Scream Queens is a bloody, campy, ridiculous show from the man who has made a career out of those things, Ryan Murphy. For theAmerican Horror Storycreator's newest series, Murphy turns his unique point of view on a college campus tormented by a serial killer - and right in the middle of rush, no less. At the center of this madness is Grace Gardner (Skyler Samuels), a freshman who decides to pledge Kappa Kappa Tau in order to feel close to her deceased mother.
And as if the murders weren't enough to contend with, Grace quickly learns that getting killed might not be the least savory aspect of rushing Kappa. The sorority president Chanel (Emma Roberts) is a ruthless and racist HBIC who sees the other sorority members as minions more than people. Unwilling to sit idly by and watch the legacy of Kappa be corrupted, Grace joins forces with a (super sexy) journalism student, Pete (Diego Boneta), to expose the sorority, all while doing her best to avoid the red devil's knife.
Sound like a lot? Don't worry! TVGuide.com spoke with star Skyler Samuels about everything you need to know going into Tuesday's premiere (9/8c, Fox) - including the one theory about the killer that even the cast stop talking about.
How would you describe Grace? And is she really as good as she first seems?
Samuels: I can definitely say that Grace is keeping an eye on everyone and paying attention to who's doing what and where we're going. She's very much the detective and the investigator. Grace has all the dirt on everybody. ... [Kappa Kappa Tau is] totally against the world that Grace comes from and what she believes in, but there's something that makes her want to stay. So sort of being pulled left and right against her center is sort of what makes it interesting and watching what Grace chooses. I can say that as it evolves, Grace's choices do come interesting and who Grace decides to associate and not associate herself with is interesting. So she definitely evolves in a rather drastic way.
How would you describe her relationship with Chanel?
Samuels: It's difficult because you have two characters who are pegged as one another's nemeses, but as you watch the season evolve, you realize they do need one another. That to me is juicy and interesting and it's real. It reminds me of female dynamics in real life. Navigating the minefield of female politics is really difficult. But at the end of the day, when you're in a sorority and you're living together and you guys are relying on a common space, you can't give up on one another. So despite the differences and the difficulties between them, you have to find a way to overcome it. Watching Grace and Chanel get on the same page is a very exciting - and at moments cruel - but very exciting journey.
Are we going to see Chanel and Grace influence each other's behavior at all?
Samuels: I think there will be a lot of surprises about who we realize Chanel is. She's not necessarily this bitchy superficial girl that she appears to be in the pilot, but Chanel has some real-life things that she's battling with and she's doing the best she can to navigate those. And Grace might not be the sweet, doe-eyed, curly blonde-haired girl that we see in the pilot. Grace may have some inner demons that she's battling with and trying to figure out. To me, they're like real people. One isn't necessarily the mean girl and the other's the nice girl, because it always has to be more complicated than that.
Since Grace is the audience surrogate, do you think that makes her less likely to be the killer?
Samuels: Everyone on set, the crew, the cast, we're always coming up with new theories and betting on who we think it can be. We're making this show, but we're also playing it like a game, trying to figure out whodunit. Every time I think I've figured out who it is, I read the next episode and I'm like, 'Damn. Now I have to start all over again. I don't think I know anything about anyone.' We're constantly seeing new sides of people and learning new information. It's really hard to form one opinion. Grace is definitely the audience surrogate, but she definitely takes an unexpected turn. And I don't know what that means for Grace. I don't know if she has some sort of big master plan that's revealed at the end or if she's really evil and has been pretending all along. The thing about this show that's so fun is that literally anyone of us could be the killer. And anyone of us could be killed at any moment. It's kind of terrifying.
How would you feel if you found out you were the killer?
Samuels: I think I would have mixed emotions. If I'm the killer, then that would mean that somebody probably would have to kill me in order to get rid of the killer. So that would be tough, because I love the girls in the show. But at the same time, I have all my faith in this world in the writing and vision for this show. So if I were the killer, I'm sure it would be awesome. I can only imagine the story that would be there and the final showdown that would go down. I think I would have a blast.
When you get a new script, how worried are you about getting killed off?
Samuels: If I'm going to be honest, I've never sweat more reading in my entire life. They're very strict. There's no digital copies of the scripts. They come to you in these packages delivered to your house. It's very secretive. And then you're just holding 50 pages of paper in your hands going, 'Oh my god. Is it me? Is it me? Is it me?' You're viciously reading trying to see what happens ... And sometimes we get scripts that are incomplete. We don't get the final act before the day we shoot. So we never know. Yes, it's nerve-racking, but I also think it keeps all of us on our toes and we are all bringing our A-game because we don't know when our last day on set is going to be.
The premiere begins with a flashback to 1995 where a girl gives birth to a baby in the Kappa house bathtub and dies. What can you reveal about the significance of that death and how it factors into the show?
Samuels: It definitely plays a major role in terms of putting into context some of the characters on the show and explaining where some of the chaos of Kappa Kappa Tau is rooted in. I have to say, I'm still not sure how this totally plays out. But we definitely go back to the '90s often on this show. We're going back and forth between 2015 and 1995 and trying to make the connection, which I think is really fun for the audience, because they'll get to see little glimpses of 1995 every episode that might give them clues or hints about what's happening in the 2005 Kappa Kappa Tau. So it's definitely a fun twist in building this murder mystery story.
Is it too obvious a theory to think the dead girl's baby grew up to be the killer?
Samuels: That's what I would think. I'm like, 'It has to be that!' But then is it too obvious? Unless it's so obvious that you think it's obviously not, but that is what it is. It's one of those things where you can go in circles theorizing. I'm just not sure about the baby in the bathtub. That is the thing that gets everybody the most. That is always the topic of conversation. 'Who's the mom? Who's the baby? Where did they go?' That literally gets everybody, myself included. I've read 10 episodes so far and I still have guesses about who it might be. Ryan says it's clearly laid out in the pilot and we're like, 'What? We were there! We made it! What are you talking about?' We all have to go back and reference it and try and figure it out. But I definitely think the baby will play a significant part of the show. And you know, there were a lot of girls in that bathroom that night and you never know how those girls will play into the story later on. Everybody was there for a reason. There's always a significance to every person you meet.
Grace teams up with Pete to take down the sorority. How does being a double agent go for her?
Samuels: Grace is almost too comfortable being a double agent. When I say she's the eyes and ears and she's watching everybody, she's watching everybody. Pete and Grace have this funny dynamic where there's definitely a chemistry and they're attracted to one another, but I think they're also sort of watching one another. Either of them could also be a killer. And yet, they're carrying on this romance. Literally no one is safe. So I think everyone is watching everyone and taking note of everything. I don't know if Grace knows where to put her alliance in the beginning, but as the story develops you see Grace decide where to set her roots. Is she going to choose Pete? Is she going to choose Kappa Kappa Tau? Is she going to choose her dad? Who does she choose? And I think that she makes her choice clear and that changes her path a little bit.
Love interests are often the killer in horror movies. So should viewers be wary of Pete
Samuels: I think so. I definitely think Pete's got a little suspicious something or another going on. He's definitely got some brooding moments in the pilot where there are some dark gazes and glances that made me think he's up to something. And Grace and Pete definitely have a nebulous, on-again, off-again romance at times because the world of Wallace University is constantly flooded with doubt. ... And so Grace and Pete have to navigate through that chaos and doubt to stay together. And a part of me wonders if they'll be able to overcome all that.
Scream Queens premieres Tuesday at 9/8c on Fox.
Watch Abigail Breslin go through the five stages of receiving a new Scream Queens script: