Although she studied acting in college, Lady Gaga set that passion aside for most of her time in the public eye — until 2015, when she made her acting debut with a massive, bloody splash as The Countess on Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story: Hotel.
Gaga’s success on FX’s highest-rated show — which had its strongest season this year — is one of the many reasons she’s been named Billboard’s Woman of the Year. In a new Billboard cover story from the Women in Music special issue, Gaga shares why working within the horror realm was more than a dream come true for her.
“I’m not the type of girl who fits most molds. That’s why working on American Horror Story with Ryan is a destiny. I wanted to create something extremely meaningful by exploring the art of darkness. The reason I love watching horror films, mysteries and documentaries about crime is that it somehow numbs me from the pain I experience in my own life,” Gaga tells Billboard. “You are watching something worse than whatever you think you’re going through. The terror of that suspends you, and you are able to forget about your own pain for a moment. It’s like a safe, psychological form of masochism.”
When the singer cold-called Murphy to get a role on the show, she says, “I told him I wanted a place to put all of my anguish and rage and that I was excited to play a killer.”
Obviously, he believed in her acting potential. “We relate to each other because we’re both transformers,” Murphy tells Billboard. “We do something trying to work out shit in our personal life. And then the next year we put on a different costume and we’re somebody else.”
“Ryan and I have both experienced the same sort of criticism over the intention of our work,” Gaga says. “My whole career has been built on this perception that I’m trying to evoke attention because of the things I’m interested in, when it’s not that way at all. If you don’t like to be disturbed, [American Horror Story] probably isn’t for you.”
Looking back on the year, Murphy couldn’t be happier with Gaga on the show. “She’s one of the world’s most talented people, and she’s a really great actress,” he says. “There’s a six?minute moment that is her introduction on the show, when she doesn’t have any dialogue. It’s just like a story in pictures. I kept saying to her, ‘I know you can do it. You’re going do it. It’s going to be great.’ So I brought [the footage] in to show it to her and she literally wept. She burst into tears. I was worried, but she told me later that it was because she was so happy that somebody had believed in her.”
Read the full Billboard cover story here. Gaga will perform and be honored as 2015’s Woman in Music event on Dec. 11 in New York. Billboard’s Women In Music 2015 will be broadcast on Dec. 18 on Lifetime.