‘American Horror Story: Asylum’ Star James Cromwell Talks Heath Ledger, Distancing Himself From Dark Dr. Arden (VIDEO)

at 1:14 pm | By

If you’re an acclaimed actor like James Cromwell, you can pretty much have your pick of new roles and projects, but he admitted that his newest one, Ryan Murphy and FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum is in a genre he normally does not enjoy.

“I don’t actually like the genre horror… I was just talking about The Shining and Diabolique and some wonderful ones, but the average ones — the zombie ones — I never got into it. And I don’t like it when they cut real quick and there’s a shriek, and I think ‘Oh come on!’” Cromwell, 72, told Celebuzz on the show premiere’s red carpet in Hollywood, Calif. on Saturday.

In fact, Cromwell shared that he had “no idea” just how dark and twisted the show — or his character, Dr. Arden, specifically would go until he after he had already signed up.

“I got the first four scripts, and my first reaction was ‘What have I gotten myself into!?’” He said.

What kind of horrors can we expect from Cromwell on American Horror Story: Asylum?

As Dr. Arden, the experimental physician at Briarcliff, the titular asylum in the series, Cromwell taps into a more psychological horror than an overt, physical one at times. He is a character quick to reach for sadistic tools — be it electroshock therapy on patients or bondage and gags on potential “girlfriends.” And because of that, he is a character Cromwell tries to keep at a distance and avoid taking home with him at all costs.

Heath Ledgerdid himself an injury by playing [the Joker] as well as he did for as long as he did,” Cromwell considered. “He had other problems, but by doing that movie, he internalized that kind of anger… I can’t do that to my system. I basically have absolved myself, I show up, and I assume the position, and I do the work; I try not to get my head in that place.”

As a strong man of science in the series, Cromwell goes head-to-head with Jessica Lange’s Sister Jude pretty much immediately on the premiere episode, setting up a series-long conflict. The debate over whose motives (science versus religion) may be one that we still have today, but there is no question in Cromwell’s mind that neither of their methods are correct.

“She wants control, and I want power, and the more she tries to hold onto control, the more I try to use my power for ascendancy. That’s an irresistible force and an immovable object,” he said.

“I don’t side with [either] of them. They’re both pretty bent as far as I’m concerned!”

So what is the worst thing that Dr. Arden does, per his portrayer?

“He’s very cruel to little animals,” Cromwell teased.

But he’s also the creator of the Raspers, a set of former patients, mutated by Dr. Arden’s experiments, which currently live, animalistically, in the woods surrounding the asylum. Isn’t that pretty terrible, too?

“Human beings, there are a lot of them, but little animals can’t defend themselves!” Cromwell joked.

For more on the darkness on American Horror Story: Asylum, be sure to watch our full video interview with Cromwell.

American Horror Story: Asylum premeres Wednesday at 10 PM on FX.

What kind of scares are you hoping for on American Horror Story: Asylum? Let us know in the comments below!

Danielle Turchiano

Watch all of our interviews from the American Horror Story: Asylum premiere below.

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