'American Horror Story: Asylum' Franka Potente Interview: Is the Real Anne Frank at Briarcliff?
'American Horror Story: Asylum' Franka Potente Interview: Is the Real Anne Frank at Briarcliff?
Carla Day
Carla Day
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
On tonight's American Horror Story: Asylum, Anne Frank's history is revealed. Is she sane and really the Anne Frank of the history books? Or, does she belong at Briarcliff with the other insane patients? And, what about Dr. Arden? Whether he was a Nazi or not, the truth will come out.

Franka Potente spoke with reporters on a recent conference call about her experiences on American Horror Story: Asylum. The two-part Anne Frank arc comes to an end tonight, but she leaves open the door for a possible return later in the series. 

What is it like being on the set of American Horror Story: Asylum?
The set is pretty eerie, which is great for an actor because we basically need to step on and the mood is already created.  We say our lines and that's that.  That's definitely half the magic.
[They're] cool and creepy, even if they're not lit or anything, the cool statues that they have, that's ... a proper staircase and everything's very solid and well built.  So, you get to really play with everything that's there.  The first thing that came to my mind when I saw it, I was like if you're a Catholic, [it's] kind of intimidating and dark and strict and regal, very impressive.

Did you do any research on people who were admitted into asylums or try to take in some kind of extra study on the asylum-type atmosphere?
Many years ago, for a German film that I did with Tom Tykwer, The Princess and the Warrior, I actually worked at an insane asylum for two weeks.  I have very vivid memories of that awkward time.  On the other hand, this is set in the 60s, so I think it's very, very different. ...  

So, I've spent quite some time that was very intense many years back in an institution like that.  But on the other hand, it's always nice to have a fresh take on it.  This is at the end of the day, a normal person that, of course, thinks she's not insane ... nobody who is insane runs around thinking, oh my God, I'm really insane.  So, you have to play into that as normal as possible.  Everyone else is insane but the insane person.  

Then, you take it from there to be honest, and in this case especially, the setting that's already there does a lot.  If the series was just about this one case, I would have to put a little  bit more work into it I think as for mood and all that kind of stuff, but it's so loaded at episode four already with all the creepiness and all these things that, to be honest, I don't have to play into that.  It's already there anyway. 

What was it like to work with James Cromwell and with Jessica Lange?
James Cromwell is awesome.  He's very hardworking.  He always knew his lines and he's very responsible like maybe that's the wrong word, but when you work with him, he always made sure the other person is okay.  

He thinks about the scenes a lot and what makes sense how to shoot them and all these things.  He's very involved in that, and he's very personal.  He loves to talk about theater and books he reads.  

He recommended museums to me and all these things, which is delightful.  Of course, it's very nice.  You feel very welcome when someone especially on the [set] likes to be your friend for the time being, while you work, very nice.

[Jessica Lange's] amazing.  She is very, very focused.  Different, more quiet from my experience.  I did see her joke around with people and stuff, but overall, she seemed very focused....

She was very sweet.  After my first day of shooting, I was very nervous.  I had like a lot of lines that I felt like she was very protective of me, like when there was noise and people weren't focused she would ask them to be quiet kind of on my behalf because she knew, she could feel that I was nervous and I thought that was really sweet and really nice of her and I really enjoyed working with her.  I really felt like she was good with eye contact and stuff like that.  She's not like letting you hang there.

Do you know why Ryan Murphy decided to incorporate Anne Frank into this season?  It's a timely character for the time period of the show, but why in particular Anne Frank?
I have no idea.  I think that he wanted to have aliens and Nazis... [It] created a playground where anything's possible so why not bring back Anne Frank and have people believe or not for a second that it is her.  

I think we talked a little bit before, but I think it's fun in this medium that we have like ..., you can create anything out of nothing.  The stronger the environment around it is, the more you can do with it.  The pure thought, like what would Anne Frank be like if she was alive.  If she had survived, what's the story, what's driving her?  What would she be like as a person amongst aliens and insanity and all this stuff?

It's a very tensing thought, but why it had to be Anne Frank, I have no idea.  I think maybe something that he was interested in personally and thought why not.  What if she came back and she was the one pointing at Arden saying he was a Nazi?  He's not messing around.  It couldn't be anybody.  It had to be Anne Frank.  

What was the most challenging scene for you?
Probably my first day with Jessica in a way because I had so many lines.  I really just wanted to be good.  I wanted to earn her respect. I was starting with all these lines and it's always the same.  

The magic is in between the lines.  You want to say the lines right, but you want to get to the point where you can play with the scene partner and you just want to go beyond that and it worked for me.  We had a great day, but I didn't know her, so I was a little bit afraid.
Physically, the whole stuff with James was demanding.  We had this huge fight scene for hours and hours and hours.  It's so little in the episode, but man, we were like beating each other up for like five, six hours.  So, it was strenuous.  

It was fun too, but you have to be very focused with these scenes.  You can't just push each other around.  He's very tall, so and the same goes for me.  He's strong.  He can't just toss me around like that.  

So, we were trying to be very focused about it, but at the same time wanted to be really raw and dangerous.  So, I think those two things were very demanding, but I remember now the second episode, I think I'm like crying and screaming almost every scene.  So, that always falls beyond what we can imagine.   

American Horror Story: Asylum "I Am Anne Frank, Pt. 2" airs tonight, Wednesday, November 14 at 10 pm ET on FX. Download BuddyTV Guide for free for your phone and add the show to your watch list!

(Image courtesy of FX.)