A tireless working actor, Adina Porter has no problem getting a script, showing up on set and hitting her mark. It’s how she has amassed a career of scene-stealing arcs and “that woman...” roles on everything from True Blood to The CW’s The 100, WGN’s Underground and Ray Donovan. “I’m very happy to be a working actor,” says Porter, who went from a one-episode appearance on American Horror Story: Murder House to a major recurring role on Ryan Murphy’s anthology horror series, earning her first Emmy nomination for Cult.
“I show up and they see what I can do and then -- that’s been my entire career -- they stretch it out,” she adds, speaking specifically about a role in the upcoming biopic film Miss Virginia, co-starring Vanessa Williams, Uzo Aduba and Kimberly Hebert Gregory. But the sentiment, as she suggests, also applies to her growing presence on TV’s biggest shows.
In 2016, Porter joined American Horror Story’s sixth season, Roanoke, as Lee Harris. Initially hired for six episodes, the actress was unsure if each new script would be her last, only to find herself coming back for more and more episodes. Ultimately, Porter’s character survived a slashing of Roanoke’s A-list cast members -- Angela Bassett, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Kathy Bates -- to become the breakout of the season. Returning for Cult as Beverly Hope, Porter once again outshined her co-stars to be nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie, the only cast member aside from Sarah Paulson to get recognized for their performance.
“I’m very, very grateful,” Porter says of the nomination, calling the 2018 Primetime Emmys an “amazing experience.”
Now she’s a main character on Apocalypse, playing actress and talk show host Dinah Stevens, and feeling a “tiny bit more relaxed.” Knowing how the show works, that a character can disappear for a few scenes or even a few episodes only to return and have a major arc, she’s no longer terrified “if you’re not in every single episode.”
Only three episodes into Apocalypse, there is still a lot to learn about Porter’s character, as well as where the season -- a crossover between Murder House and Coven taking place in a near future after a nuclear holocaust -- is headed. Audiences only just learned that Dinah is mother to Andre (UnREAL’s Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) and is a witch, a detail that was revealed after returning characters from season three played by Paulson, Frances Conroy and Emma Roberts resurrected a poisoned Dinah.
“That was an absolute surprise to me,” Porter says of the bait and switch. “Because it was the third episode, I was like, ‘Oh, not yet! Mommy wants a new pair of shoes!’ It’s great with American Horror Story, you can die and come back as a ghost or whatever.”
While she doesn’t offer specifics about where the character is going -- the season is still currently filming -- Porter’s character does survive long enough for the actress to meet Stevie Nicks and be directed by Paulson, who is stepping behind the camera for the first time on American Horror Story, helming episode six, “Return to Murder House.”
When it comes to Nicks, the actress has a “personal history” with the singer: her late husband Larry Earl Madison was a big Fleetwood Mac fan; “Landslide,” Porter’s personal favorite, appears on a CD she and Madison made for their wedding; and their dog is named Stevie. So when it came to meeting her on set, Porter “fanned out a little bit,” clarifying with a laugh: “I didn’t embarrass myself.”
As for working with Paulson, Porter was happy to learn that her co-star “being behind the camera was not as big of a stretch I thought it was going to be, because of the way she handles herself when she’s in front of the camera.” If anything, there was an extra level of comfort provided by Paulson, who took care to help her co-star help protect her performance. “She was constantly asking me a question in a pointed way that could give me an opportunity to get more coverage, to get a skirt hemmed if I needed to so I could walk comfortably, and I’ll either take the opening or give her the OK that I can handle it,” Porter reveals.
Now a little more confident, Porter is enjoying the growing attention that has come with AHS and an Emmy nomination. “I do take two more seconds to look in the mirror before dropping my kids off at school and think, ‘OK, you don’t have to look that bad. Let’s try a little bit harder,’” she says of the biggest adjustment in her attitude, while explaining that she’s a little nervous that a bar has been set for her performances. “Before it was, ‘You always do good work.’ And now I feel like, OK, people are looking at me now, like, ‘What’s she going to do?’”
In addition to Apocalypse and Miss Virginia, which is slated for a 2018 release, the actress has a few upcoming projects in the works as well as a possible return to The 100, which was renewed for a sixth season. Though, she jokes, fans just might see her playing a crossing guard next. “I just work,” Porter concludes.
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