Kathy Bates Revives Her Bawlmer Accent from ‘American Horror Story’ on ‘Conan’

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Still via Team Coco/YouTube

What better way to show off your fictional Highlandtown roots than a rousing rendition of our national anthem?

Actress Kathy Bates stopped by TBS’ late-night talk show “Conan” last night to promote her new Netflix series, “Disjointed.” During the show, the actress relayed a known fact about how she used to get in character to a Bawlmer accent from the fourth season of “American Horror Story”: by singing Francis Scott Key’s 1812 classic, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

On the program, dubbed “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” Bates played a bearded lady at a spooky Florida carnival. As we reported back in 2014, media outlets at first struggled to pin down where Bates’ character was from. Some suggested Appalachia or Philly, even.

Bates later revealed it was Bawlmerese, and said she crafted it with the guiding hand of a website, watching interviews with now-retired Sen. Barb Mikulski and singing the national anthem with the local signature fronted-back-vowel dialect.

Well, Conan O’Brien enjoyed it. Bates mentioned it to him when he asked about her mastery of accents in film roles. She said she “got all this crap from linguists at Columbia” after she used her Bawlmer voice on the show (“give me a break,” she said), but she actually never had a linguistics coach.

To prove the efficacy of her DIY method, she took out a couple lyric sheets to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” O’Brien clearly wasn’t expecting to have to sing – Bates chided him, noting it wasn’t on his lineup for the show – but played along.

Here’s their duet in full:

Bates certainly helped him along, but O’Brien didn’t do half-bad. Perhaps he’ll stop through Baltimore sometime to hear the real thing firsthand.

Ethan McLeod
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