Seemingly impossible after three perversely sinister seasons, the upcoming "American Horror Story" ramps up the creep-out factor with its latest theme. Premiering October 8, Freak Show promises conjoined twins, sword swallowing, a lobster boy, a killer clown and a two-faced head. The show's stellar production departments will no doubt triumph with even more stunning effects, and the top-notched cast will undoubtedly meet new challenges.
Creator Ryan Murphy told Hollywood Reporter: "It's about outcasts … true stories about circus performers who were cast aside. The story in many ways dovetails with Asylum because ... many of them in real life were put into asylums. There's a great symmetry we've come up with that's rewarding." The first cast poster carries the German tagline, "Wir sind alle freaks," which means, "We are all freaks."
Last week, last season's Coven cast members Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates took home Primetime Emmy Awards, for Outstanding Lead Actress and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, respectively. So what's in store these exceptional actresses next? Here's the latest Freak Show cast rundown:
Jessica Lange as Elsa Mars
In her fourth season on "AHS," Lange will play Elsa Mars, a German living in Jupiter, Florida in the 1950s and running one of the last freak shows in the U.S. In EW, Lange said, "My character is very manipulative. She understands what’s needed and she provides it. However the thing I want to be very clear that Elsa really loves these people. She truly cares for them in her own selfish narcissistic way. It’s not just exploitation.”
She spent her third season (Coven) portraying the Supreme witch of her time, Fiona Goode. In season two (Asylum), she starred as Sister Jude, the cruel head of the institution, where she's later confined as a patient. She portrayed Constance Langdon in season one (Murder House), a failed Hollywood actress and next-door neighbor with history, for which she won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress. One of Hollywood’s most lauded actresses, Lange earned six Academy Award nominations and two wins - for “Tootsie” and “Blue Sky.” Lange has said next season’s Freak Show will be her last on “AHS.” Fans hope she'll change her mind.
Michael Chiklis as Dell Toledo
After starring in two TV shows, "The Shield" and "The Commish," Chiklis makes his "AHS" debut in Freak Show. He'll play the strongman, husband to Angela Bassett, ex-husband of Kathy Bates, and father of Evan Peters. Chiklis won multiple awards (Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy, Satellite, TV Critics Association) for his portrayal of Vic Mackey in "The Shield," which ran from 2002 to 2008. He also plays The Thing in the "Fantastic Four" movies.
Sarah Paulson as Bette and Dot Tattler
Paulson faces insurmountable technical challenges for this, her fourth season on "AHS," in the dual role of conjoined twins Bette and Dot, with two heads (and, according to EW, "two very different personalities") sharing the same body. “It’s not as simple as nice and evil,” Paulson says. “It’s more complicated, in true Ryan Murphy style.” Elsa Mars (Lange) wants Bette and Dot to join the freak show in order to ramp up waning attendance.
Paulson has been through rigors before, as Cordelia, gouging her own eyes out before becoming the next Supreme in Coven (season three) and, as Lana, being kidnapped and raped by Bloody Face, the serial killer known for skinning his victims alive in Asylum (season two). Lana emerged from her tragedy and triumphed as a journalist/author. Will Paulson's Freak Show character end up a hero as well?
Paulson started out almost 20 years ago in horror TV as Merlyn Temple, ghost sister to Caleb (Lucas Black) in the short-lived "American Gothic." In the last few years, she's appeared in the acclaimed films "Martha Marcy May Marlene," "Mud," and "12 Years a Slave," as well as the HBO movie "Game Change."
Evan Peters as Jimmy Darling
Despite landing various TV and film roles in his teens and early twenties, Peters was virtually unknown until he portrayed Tate Langdon in "AHS" Murder House. Believe it or not, he had fans swooning over him, even after he turned out to be the ghost of a high school shooter AND the Rubber Man. He played the admirable Kit in Asylum and frat boy turned Frankenstein Kyle in Coven. In the real world, he's engaged to Emma Roberts, who also jumped on board the "AHS" train last season.
His Freak Show character Jimmy Darling, son of Kathy Bates' Ethel, was born with lobster like hands, similar to the real life Grady Stiles. When his father Dell Toledo (Chiklis) shows up, they vie for power under Elsa (Lange). Will Jimmy have Stiles' violent tendencies?
Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree
Nominated for an Oscar for "What's Love Got to Do with It?" and winner of numerous awards - Golden Globe, Black Reel, Saturn, Image - for various TV and film roles, Bassett joined the cast of "AHS" for last season's Coven. She played brutally powerful voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, a darker version of the real 19th Century New Orleans practitioner. In October, Bassett will play Desiree Dupree, married to Chiklis' strongman, and performer in the Freak Show with her peculiarity being a third breast.
Kathy Bates as Ethel Darling
Like Bassett, Bates joined the "AHS" cast for Coven as the show's version of real life 19th Century slave torturer/killer Delphine LaLaurie. Cursed to live forever by Laveau and buried alive, current-day witches dug her up 100 years later. Later in the season, she's beheaded but still alive, engendering some tongue-in-cheek humor, albeit gruesomely. Prior to "AHS," Bates accomplished what few actresses could - won an Oscar for a horror film - Rob Reiner's 1990 "Misery." She's also won a Golden Globe and earned Tony, Emmy and other Oscar noms.
This Fall, she'll be the Bearded Lady, Peters' mom and Chiklis' ex Ethel Darling. According to EW, “Ethel is basically Elsa’s (Lange's) right hand woman,” says Murphy. “She helps run the camp, and she’s sort of the guardian of the law. She had a real tragedy in that she was a real circus star in the ‘20s and 30s and then she had her baby and she became a down-and-out drunk, and Elsa saved her.”
John Carroll Lynch as Twisty the Clown
This newcomer to "AHS" for Freak Show landed the coveted role of the killer clown, the season's primary villain. He retired in Jupiter and detests that the Freak Show has come to town. Formerly, Lynch played the lead suspect in David Fincher's three-hour thriller "Zodiac," Drew Carey's cross-dressing brother on "The Drew Carey Show," Marge's (Frances McDormand) husband in acclaimed 1996 film "Fargo" and a detective on the show "Body of Proof."
Frances Conroy as Gloria Mott
Conroy played Moira, the elder maid and unofficial advisor to Vivien, in Murder House; the Angel of Death, adorned with magnificent wings, in Asylum; and oft-quoted eccentric/sassy witch Myrtle Snow in Coven. She's been nominated for Saturn and Emmy awards for "AHS." In season 4, she's the well-to-do mother of Finn Wittrock, who wants to join the Freak Show, while she'll "do anything" to keep him away (according to Murphy in EW). Prior to "AHS," Conroy was best-known for her role as Ruth on the HBO show "Six Feet Under," which earned her a Golden Globe, a SAG, and four Primetime Emmy nominations.
Gabourey Sidibe as Patricia
Sidibe debuted in "AHS" last season as Coven's audacious human voodoo doll Queenie. After having lived at Miss Robichaux Academy with the Salem-origin witches, she took up with the voodoo faction on the other side of town. According to Enstarz, her Freak Show character will be an affluent Barbizon School woman. She returns home to Jupiter when her mother (Patti LaBelle) disappears (according to EW). Prior to "AHS," Sidibe wowed audiences with her 2009 film debut, the starring role in "Precious," which earned her an Oscar nom. After that, she played Andrea on the Showtime series "The Big C."
Denis O'Hare as Stanley
"AHS" loves to mix it up. O'Hare played lovestruck toady Spalding to Jessica Lange's Fiona in Coven and a dazzled Larry to Lange's Constance in Murder House. But in Freak Show he'll clash with Lange's character Elsa. Instead of being a member of her troupe, he's been described as a "collector of freaks" (according to Vulture). EW describes he and Emma Roberts' character as con artists. Besides appearing in 20 episodes of HBO's "True Blood," O'Hare has appeared on other TV shows, in various stage productions, and in such notable films as "21 Grams," "Michael Clayton," "Milk," and "Dallas Buyers Club."
Jamie Brewer as Katie
Like O'Hare, Brewer appeared in Murder House and Coven but not in Asylum. She played daughter Addie to Constance in season one, tragically hit by a car in her pretty girl costume on Halloween, and clairvoyant Nan in Coven, drowned mercilessly in the tub by Fiona and Marie. No details on her Freak Show character have been released.
Emma Roberts as Maggie
With Eric as her dad and Julia as her aunt, Roberts grew up around acting and landed the starring role of Addie Singer in the tween show "Unfabulous." She starred in a couple of kids movies and then joined the seasoned "Scream" cast for the series' fourth installment as cousin to Sidney (Neve Campbell). After filming indie pic "Adult World" with Evan Peters, the two started dating. She joined the "AHS" cast for last season's Coven as Hollywood brat Madison. She and Peters got engaged during the 2013 holiday season. Her Freak Show character is a fortune teller and con artist, a partner of Stanley (O'Hare) according to Murphy in EW. And, true to real life, Maggie and Jimmy (Peters) will have a romantic relationship again this season.
Naomi Grossman as Pepper
Grossman played Pepper, who first appeared in the opening scenes of the second season, Asylum. Her character was based on Schlitze, a real life "pinhead," who appeared in the iconic film "Freaks." Pepper endeared audiences as she approached Lana Winters with the request "Play with me." Accused of killing her sister's baby, Pepper later gained the power of increased verbal ability through alien intervention and denied the charges leveled against her. According to Huffington Post, it's official! Grossman will be back as Pepper for Freak Show.
Wes Bentley as Eddie
Wes Bentley played the pivotal role of Ricky in the much-lauded 1999 film "American Beauty," which won 5 Oscars and numerous other awards. He played Seneca Crane in 2012's wildly popular "Hunger Games." He's slated to appear in the Halloween episode and one other episode of Freak Show as Eddie, who appears out of Ethel Darling's (Kathy Bates) past hell bent on vengeance. EW confirms he'll play the real Edward Mordrake. Murphy says,"“He is a very famous horror myth ... a man with two faces. A normal face and then a face on the back of his head that would whisper evil things and force the forward-facing entity to commit horrible crimes.” Not the first time AHS based characters on real people -- Murder House featured the Black Dahlia, Asylum Anne Frank, and Coven Marie Laveau, Delphine LaLaurie and The Axeman of New Orleans.
Finn Wittrock as Dandy
Wittrock played Damon Miller on the soap "All My Children," and, like Matt Bomer, appeared in Ryan Murphy's HBO movie "The Normal Heart." In Freak Show, he'll be the son of Gloria Mott (Conroy), who wants to join the troupe, despite her efforts to thwart him.
Patti LaBelle, TBA
Known primarily as the R&B superstar who put out mega-hit "Lady Marmalade" in the 1970s, Patti LaBelle previously appeared in a handful of TV shows and movies, including Norman Jewison's 1984 drama "A Soldier's Story." In Freak Show, she's slated to appear as mother to Gabourey Sidibe's character. According to TVLine, she's not going to sing. Her character "is a local townsperson who begins to unravel the murderous secrets of Twisty the clown killer." She's a co-worker and friend of Gloria (Conroy), according to EW.
Ben Woolf as Meep
Possibly THE creepiest character in the twisted history of "AHS," Ben Woolf played Infantata in the show's first season Murder House. A leaked call sheet shows Woolf as Meep in Freak Show. The call sheet also identified Ann McKenzie as Eudora Tattler (presumably related to Sarah Paulson's character), Rose Siggins (who lost her legs early in life) as Legless Suzi, Christopher Neiman as Salty, and Ramona Tyler as Mildred Bachman. The world's smallest woman Jyoti Amge will play Ma Petite. Erika Ervin, the world's tallest model, is Amazon Eve. Mat Fraser (who was born with shortened arms) plays Paul the Illustrated Seal. Drew Rin Varick (42" tall) plays Toulouse.
Matt Bomer, TBA
Matt Bomer, who appeared in creator Ryan Murphy's HBO movie "The Normal Heart," will make a guest appearance on Freak Show, in a role that Murphy calls "warped." Bomer currently plays Neal Caffrey on USA Network's show "White Collar" and starred alongside Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey in the 2012 movie "Magic Mike."
Mariana Vicente as Carol
Since placing in the Top 10 in Miss Universe 2010, representing Puerto Rico, Vicente has appeared in a couple of TV shows, including last season's "American Horror Story: Coven" as Gwen in the episode "The Axeman Cometh." IMDb lists her as Carol in the first two episodes of Freak Show.
Grace Gummer as Penny the Candy Striper
Also having appeared in the Coven episode "The Axeman Cometh" as Millie, Gummer (daughter of Meryl Streep) currently appears in "The Newsroom" as reporter Hallie Shea. Wikipedia lists her as Penny in Freak Show.