Interview with Cameron Cowperthwaite, Star of “American Horror Stories: Necro”

At the beginning of the summer, the second season of American Horror Stories premiered on Hulu, giving fans new and twisted tales to look forward to each week. So far, we’ve seen human dolls (“Dollhouse”), ghost-sensing doorbell cameras (“Aura”), club-going serial killers (“Drive”), cowpox-wound-sucking Puritans (“Milkmaids”), mirror-residing urban legends (“Bloody Mary”), and the worst plastic surgery ever (“Facelift”). Next week’s episode, “Necro,” has been much anticipated, not only it’s ambiguously insidious name. Could “necro” mean “necromancy” AKA communing with the dead or “necrophilia, the sexual attraction to corpses? But this has also been a hot topic as fans wait for the return of Cameron Cowperthwaite who played Speedwagon in the seventh season of American Horror Story: Cult.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Cameron about his background in acting, his roles in the American Horror Story universe, his favorite moments from being on the show, and more!

PopHorror: Welcome, Cameron! I am very excited to have you here today. Thank you for this opportunity!

Cameron Cowperthwaite: No, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

PopHorror: Absolutely! So just to get started, how has your summer been so far? Besides anticipating your new episode of American Horror Stories, what else have you been up to this summer, career or personal wise?

Cameron Cowperthwaite: I’m doing pretty well. I’m going to Greece in a little bit. I’m waiting for it to cool down, because according to some of my friends, it’s too hot to go in July. As far as the summer goes, it’s been pretty good. I was just in New York City filming a show for Amazon. I don’t think I’m allowed to say what it is about because of the NDA, but the filming was great. When I can say something, I would love to say something. It’s been a good summer; I’ve gotten back to the East Coast a couple times, because that’s where my family lives. I don’t see them as much as I want to, but this summer, I made it a point to see them more, so I got some good family time in. Overall, it’s been great!

PopHorror: That’s awesome! I’m glad you’re having a great summer. I totally understand about NDA’s and respect that’s what you have to do as an artist. It just makes it all that more exciting when your show does come out.

Cameron Cowperthwaite: It feels so weird to say, “I’m in this thing, but I can’t talk about it,” and it’s so funny, because it sounds so cool, but then I feel it ultimately kills conversations, because you can’t ask about it.

PopHorror: No worries, we have plenty else to talk about. Before jumping into American Horror Stories, I want to know a little more about you as a person. What does a day in the life of Cameron look like?

Cameron Cowperthwaite:  I feel like there are two different versions: one for when I’m working on set and one for when I’m not working on set. There’s just such drastic difference in how those days operate. My last day on set, I did this prosthetic piece that took about four hours, so I was up at 3:30 AM, got to set at 4:00AM, was in the chair until 8:00AM, filmed for 12 hours, and then went home. So you’re on set for 17-18 hours, which I love, which is why I think I’m addicted to this business.

I think it’s like summer camp. Being off set, I feel like I get a little stir crazy. I try to get up, get coffee, and do something creative, whether it’s read a play or a book, write something, go to an acting class, work on an audition. I try to find elements of being as creative as possible. I like to cook, so when I’m not on set and have afforded time, sometimes I like to find a recipe and make something and force my roommates to eat it. I think COVID was a good time to learn, and I was able to get quite good at it.

PopHorror: What’s your favorite thing to cook?

Cameron Cowperthwaite: I think normally you can wow people with a nice steak. If I were to cook for someone I’ve never cooked for, before that would be my go to and set myself up for success. I think I discovered it during COVID, because you couldn’t go to acting class. There were no in-person auditions, and it just felt like the stir crazy I was talking about was dialed to 11, so I had to do something. I discovered that cooking sufficed for a second there on filling that void.

PopHorror: And there’s only so many times you can order from Uber Eats or GrubHub.

Cameron Cowperthwaite: How much did we scroll through the Postmates’ menu? I don’t know.

PopHorror: Exactly! So, I understand that you grew up with family in the entertainment industry, and that you got your start in modeling before getting into acting. Have you always wanted to be an actor?

Cameron Cowperthwaite: I think I always wanted to work in this business in some way. My parents met at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival which, at the time, was the second biggest festival next to the Edinburgh one. They moved to LA and did the Hollywood thing for a little bit, and then my mom moved back to the East Coast when I was born to be closer to family to help with the new kiddo. She got into the New York circuit while my dad did some regular jobs, because independent contracting was tough on two parents at the same time with a youngster, but it was kind of always in the family bloodline. I grew up going to Broadway shows and seeing theater and going to the movies every weekend with my dad and sister. When she graduated college, she went to work in the publicity sector of 42West, while I was out here doing the acting thing. So, it feels like it’s the family business in that way.

I think it’s just the way it was structured in my family growing up, because my mom was on set all the time; there was this draw to it. “I want to go visit and be on set, too!” I think it just slowly engrained itself in my brain, and I was like, “I feel like that’s what I want to do because my mom does it.” I think it caught fire from there.

PopHorror: That’s so cool you had that experience growing up and that it led to where you are today.

Cameron Cowperthwaite: I know I’m very grateful. With the acting or film business, it seems to me—and I can’t speak fully on this because it’s not like I know every single person’s backstory—like either every single member of your family is in it or not a single person even knows that the movie business is a job. It’s complete polarizing parts of the spectrum, and I feel like I fell into the part where it’s like, “I guess everybody does it!”

PopHorror: What is your favorite aspect of being an actor? What brings you the most joy?

Cameron Cowperthwaite: Being on set. Honestly, I love the people. I do love the acting. I think the process of creating a character and working on good writing and working with really talented people I grew up watching that were my heroes who are now my working peers is such a wild, mental gymnastic that I think I’m still getting used to. At the end of the day, it’s the laughs and the vibes and the stories and the people and the connections that are made on set. Like I said, it’s like summer camp, because it’s always so hard for me to say goodbye. I always don’t want to leave, and in that summer camp way, I never know when I’m going to see these people again. I think I soak up and enjoy the set life as much as possible. I would say that would be my favorite part.

PopHorror: That actually leads into my next question. What actors/performers inspired you when you were growing up?

Cameron Cowperthwaite: When I answer this question some people are always like, “Wow! Really?” because it’s not the usual suspects. I mean, I love the usual suspects like DeNiro and Brando and Denzel Washington: all those people are amazing. But I was a huge fan of Robert Pattinson. Huge fan. I remember back when I was going to acting class and Robert Pattinson had not done his indie movies yet… I think he was still basically known for Twilight and Harry Potter. There’s just something about him that I was like, “Man, that dude is good!”  We were going around in acting class being asked, “Who inspires you right now in this moment?” and I said Robert Pattinson. I remember saying that and people in my acting class looked at me like I asked them for the square root of something. About a year later, Good Time came out and then High Life and The Lighthouse and Batman and people were like, “OKAY!” I respect the trajectory of his career. I’m very inspired by people who go against the norm and make wacky choices. He is my probably most favorite person to watch.

PopHorror: What was your thoughts about the new Batman movie?

Cameron Cowperthwaite: I remember watching it and going, “This is the best Batman next to the Dark Knight.” I thought it was outstanding. 10/10.

PopHorror: I thought it was a very interesting take on the whole Batman enterprise since it’s been done so many times. I guess I’m a traditionalist; Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson are iconic.

Cameron Cowperthwaite: I just re-watched the Michael Keaton Batman the other day actually and was thinking I should go back through the histories here. Michael Keaton is awesome.

PopHorror: And Batman Returns with Danny DeVito as Penguin is, hands down, horrifying, grotesque, comedic… we could talk about Batman all day, but we have other questions to get to.

Cameron Cowperthwaite: I have to be careful about how much I let my nerd level rise here, because I could talk about this for hours.

PopHorror: Well, you are in a nerd safe space, so feel free to nerd out as much as you want! If there was anything else/one thing you would do besides acting, what would that be? If you weren’t an actor, what would you want to do with your life?

Cameron Cowperthwaite: I love this question because it brings me back to the days of James Lipton and Inside the Actors Studio, and I’ve always wondered what I would say. Honestly, I feel like I would be a chef if I could be something that wasn’t in the film business.

PopHorror: What is your favorite horror movie?

Cameron Cowperthwaite: John Carpenter’s The Thing. It was the first movie I watched when the pandemic hit, and it still holds up: the practical effects, Kurt Russell, the score, the story. I love the new wave too, like Robert Eggers, Ari Aster, Midsommer, Hereditary, the new wave that A24 is inspiring, this high-level family drama disguised as a horror film way of the world we are going towards. Even Ryan Murphy, his anthology idea and the horror stories sector, is so smart. He doesn’t base it off of jumps scares; it’s all cerebral. But John Carpenter’s The Thing is just so good. It’s literally perfect.

PopHorror: Tell us how you got involved with the American Horror Story universe, starting with your role as Speedwagon in season seven.

Cameron Cowperthwaite: I had worked with Ryan [Murphy] and the rest of his team, who are essentially just all the same people in different positions, because there’s such a loyalty with Ryan Murphy television and him utilizing a lot of the same people in all aspects. I’ve had the privilege and been very blessed to have worked for him multiple times. I’m so grateful he keeps hiring me. I had done my stint on Feud which was the first time I worked with Ryan, and then I had the most Hollywood moment. I think I was 23 or 24. I was fresh into this business and learning how it all works, but about a year after Feud, my agent called me:

A: “Hey, I have a job offer.”
C: “Oh great! Send the audition over.”
A: “No no no, an OFFER!”
C: “What is that?”
A: “They want to hire you again!”
C: “Who does?”
A: “Ryan Murphy wants to hire you on American Horror Story!”
C: “The show?”
A: “Cameron, the show! It’s an offer!”

So, it blew my mind that he called and asked me to come back after we had worked together the first time, which was such a wonderful experience. Getting to be in that horror story world with legends like Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters was amazing.

PopHorror: That actually leads into my next question. What was it like filming with OG American Horror Story stars like Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters?

Cameron Cowperthwaite: Amazing. It’s incredible, because I think my own curiosities are always stemming from watching actors process and work through the scene. To me, I find that is the most amazing thing. I think Joaquin Phoenix said, “I don’t watch my own stuff, because you and the rest of the world are only seeing 10% of what I did.” There is 90% on the editing room floor that, in its own right, is amazing or funny or excellent or moving or whatever it is and it didn’t make it to the trajectory of the mainstream story. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist for me still.

I will watch my own stuff, because my own curiosity killed the cat and I have to see it, but I do understand that there’s 90% of their excellence that you’re not seeing that I was privy to. I saw Sarah and Evan work through things that didn’t make it into the episode that were lessons I still look at today in myself when I’m exploring a scene. It was so inspiring to see them both work, and they work so fucking hard. It’s unbelievable. It’s infectious. There’s a pressure to be good as an actor, but there’s also a pressure to set a tone and precedence on set. They were the king and queen, and it was amazing. Some of the best experiences I’ve had.

PopHorror: Is there a particular favorite memory or moment you have during your time in the American Horror Story universe?

Cameron Cowperthwaite: There’s some stuff on the new episode that I would incorporate. I can’t say it, but there are some scenes in there where I was like, “I’ve peaked now!” in terms of craziness, in absolute nuttery. But I would say being killed by Sarah Paulson was an honor. There’s this thing going around on American Horror Story that I learned about when I was there: it is an honor to die on the show. It was interesting, because I was in the Trump version of the show, the only season that’s truthfully not supernatural. There were real world events that were happening as we were filming, and we would take breaks while the episode was being rewritten based on what was really happening on the news. It was trippy and so interesting.

There was one time where lunch went really long, because the writers had to get together to change the script because something had popped up on Twitter. I can’t remember what exactly, but it was some inspirational real-life moment that was stranger than fiction that they incorporated into the episode. How often will I ever be in something that is being written as history is happening? It was such an interesting flow to be in, because it’s just not normally how it goes. I also loved that they were willing to slash and burn their own ideas and trajectories for these characters to accompany what was happening in real life. That overall was such a cool experience to be in. And then being killed by Sarah Paulson was pretty awesome.

PopHorror: “It’s an honor to be killed by Sarah Paulson.” That is the highlight quote of this interview.

Cameron Cowperthwaite: I feel like there’s only a handful of us who get to share that badge of honor.

PopHorror: You could start a Facebook group called “I was killed by Sarah Paulson,” and only certain people could join.

Cameron Cowperthwaite: Yeah we meet every Tuesday.

PopHorror: That’s cool what you said about Cult and how the writers were updating it in real time. I think one of the most frightening things about Cult is that it’s not about witches or ghosts, but like, this is really happening! We are living through this!

Cameron Cowperthwaite: It was wild! It’s like a once in a lifetime experience to have been in that time as it was unfolding. It made it scarier. You were on set shooting a scene that you just watched on the news and you’d be like, “What???” It was such an overstimulating moment in time, but it felt almost cathartic to be able to act through it.

PopHorror: Now you’re forever going to be part of that historical moment with the show and with everything that happened to our country at the time.

Cameron Cowperthwaite: We were all in a state of crazy about what was going to happen, and everyone was unsure of what it meant for us politically. I just thought it was very brave that Ryan and Brad decided to go that way. It’s a bold choice, and I respect it immensely.

PopHorror: Now I know you said you can’t really talk about “Necro,” and I totally respect that. All we really know about the episode is what can be deduced from the trailer for season two, including Madison Iseman’s character saying, “People are most interesting right after death,” and then a brief glimpse at a woman climbing on top of a corpse in a morgue and lifting up her skirt. Can we expect this episode to be very dark and twisted even more so than the other episodes from this season?

Cameron Cowperthwaite: I think so just off the title alone. When I got the script, I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much while reading something. I kept flipping the page and then going back and being like, “Wait a minute… did I read that correctly?” It was a horror-stories-dialed-to-11 moment. It’s so twisted but—and I attribute this to both Ryan and his production team, Logan [Kibens], our director and Crystal [Liu], the writer—it’s all so incredibly grounded. There was never a moment when I was questioning what was happening. I was shocked but each story beat unfolded in a motivated and grounded way.

It was nice to be a part of saying the words and acting the scenes, but I owe so much to the team behind the camera who set it up for such a successful experience. It takes a great writer, and Crystal did such a phenomenal job. It takes a great director, and Logan was amazing. I had such a blast working with both of them. We were in this bubble exploring and trying different things. It was such a phenomenal experience to collaborate with both of them as well as Madison. She’s such a giving actress, and I was just in awe of her performance most of the time. There were moments where I was like, I know I have a line, but I just wanted to watch her work.

PopHorror: What is your favorite season of American Horror Story?

Cameron Cowperthwaite: I have favorite seasons for different reasons. I love Cult biasedly because I’m in it, but also because, as I said before, that it’s not supernatural. It’s such a different spin on how they went about the show. I think Hotel has some of the most gorgeous costume designs, cinematography, set designs, and the immersion into the world… I was like, “Holy shit! This is impressive!” Lady Gaga was impressive and all the actors were just amazing. Then obviously, the first season. I remember watching the first season with my college roommates. We would watch it religiously on Wednesday nights when it would come out. I remember the whole intro and how creepy it all was, and I remember thinking about that when I was on set. My college roommates couldn’t get enough of the fact that I was on the show knowing we all watched it together seven years before.

PopHorror: We don’t really know much about what’s happening with season 11. I was wondering if you had any predictions or hopes of what you wanted to see with the new season hopefully coming out soon.

Cameron Cowperthwaite: I just love that each season levels up in a different way and that they keep pushing new boundaries and new filmmaking techniques. Like with Double Feature with how they did two stories in one. I am just excited to see what boundary or envelope they decide to push, because I’m always so impressed with how they go about one-upping themselves every time. I’m very curious to see where it all goes, and I have obviously the upmost faith it’s going to be awesome.

PopHorror: Thank you so much for this opportunity, Cameron, and for being open and honest with all of your answers!

Cameron Cowperthwaite: Thank you so much for having me!

Make sure to tune in on Thursday, September 1st, to watch the newest episode of American Horror Stories: Necro on Hulu!

About Maggie Riegel

Maggie Riegel is a first year PhD student of Communication, Culture, and Media at Drexel University in Philadelphia. An avid horror addict since childhood, her favorite horror genres include Stephen King books/movies, psychological horror, historical horror, and paranormal horror. Her research centers around American Horror Story and exploring intersectional identities of race, gender, sexuality, and disability within the show’s decade long canon. Her other research interests include gender and queer studies, critical race theory, feminist theory, horror studies, and other academic disciplines that challenges structures of power and hegemony. She holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science from Moravian University, a master’s degree in political science from Lehigh University, and a master’s certificate in women, gender, and sexuality studies from Lehigh University. She is the creator and administrator of an all-original American Horror Story meme page on Instagram, AHSFXmemes, and will be presenting her essay “Goddess Don’t Speak in Whispers…They Scream: Queer Identity Construction and Visibility in American Horror Story” at the Popular Culture Association conference in April 2022. In her spare time, she enjoys painting, gardening, drinking wine, cooking elaborate meals, and taking care of her five cats.

Check Also

Interview With AnnaLynne McCord, Star Of ‘Condition Of Return’

Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SGA-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor …