Dylan McDermott serves up horrors

Actor Dylan McDermott serves up HORRORS to his audience every week on the appropriately-named cable TV series "American Horror Story." Now with Halloween fast approaching, he sits for a Sunday Morning chat with Rita Braver:


Many of us came to know him as Bobby Donnell, the ruggedly handsome defense lawyer who battled the system (and his inner demons) for seven seasons on "The Practice."

This season, Dylan McDermott takes on a new role, as psychiatrist Ben Harmon in the FX psycho-drama "American Horror Story." This time, he's battling different kinds of demons ... and they're everywhere!

McDermott describes his character as a person who is haunted - literally.

The Harmons buy a new house in L.A. , in an effort to start over after Ben's affair with one of his patients back in Boston.

They get a great price on the place because, well, the previous owners died in the house - a murder-suicide.

"This is always the beginning of any horror movie," McDermott laughed. "That Don't go in the house! Get out of the house! So here we are again."

"You actually know if there have been murders in the house," Braver said, "and yet?"

"The deal was too good!" McDermott reasoned.

The place comes complete with a creepy and murderous next door neighbor played by Jessica Lange.

The creators of "American Horror Story" are Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, who, you may be surprised to know, brought us "Glee."

So is McDermott going to be singing? "Nah, I hope - actually, you know what? In the next episode, I will be! But not the 'Glee' singing. It'll be a little darker."

Besides demons and ghost, the show features plenty of skin.

"There are some scenes that show quite a lot of you," said Braver. "Did you have any trepidation about doing that?"

"It didn't bother me at all," said McDermott. "There is an aspect of Ben Harmon that is a sex addict, you know, and I think that's very important to his character. I think a lot of actors who had read this script and maybe wanted to do it wanted to soften that part of him, and I was actually the guy, you know, running into the burning building as they were coming out!"

With his GQ good looks and piercing blue eyes, Dylan McDermott's own past may surprise you. He was born in Waterbury, Connecticut. When he was only 5 years old, his mother was shot to death when her boyfriend's gun went off. It was ruled an accident.

McDermott was raised by his grandmother.

"You know, I think one of the greatest gifts you could ever have is to be born poor, you know?" McDermott said. "We lived on $100 a week, my sister and I. And my grandmother worked two jobs. She rescued us in many ways and became our mom."

He spent his teenage years working in his father's saloon in New York City.

"I heard you used to break up fights with your dad, in his bars?" Braver said.

"Oh yeah, this was an Irish brewery, you know?"

"What did you learn from all that?"

"Wow, the thing I learned the most was that there were so many actors who were waiters and bartenders, and they would always be drunk," McDermott replied. "And they'd be like I don't know why I can't get a job! So I decided, you know, I'm not going to go down that path."

It was his father's third wife, playwright Eve Ensler, famous for "The Vagina Monologues," who put him on a different path, by introducing him to acting.

"She saw something in me before I did, when I was about 16 years old, and put me in a class," he said.

He got his screen name, Dylan, from Ensler, too. McDermott's original first name was Mark.

"Eve and my father were going to have a baby, and they were going to name the baby Dylan," McDermott said. The baby miscarried. "So I took the name."

McDermott landed his breakthrough role in the 1987 film "Hamburger Hill." He also played Julia Roberts' husband in "Steel Magnolias."

At one point he was engaged to her. "Yes, I was, yeah, years ago."

"And what happened?" Braver asked.

"I ... clearly it didn't work out," he laughed.

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