Taissa Farmiga never planned to follow in her big sister Vera Farmiga’s footsteps and become an actor. It just sort of happened. Following her debut in Vera’s film Higher Ground, Taissa, 19, landed the role of Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott’s daughter, Violet Harmon, on the first season of Ryan Murphy’s macabre FX series American Horror Story. After taking a break from the show during season two, Farmiga is back as Zoe Benson – a witch with a very unique power – in American Horror Story: Coven, arguably the series’ best season to date. Rolling Stone sat down with the actress to talk witches, social media and her on-set besties.
Connie Britton recently said she’s been talking to the Horror Story folks about possibly returning this season. What would that mean to you?
I would absolutely love it. Wow! I’ve never even thought about that. I had such a good time with her on season one. I think she’s incredible. Wow. That’d be fun!
How are Zoe Benson and Violet Harmon different? How are they similar?
They’re both introverted. They’re not out-there, crazy people, although Violet has her sarcasm and she’s very blunt, so she has that to fall back on. Zoe doesn’t have that. She’s not quite as confident in that sense. She’s the sweet girl of the bunch. She’s got a heart and good intentions, but she’s not really the Alpha Dog. She’s still trying to gain her confidence, but even the weakest can learn to fly. Hopefully she starts learning soon. [Laughs]
Which one was more fun to play?
That’s like me asking my mom if I’m her favorite daughter: She always says she doesn’t have a favorite. But I’ve got a special place in my heart for Violet. It was my first real job after working with my sister, so of course I have a special place for her. Zoe is something different. She’s starting to become a little more badass in this next episode, so that’s always fun.
What was your first thought when you found out what type of power Zoe was dealing with?
She kind of got the short end of the stick there. [Laughs] Ryan [Murphy] hinted at it in a conversation we had back in January and I was so excited to get the script. But then I read it and I was like, “Woah. How much crazier can this show get?”
You may not want to say that to Ryan Murphy.
I know! Who knows what he would pull out of his hat.
Do you think Zoe is more naïve or more innocent? She had to know that bringing FrankenKyle back to his mother’s house was not going to end well.
She knows that she made a mistake and she’s trying to fix it. There’s just so much going on in her life right now. She’s probably not taking the time to think like she should, but teenagers don’t always make the best decisions. Maybe she’s a bit naïve in that sense. She just needs to figure some things out and stop and think for a minute.
Do you think she knows what his mother has done to him?
She thinks she’s created a monster. She has no idea what’s going on with Kyle in his life. She only met this guy for a couple hours and had a couple conversations with him. She has no idea about the other side of the story. She’s just freaked out that there’s this horrible creature on the loose now.
Some signs point to Zoe as being the next Supreme. Any hints you can give us about what’s to come for her in the rest of the season?
Each episode is pointing at someone else so we really don’t know. At the beginning of this season, Fiona said Zoe was the weakest link, but you’ve got to start somewhere! Hopefully her ending is a little bit stronger.
You’ve gotten to work with Emma Roberts, Kathy Bates, and Gabourey Sidibe this season. Who’s your new on-set BFF?
Gabby for sure. She’s my homegirl! [Laughs] We’ve had a lot of fun. We love our scenes with Emma as well – we always look forward them. I know Gabby is a little older than us but, when we get on set, we just have such a good time.
When American Horror Story started, did you expect to become a big star?
I had no expectations. The first time I got recognized in public was the day after the first episode aired. I was at Whole Foods and this guy comes up to me and says, “Hey, you did amazing last night. Great job! Love the show!” Then he walks off. I was like, “What? Did that just happen?” It’s weird and crazy, but I found a passion and something that I love.
So you weren’t prepared for all that?
I got to see it through my older sister Vera. She handles everything with such grace, so I just try to follow her example. But you never expect it. It’s a crazy world, stardom. I don’t even think of myself as a star. I just like to go to work.
You’re really active on Twitter and Instagram. Did that make the transition to living in the public eye easier?
It can be very overwhelming, but I like that the fans have a closer connection to you. They can ask you questions and, if you have the time, you can send answers and make their day. But I also like that, as an actor, you can play different roles and different characters. It’s sometimes nice to keep yourself mysterious.
How are you different now than when you played Violet in season one?
I’ve matured a lot. Even just the normal teenager stuff. You got through a lot in this stage of your life. You turn eighteen. You’re a legal adult. You graduate high school and you have to start making decisions. I feel like I’m definitely coming out of my shell a bit more, which I’m happy about. I’m just growing up.
Aside from being “awesome,” what’s it like working with your big sister?
I was the most nervous when I shot my first big scene with her in At Middleton. She’s super comforting and you know she’s there for you, but besides wanting to do a good job to impress the director and everyone else, I wanted to prove myself to her. I wanted to be like, “Hey, I’m with you on the same screen. I’m gonna kill it and we’re gonna do good.”
What’s favorite American Horror Story memory so far?
The one that pops into my mind is a scene that comes up in tonight’s episode. You know how all these zombies are making their way to the house? Well, there’s a scene where Zoe finds her confidence in a way. She takes control of the situation.
You felt like you were doing something special.
And that’s something that I’ve worked really hard for.