The women behind your favorite American Horror Story characters

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Ryan Murphy has quite the talent for creating hit television as the screenwriter, director and producer has brought us great shows such as Nip/Tuck, Glee, Feud, and the American Crime Story series. After his earlier mega-success of the lighter themed comedy-musical Glee, Murphy decided it was time to dip his toes into the genre of horror. Murphy is a huge fan of horror films such as The Evil Dead and A Nightmare on Elm Street, and he wanted take to a crack at making something scary himself, and thus American Horror Story was born.

Cable network channel FX signed Murphy to create the show for it, and aired the first season was then aired in 2011. It became an instant success and since then there have been 6 more, with each centering on a different location and time period that act as the focal point for that season’s heinous acts. The show has kept fans enthralled with its suspenseful plots, exquisite cinematography, and excellent cast, made up of relative unknowns as well as veteran household names. Above all else, though, the show has been known for being full of gore, with the acting keeping it from devolving into complete farce – with the show’s female cast leading the charge.


Murphy did an amazing job of creating interesting plot lines and suspense as it was hard to tell which characters were alive or dead and which were the good guys or the bad guys. The show has been well received by television critics and has also developed quite a cult following.

Fans have taken to the Internet to compare their ideas about what each episode meant and which character would be the next to meet their demise. Viewers can’t get enough of the show which explains why it keeps getting picked up for new seasons.In addition to being successful with the general public, the show has also caught the attention of many celebrities.

Many big names like Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates and Lady Gaga have appeared on the show and showed off their ability to act terrified. Murphy made a conscious effort to include amazing iconic actresses who hadn’t appeared on television in a while and the results are incredible. Additionally, up-and-coming actresses such as Chrissy Metz who now stars on the show This Is Us, also got their big break on the show.

American Horror Story is full of complex female characters who have been vital in telling each story throughout all seven seasons. Stick around to find out about the many incredible characters and the actresses who manage to portray horrifying plotlines and gharish looks, while still keeping us coming back for more.

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Angela Bassett as Ramona Royale in American Horror Story: Hotel

In this season of American Horror story many of the residents of the hotel die violent deaths but, spoiler alert, Ramona is one of the small number that make it out unscathed. Romona is a woman who was once in many B list movies but she makes an effort to land more serious roles. This leads her to meet the Countess (played by Lady Gaga) and the two have a whirlwind romance, though much like everything else on the show, it ends in a violent mess.

Angela Bassett in real life

Angela Bassett is an actress best known for depicting real life people in biopics. She appeared as Rosa Parks in the 2002 film The Rosa Parks Story and Tina Turner in the biographical film What’s Love Got to Do with it, in addition to her iconic, titular role in How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Bassett received both and undergraduate and masters’ degree from Yale University before going on to become a film star in the ‘90s. The actress most recently appeared in Aziz Ansari’s’ Netflix comedy, Master of None.

Sarah Paulson as Dot and Bette Tattler in American Horror Story: Freakshow

Dot and Bette Tattler are twins conjoined from the neck down who live in their mother’s home as she confines and keeps them as virtual prisoners. The twins have very distinct personalities and they frequently argue with each other. Dot is a very reserved person while the more impulsive Bette has dreams of becoming an actress. They begin performing in the freak show as The Spectacular Siamese Sisters and they were extremely popular in the show until, Elsa begins to resent them their success.

Sarah Paulson in real life

Sarah Paulson had a few acting credits before American Horror Story, but gained wide acclaim and prominence through her work on the show. Since appearing in the series, Paulson has landed roles in major films such as the period-drama 12 Years a Slave and the 2015 drama Carol. Murphy also brought Paulson back for his 2016 series, American Crime Story where she starred Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial, for which she won an Emmy. She is currently in a relationship with actress Holland Taylor.

Frances Conroy as Myrtle Snow in American Horror Story: Coven

Myrtle Snow is a quickly and witty witch in the third season of American Horror Story. Myrtle attends a witch academy with another witch named Fiona Goode under the guidance of Anna Leigh. When Anna Leigh is murdered, Myrtle suspects Fiona and she takes matters into her own hands. Unfortunately for Myrtle, however, this determination to serve justice does not end well for her. With no witnesses to the murder, Fiona manages to become the Supreme Witch, and sees to it Myrtle is burned at the stake.

Frances Conroy in real life

Frances Conroy appeared in small roles on shows such as How I Met Your Mother and Desperate Housewives but she got her big break before that on the HBO drama, Six Feet Under, for which she won a Golden Globe. Conroy won three Screen Actors Guild Awards and one Golden Globe. She became well-known again for her appearance in American Horror Story: Coven. She won an Emmy for this role and she appeared in the seventh season of the series. Frances has an eye condition and while she normally wears a lens to correct it, Murphy wanted to incorporate the condition into her AHS role by presenting her character as having a strange eye.

Billie Lourd as Winter Anderson in American Horror Story: Cult

Winter Anderson drops out of college to work on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign but after she loses the election, Anderson becomes a nanny for Oz, the son of Ivy and Ally. Winter creates chaos between Ivy and Ally by seducing Ally. Before all of this, Winter’s parents die after her mother kills her abusive husband and then herself. The bodies are discovered by Winter’s brother Kai, whom she is terrified of.

Billie Lourd in real life

Billie Lourd comes from a legendary Hollywood family as her mother is the late Carrie Fisher (pictured here) and she is also the granddaughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher. Carrie Fisher famously played Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, with Billie joining her mother as Lieutenant Connix in Stars Wars: The Last Jedi. Before appearing in American Horror Story, Lourd starred in another one Ryan Murphy’s horror shows, Scream Queens. She is set to star in the upcoming crime film, Billionaire Boys Club.

Lily Rabe as Sister Mary Eunice McKee in American Horror Story: Asylum

Sister Mary Eunice was a quiet and reserved woman until the devil gained control over her mind and body. She is an extremely devoted Christian with a big heart but when the devil takes over she develops the power to access the thoughts of others and telekinesis. The show depicts her going on a journey into immorality and satanic tendencies until she meets her ultimate demise. The character makes another appearance in Freak Show.

Lily Rabe in real life

Lily Rabe is another actress to come from a family of actors as her mother is the actress Jill Clayburgh and her father is playwright David Rabe. After she was cast in the first season of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy liked her so much that he brought her back for five subsequent seasons. Rabe has also appeared in many theater productions such as the Shakespeare plays The Merchant of Venice and As You Like It.

Kathy Bates as Iris in American Horror Story: Hotel

Iris is the manager at the Hotel Cortez who murders a woman after she gives illegal substances to Iris’ son, which almost kills him. Iris gets her hands dirty on many occasions by covering up crimes and getting involved with illegal substances. She remains at the hotel to stay close to her son Donovan, all the while despising Elizabeth, the striking vampire who turned her son into a deadly creature of the night, like herself.

Kathy Bates in real life

Kathy Bates began her career on stage in the drama play ‘night, Mother. She then move from the stage to the screen and became well-known for her roles in the thriller film Misery and in the comedy-drama Fried Green Tomatoes. She is the winner of a Tony Award, two Golden Globes and an Oscar for her role in Misery. Bates has recently been appearing in a number of television shows including Disjointed, a comedy series on Netflix and she is set to appeared in The Highwaymen, a spin of of Bonnie & Clyde. In addition to her acting work, she is a chairperson for the Lymphatic Education & Research Network.

Jessica Lange as Elsa Mars in American Horror Story: Freakshow

Elsa is the woman behind the freak show who has a dark and mysterious past. She is a mean and ruthless woman who does everything in her power to keep the freak show afloat and she gets extremely frustrated after the show loses popularity as more people begin watching television. She goes so far as to use illegal methods to keep the show going including kidnaping people from families and orphanages against their will.

Jessica Lange in real life

Jessica Lange is a highly acclaimed actress who made her film debut in the 1976 remake of the monster adventure film King Kong. She then went onto appear in the comedy film Tootsie and in the biopic called Frances. She is the recipient of three Emmys, two Oscars and a Tony Award, which further proves how talented she is. Lange took a long and well deserved break from acting before returning to the small-screen on American Horror Story. Lange is set to appear in Gia Coppola’s second film called The Lonely Doll.

Lizzie Brochere as Grace Bertrand in American Horror Story: Asylum

After murdering her parents who abused her, Grace gets admitted to Briarcliff Manor psychiatric facility. While in the ward, Grace show remorse for what she has done and she develops a romantic relationship with Kit, a fellow inmate. The couple hide their relationship and they end up having a child together, Thomas, who Grace believes is a miracle sent by aliens. Grace desperately wants her and her family to be freed from their life behind bars.

Lizzie Brochere in real life

Lizzie got her start as a child actor in her native country, France. She appeared in many French films including Papier Glacé and Septembre et moi. Her first full English speaking role was in American Horror story. In addition to being in films, Brochere studied at the Sorbonne where she received a Master’s in film and literature. Brochere currently has a main role on the supernatural show Falling Water.

Naomi Grossman as Pepper in American Horror Story: Asylum

Pepper was a popular character in both American Horror Story Asylum and Freak Show. In Asylum, Pepper is a patient at Briarcliff Manor and after being abducted by aliens she gets returned to the manor with the power of heightened awareness. She suddenly develops self-awareness and becomes much deeper stoic in contrast to her previous personality. Pepper returns in Freak Show, where it is discovered she was once one of the circus’ main acts, before she was admitted to an asylum. She marries another performer named Salty.

Naomi Grossman in real life

While other actresses on our list underwent transformation for their role, Grossman definitely underwent the biggest. When Grossman first auditioned for the role of Pepper, she didn’t even know what she was auditioning for. Thankfully, she got the role and it put her on the map in Hollywood after years of struggling as an actress. Grossman’s career is now on the rise and she is set to appear in the upcoming dramatic thriller Painkillers.

Mena Suvari as Elizabeth Short in American Horror Story: Murder House

The character of Elizabeth Short is based on a true murder case of a woman of the same name. The murder took was highly publicized after Elizabeth was discovered dead in LA and she was posthumously as “the Black Dahlia.” In the TV series, Short is an aspiring actress killed by Dr. David Curran and she then becomes a ghost although it takes her a while to realize this is the case. After seeing news coverage of her murder, Short decides to take revenge on her killer.

Mena Suvari in real life

The quintessential “American” girl, Mena Suvari was a model before she made a guest appeared on the sitcom Boy Meets World that launched her acting career. She made her film debut in the dark comedy Nowhere and from there she got her breakout role in teen comedy American Pie, before moving on the role of tempting but ultimately naive cheerleader Angela in American Beauty. Since appearing in American Horror Story, Suvari has appeared in a number of other shows, including action drama Chicago Fire and supernatural drama South of Hell.

Alison Pill as Ivy in American Horror Story: Cult

Ivy is the woman who hires Winter Anderson as a babysitter for her son Oz whom she has with her wife Ally. After finding out that they voted for different presidential candidates in the 2016 election, tension develops between the two women and Ivy ends up becoming a member of Kai’s cult. Ivy feels that Ally has alienated herself from her after the birth of their son and that she feels resentment toward Ivy.

Alison Pill in real life

Alison Pill is a Canadian actress who began her career by acting in local theater groups. She quickly proved what a talented stage actress she is as she made it to Broadway when she was 21. She appeared in the Broadway production of the dramatic play The Lieutenant of Inishmore and she won a Tony for the role. She then made her foray into film with the comedy movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and the dramatic biopic Milk.

Jenna Dewan Tatum as Teresa Morrison in American Horror Story: Asylum

Leo and Teresa are on their honeymoon in an abandoned Briarcliff Manor and are adjusting to their new life as a married couple. Unlike the many other characters on the show, Teresa loves anything related to horror but she doesn’t think that anything scary will happen to her. The couple is later greeted by the serial killer Bloody Face who chases them and causes chaos before they are ultimately murdered.

Jenna Dewan Tatum in real life

Jenna Dewan Tatum may be known as the beautiful wife of Channing Tatum but she is also a talented dancer and actress. Before Dewan Tatum made it onto the big screen, she was a backup dancer for Janet Jackson. She got her big break when she was cast in a main role in the dance movie Step Up, which also starred Channing Tatum. The couple have been married since 2009 and they have one daughter together. Most recently, Jenna appeared in a sitcom called Man with a Plan.

Clea DuVall as Wendy Peyser in American Horror Story: Asylum

Wendy Peyser is in a secret relationship with Lana Winters. She supports both herself and Lana financially but is nervous about what will happen if their relationship is revealed. After facing blackmail and threats that her relationship will be exposed, he confides to Sister Jude and asks for help. She regrets this decision soon after and wants to fix the mess but it is already too late. She meets her demise after Bloody Face finds her in her home.

Clea DuVall in real life

Duvall got her breakout role in 1999 after appearing in the drama film Girl, Interrupted. She then went onto appear in the satirical, romantic comedy film But I’m a Cheerleader and the 2013 Academy Award winning movie Argo. DuVall has also made a number of television appearances which include a recurring role on the HBO series Carnivale and on the political-comedy series Veep. It is rumored that she is set to appear on the new season of The Handmaid’s Tale as Alexis Bledel’s character’s wife.

Adina Porter as Beverly Hope in American Horror Story: Cult

Beverly Hope is a news anchor who has to attend anger management after having a meltdown live on the air. She finally returns to her news station, WBNR and Kai, the leader of the cult takes an interest in her. In order to prove his loyalty to Beverly, Kai kills her rival and Beverly joins. However, she doesn’t last too long in the cult and Kai kicks her out. Beverly then decides to challenge Kai and starts her own group of just women, in an effort to take on Kai’s group.

Adina Porter in real life

After graduating from the State University of New York, Adina Porter began acting in off-Broadway plays in New York City. After gaining attention from talent scouts, Porter began landing roles on television shows such as Law & Order and the police drama New York Undercover. Porter was initially cast in a small role on American Horror Story: Murder House but Murphy was so impressed by her that he brought her back in main roles for two more seasons.

Lady Gaga as Elizabeth in American Horror Story: Hotel

Also known as the countess, Elizabeth is the owner of the Hotel Cortez which is known to be haunted. Elizabeth is more than 100 years old and it is revealed she is a vampire who survives on the blood of her former romantic partners. She has one true love, Donovan but she has many different lovers throughout the season. Elizabeth is a very manipulative person who uses her charismatic personality to run the hotel as a way to keep herself alive.

Lady gaga in real life

Little monsters (the name for Lady Gaga’s fans) around the world could not contain their excitement when it was announced that Lady Gaga would appear on American Horror Story. Lady Gaga rose to fame after her songs Just Dance and Poker Face became huge hits. She is now one of the most famous artists in the world and has won six Grammy Awards and performed at the Super Bowl halftime show. Gaga earned a Golden Globe Award for her portrayal of Elizabeth.

Taissa Farmiga as Zoe Benson in American Horror Story: Coven

After accidentally killing her boyfriend, Zoe Benson learns the truth that she is a witch and everyone she is intimate with dies. Terrified, her mother sends her off to have Cordelia teach her about her powers and how to harness them. Zoe, who starts out as a reserved and quiet person slowly becomes a confident witch who learns to empower herself. She eventually becomes a very powerful witch who can do almost anything she sets her supernaturally gifted mind to.

Taissa Farmiga in real life

The acting bug runs in the Farmiga family as Taissa’s older sister, Vera (pictured here) is an Academy Award nominated actress who appeared in Bates Motel and Up in the Air. Taissa got her start in the first season of American Horror Story and she then she has been getting steady work in projects such as the satirical crime film The Bling Ring and in the Western film In a Valley of Violence. Farmiga is set to appear in a number of upcoming films including the comedy The Long Dumb Road.

Emma Roberts as Maggie Esmerelda in American Horror Story: Freak Show

After con-artist Stanley takes Maggie under his wing, she becomes a professional con-artist herself. Maggie is an orphan who uses her sweet persona and sad background story to convince people to help her and take money away from freak show spectators. In one such instance, she pretends to be a fortune teller in order to steal money from customers. Maggie eventually gets her just desserts when – spoiler alert – she is cut in half by Chester.

Emma Roberts in real life

Like other women on this list, Emma Roberts has famous family members, as her aunt is the legendary A-list celebrity, Julia Roberts. Emma has been acting since she was a young girl and made her film debut in the biographical film Blow. Since then Roberts has appeared in a number of films including the comedy We’re the Millers and the horror film Scream 4. She is set to appear in the upcoming biographical film Billionaire Boys Club.

Alexandra Breckenridge as Moira O’Hara in American Horror Story: Murder House

Moira O’Hara is actually played by two actresses, since women naturally  see her as an older woman, while to men she is perceived as a young, beautiful woman who wears a scandalously short maid’s uniform. If a man can resist Moira’s charm and allure, he will be able to see her as her true, older self. Tortured by past misdeeds and the heavy personal price she had to pay, Moira nonetheless tries the people in the house away from its murderous pull.

Alexandra Breckenridge in real life

Alexandra Breckenridge is both an actress and photographer who got her start playing supporting roles in the teen-comedy movies Big Fat Liar and She’s the Man. She then appeared in television shows such as the drama Dirt and the teen-drama Freaks and Geeks. Breckenridge has also voiced characters on the animated comedy Family Guy. In addition to her work in acting and voice acting, she is an accomplished photographer who has displayed her work in exhibitions.

Chloe Sevigny as Dr. Alex Lowe in American Horror Story: Hotel

Dr. Alex Lowe becomes estranged from her husband Dr. John Lowe after their son, Holden, is abducted from a carnival by Elizabeth, who then turns him into a vampire. Alex lives with her daughter but she cannot get over the loss of Holden. When she visits the hotel to serve John with divorce papers, she at last manages to find Holden and takes him home with her. After John is later murdered, Alex is visited by his ghost.

Chloe Sevigny in real life

What hasn’t Chloe Sevigny done? She is a director, fashion designer, former model and actress. Sevigny got her acting start in the independent film Kids and she then moved on to more mainstream roles in films like American Psycho and the biopic Boy’s Don’t Cry. Sevigny made her foray into television with the HBO hit Big Love and she has continued to appear on shows such as the crime drama Those Who Kill and the comedy The Mindy Project.

Grace Gummer as Millie in American Horror Story: Coven

Seen only in a flashback from 1919, Millie attends Robichaux’s Academy and she also has a hand in ultimately killing the Axeman, a deranged serial killer who is fond of jazz music who tells the residents in town that unless they play the music genre in their homes, they will be murdered. After first playing Millie on the show’s Coven season, Gummer actually got a more substantial role as Penny the Candy Striper on Freak Show.

Grace Gummer in real life

Grace Gummer comes from a line of Hollywood royalty as her mother is the well-known actress, Meryl Streep. Gummer got into acting because of her mother as she played a younger version of Meryl in the period film, The House of the Spirits. Gummer has appeared in a number of television shows such as the period-drama series Good Girls Revolt and the thriller Mr. Robot. Gummer is set to appear in We Are Unsatisfied, an upcoming 2018 film.

Leslie Grossman as Meadow Wilton in American Horror Story: Cult

Meadow Wilton is a pharmaceutical representative before she gets let go after she is diagnosed with cancer. Wilton then bonds with the cult leader, Kai over their love of art after she starts working at a craft store. She and Kai have a close relationship and she falls in love with him. To prove that she is loyal to Kai and his cult, Meadow ends up killing someone and taking her own life.

Leslie Grossman in real life

Leslie Grossman got her start in acting in the late ‘90s when she appeared on the hit teen shows What I Like About You and the teen drama Popular. Grossman has continued her television career as she has appeared as recurring characters on shows such as the sitcom 10 Things I Hate About You and the political thriller series Scandal. She has also appeared on the comedy show The Good Place and the comedy series Modern Family.

Laura Allen as Rosie in American Horror Story: Cult

Rosie is a patient of Dr. Rudy Vincent who has many phobias including the fear of being buried alive and caskets. She has this fear as her father used to lock her in a cupboard as punishment when she was a child. He seeks out help for her phobia as it is putting pressure on her marriage. In the end, she overcomes her phobia but she is ironical killed along with her husband by being trapped alive inside a pair of coffins.

Laura Allen in real life

Laura Allen got her start on television in the soap opera All My Children and she then went onto to appear in the drama film Mona Lisa Smile. In 2007 she got her breakout role on the sci-fi series The 4400. Allen has appeared on a number of other shows including the crime-drama NCIS: New Orleans and the police procedural Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. She is set to appear in 2018 short film Unspeakable, which is in post-production.

Chrissy Metz as Ima ‘Barbara’ Wiggles in American Horror Story: Freak Show

Barbara is an overweight woman whose mother is ashamed of her for her weight. She goes to a facility to try and reduced her weight where she meets Elsa Mars who tells her she can eat anything she wants if she joins the freak show. Barbara joins and is forced to eat in order to get heavier. There she falls in love with another member of the freak show who spoon feeds her before she is murdered.

Chrissy Metz in real life

Chrissy Metz was a struggling actress in Hollywood who barely had a dime to her name when she got the relatively small role of Barbara in American Horror Story. From there she landed her breakout role on the series This Is Us with only 81 cents to her name at the time. Metz won a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Kate on This Is Us and she has also been outspoken about her issues with her weight.

Patti LuPone as Joan Ramsey in American Horror Story: Coven

Broadway legend Patti LuPone made her way to television for the third season of American Horror Story as Joan Ramsey. Joan moves in next to the witch academy and as a deeply religious person, she tries to protect herself and her son from everything sinister and ungodly. After her son is injured, she protects him and doesn’t let him leave the house. Unfortunately, Joan is ultimately killed by someone who is meant to assassinate someone else.

Patti LuPone in real life

Patti LuPone is best known for her work on the stage in musicals such as Sweeney Todd and Anything Goes. A Broadway legend, she is a Tony and Golden Globe winner who is highly praised for her acting and vocal abilities. She took her acting talents to the small screen on shows such as the drama series Life Goes on and the drama show Oz. She has also voiced characters on animated shows such as Steven Universe and BoJack Horseman.

Connie Britton as Vivien Harmon in American Horror Story: Murder House

Vivien Harmon is a professional cello player who gives up her career and then experiences a series of unfortunate events. After discovering that her husband is unfaithful to her, the couple try to start over by moving into a new home with their daughter, which we later discover is the Murder House. Harmon suffers a miscarriage and becomes pregnant by a man who is posing to be her husband in the Murder House. She ultimately dies while giving birth.

Connie Britton in real life

After getting her start in the independent film The Brothers McMullen, Connie Britton went on to appear in the sitcom Spin City that starred Michael J. Fox. She has appeared in a number of television shows including the musical drama show Nashville and another dramatic show, Friday Night Lights. After starring in the first season of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy brought Britton back for his next TV project, American Crime Story’s The People v. O.J. Simpson.