Looking back through the show's two main stars and their diverse roles
After nine seasons, American Horror Story is going through something of a shake-up – and perhaps not an intentional one on creator Ryan Murphy’s part. AHS: 1984, which is airing now, will be the first season not to star Evan Peters, while fellow ever-present Sarah Paulson reportedly only has a bit part in the new episodes. While we wait to found out exactly what that is – hapless camper? The return of medium Billie Dean Howard? – let’s take a look back at the pair’s various offerings to the anthology series so far.
- Read more: American Horror Story: 1984 episode one: a love letter to ’80s horror that puts the “camp” in summer camp
Ally Mayfair-Richards, Cult
It’s entirely possible that Cult’s Ally could be the worst character in the entire run of American Horror Story so far. Scared of everything and controlled by her anxieties, she began the show as what the right would call a “triggered snowflake”. Although she gained strength and rose up as a new powerful figure towards the end of the season, she was still completely unlikeable and not entertaining.
Shelby Miller, Roanoke
Paulson played the fictional version of Shelby Miller in this season, the first half of which was presented as a documentary following Shelby and husband Matt’s doomed time in Roanoke. Shelby wasn’t particularly memorable – apart from her constant yelling for her husband.
Audrey Tindall, Roanoke
Paulson’s second Roanoke character Audrey Tindall fared a little better than Shelby, largely thanks to her unintentional comedic offerings. Audrey was the British actress playing Shelby in recreations in the documentary (confused yet?) and went on to have her own Roanoke nightmare in the second half of the season.
Bette and Dot Tattler, Freak Show
The less said about Freak Show the better, generally. In that season, Paulson played conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler, with Bette the dreamer and Dot the sharp-tongued, no-nonsense pragmatist. Bette’s head-in-the-clouds nature quickly became quite cloying but her sister’s snark saved the dual characters from being a total dud.
Ms. Wilhemina Venable, Apocalypse
On one hand, Wilhemina was the kind of leader you admire – tough, didn’t stand for any shit. But on the other, she was also completely twisted with her unflappable believe that how she was remoulding the world was for the greater good, despite some of her evil tactics.
Sally McKenna, Hotel
“Hypodermic” Sally was everything you’d want the ghost of a drug addict living in a nefarious hotel to be – squalid, foul-mouthed, sassy, and not particularly likeable. Paulson made the character sizzle like the singed holes in her battered tights and made her the rock star of the series.
Billie Dean Howard, Murder House
Psychic – sorry, a medium, dear – Billie Dean Howard began as a bit part on Murder House but has also cropped up in Hotel and Apocalypse. Although she’s never been a main figure, she’s always been a character that demands your attention through her quiet strength.
Lana Winters, Asylum
Paulson’s first lead role in AHS, Lana Winters was a journalist wrongly sent away too Briarcliff asylum when she was working on a piece exposing mistreatment and torture at the institution. She was on of the toughest characters in the show’s long roll call, surviving intense trauma only to be freed and shine a light on the awful practices going on at Briarcliff. A true hero.
Cordelia Foxx, Coven
There is no doubting Cordelia is one of the biggest badasses to ever grace AHS. Supreme of the New Orleans-based coven, she would stop at nothing to save the world and her witches, even if that meant stabbing herself in the eyes.
Jeff Pfister, Apocalypse
Jeff, one of two nuclear scientists responsible for the apocalypse in the season of the same name, is also in the running for one of the worst characters in AHS history. Annoying, odious, and one-dimensional, it’s almost cruel that Ryan Murphy asked Evan Peters to play him.
Rory Monahan, Roanoke
Much like Roanoke’s Shelby, Rory is pretty much forgettable – another bland character whose finest moment came in the form of their gory death.
Edward Philippe Mott, Roanoke
Peters had a little more luck with his other Roanoke character, but not by much. Edward Philippe Mott saw the actor dress up like an Edwardian prince, rolling around his mansion with his nose high in the air.
Jimmy Darling, Freak Show
Jimmy Darling certainly wasn’t Peters’ worst AHS character but he did feel a little one-dimensional at times. The crux of his character was his lobster hands and, often, it felt like his part focused on that deformity a little too much rather than the human side of his storyline.
Kyle Spencer, Coven
Let’s face it – Coven really belonged to the women. Peters’ Kyle was a dark soul who’d been through some shit. But when surrounded by a gang of powerful witches, his story faded into the shadows.
Mr. Gallant, Apocalypse
A bitchy hairdresser with a fondness for BDSM, Mr Gallant gave Peters a break from playing tortured characters. Yes, he was shallow but he was also great fun to watch in the hit-and-miss Apocalypse.
Various cult leaders, Cult
Peters might take on a handful of characters in several seasons of AHS but in Cult he really earned his keep by playing a bunch of cult leaders (and Andy Warhol). From Jim Jones to Charles Manson – and even Jesus Christ – Peters brought each to life with goosebump-inducing and distinctive power.
James Patrick March, Hotel
Peters seemed to absolutely thrive playing James Patrick March, the off-his-rocker owner of the Hotel Cortez. He was brilliant as the madcap ghost who continued to haunt the building, and continued to indulge in all kinds of depraved crimes even in death.
Kit Walker, Asylum
A rare good guy in Peters’ AHS arsenal, Kit was very much the victim in Asylum. Accused of being Bloody Face and of being responsible for his wife’s death, he showed it’s incredibly hard to prove you’re not deranged when you’re locked up in an asylum. Yet he persevered and eventually managed to escape, but not without helping some of his fellow inmates out on his way.
Tate Langdon, Murder House
Our first introduction to Peters in AHS was one of our best. He toyed with viewers’ hearts, first making them sympathise with him as a ghost hopelessly trying to find love in death and then abhorring them when he was revealed to be Rubber Man. Tate goes from one extreme to the other and was completely believable at either end of the spectrum.
Kai Anderson, Cult
Cult might not have been the best season of AHS but Peters’ portrayal of Kai Anderson was superb. The blue-haired, power-mad, wannabe Trump began a terrifying campaign on Michigan as he began gathering the scared and the weak to join his very own cult. With each episode, he grew more and more manic and wicked, instigating hideous violence while gaining terrifying amounts of power.