years later, what was that call like when you got the call back to come back and do another character?

AP: It wasn’t a call. It was an audition. I went and I auditioned for “Roanoke,” and I’m told later on that they liked my read a lot but Ryan Murphy went back and reviewed my performance in Season 1 to see if they still liked it. I was told that it was memorable and planted something in the back of his head but he had to go back and review it. He reviewed it, he still liked it and then they offered me the job. I had to work for it.

GD: You’ve done so many shows that I’m sure you get recognized on the street. You mentioned “The Newsroom,” and then there’s “True Blood.” What do you get recognized for the most? “The 100”?

AP: You know, that’s a really good question. I’m always surprised, ‘cause it used to be back in the day it was just “True Blood.” And then once I started doing Indra it was, if you’re under 20 it was “The 100” and if you were over it was “True Blood.” I don’t know, maybe “True Blood” must be streaming somewhere, ‘cause all of a sudden, I was at the pizzeria with my kids the other day and this young person was talking about “True Blood” and sometimes it’s incredibly uncomfortable when they’re really young and they’re talking about “True Blood.” Those great sex scenes that I just think, “What are your parents doing?” What do I get recognized most for? It’s a good problem to have. Sometimes I don’t even ask. I just say thank you, because I don’t know if it’s “True Blood.” I don’t know if it’s “American Horror Story.” I don’t know if it’s “The 100.” I don’t know if it’s “Ray Donovan.” I don’t know if it’s “Law & Order.” So I just say thank you.

GD: Is there anything you can tease about “Apocalypse?” I know Ryan Murphy likes to keep the lock and key.

AP: Yeah, and then fire people who let things out (laughs). I’m just going to say that it’s an opportunity for me to yet again show another side. Yeah, maybe a side that I’ve never shown before. I thought because of “The 100” apocalypse that I knew everything about what life after an apocalypse would be, but Ryan Murphy and the writers of “American Horror Story” have shown a whole other side of an apocalypse, so I think people will be surprised and intrigued and yet again, I’m being blown away by the performances that I’m seeing with my fellow cast members.

GD: Well congrats again on your Emmy nomination. We’ll see you at the ceremony. We’ll be there on the carpet so come say hi to Gold Derby.

AP: Thank you so much.

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