Jessica Lange: From “Murder House” To The White House?

Jessica Lange’s career has never really taken a break. From her early work in Tootsie and Sybil to her frequent appearances on the American Horror Story series, Lange’s talent hasn’t taken a break, either, as is evident in her work in the comedy drama, The Politician, the first season of which just aired on Netflix to critical acclaim. The series focuses on a wealthy Santa Barbaran, Payton Hobart, who is preparing for his future presidential run with a series of smaller races (the focus of this season’s race: student body president). Lange plays Dusty Jackson, a manipulative grandmother of Infinity Jackson, Hobart’s chosen running mate who appears to be battling cancer.

Jessica Lange, a long-term client of entertainment publicity firm, 42West, is once again stealing the show in her latest role. Her character in The Politician is notably different from her other roles and not just because she has a 70s inspired ‘do and a consistent hankering for the Olive Garden. How does an American Horror Story star end up in a dark comedy series? If you’ve followed her career, it might not be too big of a surprise, but this current transition is likely more natural than you might think.

American Horror Story: Murder House And Beyond

The first and most obvious thread between the two series is Ryan Murphy, who is a writer for both The Politician and American Horror Story. In 2011, she was an Emmy award winning star of American Horror Story: Murder House. Critics raved at her performance as a nosy neighbor to a family living in a haunted mansion. In the show’s second season, Asylum, she switches tacks and plays a sadistic nun; and the third season, Coven, she plays a witch (earning her another Emmy). In the fourth season, Freak Show, she is the leader of the titular performance group.

After the first four season, Lange stepped away from the AHS series, even as her regular co-stars stepped up to take large roles. Three seasons would pass before she would return to the AHS set, largely because Ryan Murphy gave her an offer that was too good to refuse.

In Apocalypse, a Coven/Murder House crossover, Lange reprises her role as Constance Langdon, the noisy neighbor of season 1 – much to the delight of her fan base.  In interviews, Lange has said that it was the lure of a “delirious” death scene that ultimately persuaded her to return to the set. She had a 10-page monologue written exclusively for her, and she got to play with dark themes such as drunkenness and death. In true AHS fashion, the audience doesn’t know what is real and what’s not, a technique that Lange appreciates and loves to emulate.

American Horror To American Politics

For those familiar with The Politician, the jump between roles might not be so surprising. For those unfamiliar with the plot, note that SPOILERS follow below.

In The Politician, Lange plays a manipulative grandmother who is actually sickening her granddaughter, Infinity Jackson, who appears to be suffering from cancer, is revealed to be a victim of Munchausen’s by proxy.  The series, of course, is a treatise on the dark, conniving activities that craft the picturesque American politician, bolstered by tongue-in-cheek satire and caustic wit. Lange thrives as a conniving matriarch who sows seeds of doubt over unlimited salads and breadsticks.

Though the writing sounds dark (characteristic of Murphy), Lange’s costars say that it was often difficult to keep the laughter controlled on set. As such, The Politician makes for perfect viewing to anyone who is disillusioned with the current culture of the American political landscape.

What’s Next for Jessica Lange?

Several sources close to Lange have said that she wants The Politician will be her final role. In past interviews, however, Lange has noted that Murphy has a knack for coaxing her out of her self-imposed retirement and back into the spotlight. We will see with time what the duo come up with next. For an Emmy and Oscar winning performer like Lange, every performance is worth our viewing time. Lange, represented by her long-time publicist Leslee Dart, has mentioned she might be done acting soon but fans are hoping to see her again on their screens soon.

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