TVGuide.com spoke with Bassett about her third turn on the FX drama, Ramona's complicated relationship with The Countess and how Lady Gaga surprised her on set.
How would you describe Ramona?
Angela Bassett: Ramona is an actress - she was an actress, rather. I think she's rather retired right now. She came out of the business because she went into a long-standing, fulfilling relationship with The Countess, which was new for her. Until then she absolutely saw herself as a heterosexual woman, but she's become more fluid. Isn't that the term today? But things sort of went off the rails, so now they have this acrimonious relationship. I think they still care passionately, but they also are passionately opposed to one another's happiness.
What drew The Countess to Ramona and vice versa?
Bassett: I think The Countess is in love with love and beautiful things and having her way. And just having what she wants. She's one of those [people] who just loves fine things, loves great wine, loves wonderful experiences, has no filter, is hedonistic. Whatever pleasures her, that's what she's into, passionately. And she was attracted to Ramona in that way.
For Ramona, as an actress, you have to suffer so much rejection in your career. But yet, you also have to be able to give so freely of your psyche and your emotions even though it's all for play. But the emotions are real and the rejections are real. So when someone gets you, sees you appreciates you, it touches the vulnerable part of you. The part that you cover, you mask, you protect. So The Countess comes at her that way. She reaches her that way. She fulfills her in that way, by seeing who she is and really having this immediate appreciation of who she is.
Ramona teams up with Donovan (Matt Bomer) to get revenge on The Countess.
Bassett: She needs a way in to find The Countess' vulnerable spot, so she enlists Donovan.
Does that mean she's using Donovan? What's their relationship like?
Bassett: I think Donovan has been loved and discarded the same way Ramona has, so they have that in common with one another. Where it's going, I don't know, because he's still very fresh. It's been a moment for Ramona to process through. Although the pain is fresh, she's had some distance, the ability to wallow in it or process it. Rationally, he understands his position or lack of position in The Countess' life. But emotionally, he's still very, very much tethered.
It seems like everyone in The Countess' close circle has the blood-drinking virus. When Ramona was with The Countess, did she also become infected or did she manage to avoid it?
Bassett: I think we'll have to wait and see.
Are we going to learn about Ramona's life outside her relationship with The Countess or see her interact a lot with other characters at the hotel?
Bassett: I hope so. I haven't seen that as of yet, but I think in terms of the backstory, she knows them all. She knows all the folks. She was around. She was up and through and lived there. Ramona doesn't live at the hotel anymore. Perhaps she's been barred. So she hasn't been around there, but she knows all the players.
Is there anyone in particular you're hoping to do more scenes with this season?
Bassett: I'm pleased with where I am. My scenes with The Countess, with Donovan, I'm enjoying that, and with Kathy [Bates], who's Iris. We've done a little bit, we'll do more. I don't think Ramona and Sally (Sarah Paulson) have anything in common, you know? That wasn't her deal. Sally's been taken by another chief, in a grip with another type of demon. So that's not Ramona's deal nor has it ever been. So I don't see them crossing paths in a positive way. But we'll see.
What has it been like working with Lady Gaga?
Bassett: It's been really enjoyable. I don't know, can I say surprising? Surprisingly lovely. ... It's been quite wonderful. And I wouldn't say I was the only one. That seems to be her nature. You just know her as a singular sensation, superstar, center of her universe. And she's come into this very different arena where it's theater ... but also it's not the arena that caters to the one. I mean, it can, but not when it's running its best. It's really collaborative. But I think she definitely has aspects of that in her area... so it's translated in a beautiful way.
What's going to set Hotel apart from previous seasons?
Bassett: I appreciate the humor of Coven. This one will be less narrative, maybe. It will harken back in a way, perhaps, to Asylum, where it doesn't make sense. You can't just sit there and figure out what's going to happen next, you know? You may be very much surprised. So I think that it's dark, dangerous, depraved, very grown up and sexual, sensual, in your face, unapologetic. The other night I literally covered my eyes a couple times. I'm not one to love horror, so some of the other seasons I was thankful for the humor, off the cuff, that sort of thing. But this one I think is unrelenting, in your face. It's probably the most horrific thus far.
This season focuses a lot on addiction. What would you say Ramona is addicted to?
Bassett: Perhaps adoration. She was an actress. She wanted to be appreciated, adored, and The Countess gives her that. She adores her and appreciates her. And I think that's intoxicating to her and I think that's what she's wanted. It's what she sought. And if she couldn't be fulfilled that way career-wise, she was in her personal life.
American Horror Story: Hotel airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on FX. Learn more about Ramona Royale in the video below.