This week sees the debut of the ninth season of Ryan Murphy's venerable American Horror Story, the show that we recently deemed he most important and influential in the history of the FX network. And while Murphy has since signed a blockbuster deal with Netflix and begun churning out content there featuring old AHS cast members (Jessica Lange shows up on The Politician, while Sarah Paulson will be starring in Ratched), Horror Story remains a repertory company for many of his most oft-cast actors and actresses. Part of the fun of anticipating a new season of AHS is seeing which former cast members return in which kind of roles.
On the eve of the '80s slasher-themed American Horror Story: 1984, let's take a look at the main cast members: who's returning, who's new, and who's curiously absent?
Previous Ryan Murphy projects: Roberts made her debut in the Murphy-verse in AHS: Coven in the scene-stealing role of Madison Montgomery. She returned the following year as a regular on Freak Show, then made a guest appearance on Cult, before reprising her role as Madison last year on Apocalypse. In the midst of all that, she played the lead role of Chanel Oberlin on Scream Queens.
For the first time, Emma Roberts finds herself top-billed in an American Horror Story season. She plays Brooke, the pretty, blonde ingenue at the center of a group of friends taking jobs as camp counselors for the summer.
Previous Ryan Murphy projects: Initially notable for being the daughter of Carrie Fisher, Lourd first appeared opposite Roberts as Chanel no. 3 on Scream Queens, where her deadpan delivery was such a kick that she was subsequently cast as a regular on AHS: Cult and then as the sneakily-very-important Mallory on AHS: Apocalypse.
It's been a kick watching Lourd grow into her position as a reliable Ryan Murphy regular. On 1984, she plays Montana, a big-haired aerobics enthusiast and new friend for Brooke.
Previous Ryan Murphy projects: Leslie Grossman's career with Ryan Murphy goes allllll the way back to the high-school series Popular, where Grossman played psychotic Southern belle Mary Cherry. After making guest appearances on shows like Nip/Tuck and The New Normal, Grossman and Murphy reuinited for real when she was cast on AHS: Cult, then given a role as a regular on Apocalypse.
Grossman's role as a camp director on 1984 will have to take a back seat to her heroically feathered hair and tinted glasses.
Previous Ryan Murphy projects: Fern was a virtual unknown to American audiences when he took the role of David Madsen in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, but his performance was so captivating and ultimately shattering that it won him instant acclaim. From there, it was the featured role as antichrist Michael Langdon on AHS: Apocalypse, where he proved to be a formidable adversary to the likes of Sarah Paulson, Angela Bassett, and Jessica Lange.
On 1984, Fern looks to be playing the most brash and utwardly cocky of the group of young protagonists, which makes him a juicy target for a slasher.
Previous Ryan Murphy projects: Morrison memorably played Will Shuster on all six seasons of Glee.
Despite the fact that Glee was a huge part of the Ryan Murphy Success Model of the early 2010s, he's very rarely brought his cast members from that show to his other projects. This is his first time working with Morrison again since Glee. Thus far, as best we can tell, Morrison is playing a support system for a hilarious Tom Selleck mustache.
Previous Ryan Murphy projects: None
As it is often Murphy's wont to cast hot new gay (or gay-adjacent) talent in his TV shows — Cheyenne Jackson; Billy Eichner; Lady Gaga; Colton Haynes — so too has he cast Olympic skiier, unexpectedly compellingThe Challenge contestant, and RuPaul's Drag Race dating-game participant Gus Kenworthy as a scantily-clas aerobics enthusiast.
Previous Ryan Murphy projects: American Horror Story: Freak Show and Cult, where he played the TERRIFYING psychotic murderer Twisty the Clown, as well as AHS: Hotel, where he played John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer who moonlighted as a clown at children's birthday parties.
Nobody this side of Bill Skarsgard has gotten more mileage out of the scary clown business. Lynch's role in 1984 isn't clear, but if he starts smearing on face paint and sharpening his machete, don't say we didn't warn you.
Previous Ryan Murphy projects: Pose
The newest member of Ryan Murphy's traveling show is Ross, who played Candy Fercity with such memorable zeal on the first two seasons of Pose. On 1984, she'll be playing the camp nurse, who seems to know the dark history of the camp all too well.
Previous Ryan Murphy projects: none
A newcomer to the Ryan Murphy universe, Horton may be familiar to viewers from his role as Lionel on Dear White People.
Previous Ryan Murphy projects: Paulson has appeared on all nine seasons of American Horror Story, and she won an Emmy for playing Marcia Clark on The People v. O.J. Simpson.
While she's expected to show up at some point this season, 1984 will mark the first season since Season 1's "Murder House" where Paulson isn't a regular cast member.
While it's ceased to be news that Jessica Lange won't be appearing on an AHS season, this will be the first season where Murphy regular Evan Peters will not appear. Also not slated to show up despite having been heavily involved in the last few seasons: Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Cheyenne Jackson, and Adina Porter.
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Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.