Ryan Murphy on Fox’s ‘Scream Queens,’ a Feminist Horror Comedy That Satirizes Greek Life


LOS ANGELES: Scream Queens, described as a “bitingly satirical look” at the college Greek system, is Ryan Murphy’s upcoming comedy-horror event series for Fox. Not to be confused with MTV’s Scream — Murphy says the series are “very different” — Scream Queens focuses on a sorority and the “devil-clad killer” who murders students around campus.

Murphy is no stranger to the horror genre (and credits The Walking Dead with bringing horror back to the small screen), but at a 2015 TCA Summer Press Tour event today, the prolific showrunner said that Scream Queens will feature more over-the-top satire than American Horror Story. (It’s worth mentioning, though, that the idea for the show was born during AHS: Coven, a season that Murphy originally wanted to spin off). “There is a cartoonish quality to the attacks,” said Murphy, “much more than American Horror, which is more sexualized and darker at times.”

“Satire” was the word of the panel, with Jamie Lee Curtis praising Scream Queens for its social satire, citing that it works because everyone is “inherently dark, inherently unhappy, frustrated human beings who are trying so desperately to hold it together.” As in Murphy’s other series, the show features several characters who delight in saying awful things to each other. On the surface, Scream Queens is a fun horror comedy, but the show also aims to dive a little deeper into the screwed-up world of fraternities and sororities. “What’s interesting about the show is that every week stories come out about the things that these young women say and do in sororities all across the country — hazing rituals, etc.” Murphy said.

Ryan Murphy & co. also talked up the feminist aspect of the show — the large panel featured eight actresses and only one actor — and claimed that Curtis, the original scream queen, “brings such a great sense of strength and feminism” to the series. The importance of female friendship will also apparently be central to Scream Queens: “The young women in this show are much more interested in friendships with each other than the boys [are].” This all sounds great, but at the same time, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the show has only three writers (Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan) and none are women.

But more than anything, Scream Queens seems committed to the fun and the murder mystery. It features improvisers Niecy Nash (who didn’t need much convincing; “Murphy had me at ‘hello,'” she said) and Nasim Pedrad (who inspired costar Keke Palmer to take improv classes), and will go into some weird territory, with Murphy hinting at a “golfing fraternity” that shows up early in the season. Plus, the show is a good ol’ fashioned whodunnit; not even the actors know what’s going to happen or whether their characters will survive. To further perpetuate the mystery among the cast, the actresses sometimes did alternate takes in which they acted as if they were the killer. Scream Queens might end up being the most Ryan Murphy show ever — though who knows whether or not that’s a good thing.