Editor’s Note: The below contains some spoilers of last week’s episode of AHS: Cult.
Those who watched last week’s episode of American Horror Story: Cult were no doubt sufficiently grossed out by a flashback scene in which two of the series’ main characters take a walk through a “hell house.” One of the actors who brought that AHS: Cult scene to life was none other than Mario Diaz, who we recently caught up with to discuss his guest spot on the hit FX series.
Diaz has spent more than a decade making a name for himself in nightlife circles of Los Angeles, and he’s personally responsible for founding and promoting some of the city’s most exciting gay parties. (One of the parties he throws, Big Fat Dick, is the country’s longest-running gay nightlife event, going on 17 years!) But Diaz is also an actor, having appeared in several films, TV shows and stage productions.
In last week’s episode of AHS: Cult, characters Kai and Winter (portrayed by Evan Peters and Billie Lourd) find themself in a “hell house,” which is indeed a real phenomenon. These are evangelical ‘haunted houses’ that instead of the supernatural focus on the (typically grossly inaccurate or inflated) consequences of homosexuality, drug use, abortion and other behavior the church forbids.
In the episode, the hell house was more than a haunted house, though, and instead of employing actors it featured live subjects — hostages who were being tortured by the twisted Pastor Charles, portrayed by none other than ’80s music superstar Rick Springfield.
“The set was creepy and amazing,” Diaz tells us exclusively. “My good friend Jon Bush worked in the art department under Production Designer Jeff Mossa, and his team did such an incredible job on the house. It was truly spooky, which made it much easier to get into character.”
But Diaz’s day on set wasn’t all doom and gloom, as he tells us he had a great time working with series stars Peters and Lourd.
“Everyone was so nice and professional. I was particularly fond of Billie. Such a sweetie and a total goofball. We had a lot of fun on set, and what a talented girl she is,” Diaz tells us. “Watching Evan in front of the camera was really like an acting lesson for me. The power with him is all internal — in the eyes. Evan and I discussed gender politics off-set, and I showed him some of the Kundalini yoga I’ve been practicing.”
The entire process of shooting his episode of AHS: Cult was very secretive, says Diaz.
“When I went in for my fitting is when I found out what I’d be doing in the episode,” he says. “The entire production is very ‘hush hush’ as to not give away any spoilers. They don’t email pages, so I didn’t get them until the fitting. [I was told] that I was playing the gay man who was going to be tortured by none other than Rick Springfield — a dream of every little queer boy who grew up in the ’80s. I was so psyched. “The whole time I wanted to geek out and get a selfie with [Springfield], but I was playing it cool. I didn’t want to be that guy. But in my head I was all ‘Holy shit, I’m being tortured by Rick Springfield … this rules!'”
Diaz’s recent stint on AHS: Cult wasn’t his first time working with Ryan Murphy, either. Diaz also appeared on Murphy’s prior project, Feud: Bette and Joan, playing a gay man on that series as well.
“This was my second co-star gig on a Ryan Murphy production, and fingers crossed there’s more to come,” says Diaz. “He is a pioneer and a radical. He’s fearless and provocative. These are qualities in people I can’t get enough of in my life. Bring it on.”