The Horror Honeys: AHS: Cult's Miguel Sagaz Talks Cults, Killers, and Queens

AHS: Cult's Miguel Sagaz Talks Cults, Killers, and Queens

A Classics Honey Interview from Samantha

American Horror Story: Cult concluded earlier this month, and with its backdrop of contemporary politics and a shift away from supernatural elements, the world it painted felt a little too close for comfort.

The seventh season of FX’s wickedly popular anthology horror series opened with some of its most unsettling and stomach-churning imagery to date (footage of Donald Trump winning the 2016 presidential election) before delving into the psychology of fear, loathing, and really messed up cults.

Cult depicts the havoc wrecked by Kai Anderson (Evan Peters); a wannabe dictator with ridiculous hair who believes that fear is the golden ticket to political control. And we’re talking good old-fashioned fear, in the form of a cult of killer clowns out to terrorize anyone who gets in their way. That’s real bad news for Sarah Paulson’s coulrophobic Ally, who becomes embroiled in the cult’s murderous business. But luckily for Ally, there proves to be a force stronger than Kai’s fear tactics: feminism. (We knew it!)

The feminist politics explored in Cult come to a head in the seventh episode, Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag. The real-life Solanas was a radical feminist best known for shooting Andy Wharhol and writing the SCUM: Manifesto, which argues that men are basically the worst. In Cult’s fictionalized retelling of the story, Solanis (played by Lena Dunham) forms her own cult dedicated to cutting up men, committing a series of murders that are later dubbed the Zodiac killings.

Among Solanis’ followers is Bruce (Miguel Sagaz), the man responsible for sending the cryptic Zodiac letters to the police and taking credit for the murders. And when Solanis finds out, Bruce learns the hard way that the part about cutting up men was deadly serious…

I recently caught up with actor Miguel Sagaz to chat about his killer role in Cult, his surprise at finding out he was playing the Zodiac Killer, and his drag debut in new movie Cherry Pop.

Samantha McLaren: American Horror Story is one of the most successful horror shows on television right now. Were you a fan before you joined the cast?

Miguel Sagaz: It’s a great show and I’ve been a fan of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s work since the beginning. Not only with American Horror Story but with every show that they’ve touched. I think they’re incredible pioneers in this industry. So you can’t imagine how excited I was to be part of it!

SM: I bet! Were you a fan of the horror genre in general before American Horror Story?

MS: You know what, I was. Believe it or not, I was dying to do something with horror. I remember a couple of years back I did a short film that was my first experience with horror, but it was never to the [same] intense level or quality of production. So for me to step into my first big horror television show being American Horror Story was incredible, because I’ve been a fan of [the genre] since I was little. I remember hanging my sister’s dolls and putting like chocolate syrup and ketchup on them, and making haunted houses. I’ve always had a fascination with the occult in general.

SM: Your character Bruce died a particularly grisly death, which much have been a lot of fun to film, especially being a fan of the horror genre. What was your reaction when you first discovered your character’s fate?

MS: Yeah, I definitely got the whole American Horror Story treatment with that! Well everything is so secretive that when I auditioned for the part, that wasn’t revealed. So it was a very interesting process. The audition was extremely emotional, and it was mostly based on the range of what an actor could do with a character. But then when I went to Fox to get the script, I remember I was so excited in the parking lot reading it. Finding out what my role was going to be was incredible. Not only did I not know I was going to die, but I didn’t know that I was the Zodiac Killer and betraying this group of women! It gave me a lot more layers to play with from beginning to end.

SM: Getting to play the Zodiac Killer in one of your first major horror roles, that’s a pretty exciting role to play!

MS: Yeah, I cannot complain, it was incredible!

SM: Were you previously familiar with the SCUM Manifesto and with Valerie Solanas before taking the part? Obviously, this is a slightly fictionalized account of that story.

MS: I’d heard about Valerie Solanas, and once I got the part I started doing research about it. It’s incredible to see that you can actually get the SCUM Manifesto nowadays. I read the entire manifesto, and you could see all the layers of anger, but also the politicized views that this woman had, who was of course an extremist in every way. But it was very interesting to read because that also adds so many layers [in the show] to why she creates this cult and brings all these people together. It was a real base to the story, and I think that made it ten times more powerful than if it was just a made up story.

SM: This is obviously the most politically charged season of American Horror Story to date, between the commentary on the current political climate and the radical feminist movements of the 1960s. Did that affect your decision to join the cast at all, or was that kept relative secret in the audition process as well? 

MS: All I knew was what Ryan Murphy had said publicly, which was that it was starting with election night, so I knew that were going to be layers of politics and extreme views. Honestly, all I knew was what the fans knew at the time. This show has an incredible way of keeping things secret, even from the cast. We would only get the part of the script that we were part of. I started connecting all the dots with time. I knew what I was walking into, I just didn’t know to what extent.

AHS Cult premiere

SM: I recently watched your new movie Cherry Pop, which is now on Netflix. What was it like working alongside some alumni from RuPaul’s Drag Race like Detox and Bob the Drag Queen?
MS: Oh my god! Well first of all, thank you for watching the film, I hope you had a laugh! Honestly, it was incredible. I’d never done drag in my life. I literally stepped into these heels with so much respect for these Queens, and I came out of it with even more, because it’s not just quick hair and makeup stuff: you have to learn how to walk, and dance, and create a character. And of course as you were saying, I was working with people that might not be trained actors, but they’re trained professional performance artists and they’re so incredibly well-known in their field, so I had to step it up.

Also, I didn’t want to just play a stereotype of a drag queen. Even though I play a fictionalized and extreme character, Choriza, I wanted to bring some truth to the character. I didn’t want to be the sore thumb sticking out, and for it to be like oh, you can absolutely tell that she’s never done drag! I hope it came across like I was one of the gang, you know? I think it was great; I loved every second of it.

Cherry Pop now on Netflix!

SM: That’s so good to hear. If I hadn’t known you’d never done drag before, I wouldn’t have guessed it! What projects are you working on currently, what’s up next for you?

MS: You know what, that’s the beauty of Hollywood. Right now, I’m back on the audition table, so I’m auditioning for a couple of projects. Of course, December’s very slow in Hollywood. But pilot season is coming, and I want to develop my career both in comedy and in drama. I think both with Cherry Pop and American Horror Story I was able to showcase how I can really go from one extreme to the next, and I really enjoyed both. So I’m just hoping that the right role will come my way and I can keep on working in this industry, because it’s really what I was born to do. I love the challenge of being an actor.

SM: I can’t wait to see what you do next. I have just one last question, and this is the question that we ask everyone: what’s your favorite scary movie? 

MS: I have to say, just from the top of my head, I really love The Orphanage, I don’t know if you’ve watched it.

SM: Oh yeah, love it.

MS: I love it. And I also love The Ring. I think that creepy Japanese influence was incredible. It gave me nightmares. Samara gave me nightmares for a couple of nights!

Follow Miguel on Twitter @MiguelSagaz
Miguel Sagaz is repped by Brandon Cohen at BAC Talent and AAA

You can pre-order American Horror Story: Cult on DVD and BluRay now. In the meantime, catch Miguel in Cherry Pop, currently available on Netflix and DVD!