ByDavid Opie, writer at
Editor @DavidOpie / [email protected] Still waiting for a Marvel Zombies Ghibli movie directed by Xavier Dolan...
David Opie

American Horror Story isn't like any other show. Sure, this isn't the first time that an anthological approach has been taken on TV, but no other program has been this ambitious in its casting, employing some of the best talent around to tackle completely differently roles from season to season.

Now that Roanoke is coming to a close, let's take a look back at every recurring cast member, charting their evolution across the past six seasons in order to choose their best role to date.

Jessica Lange

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 1 — Constance Langdon in Murder House
  • Season 2 — Sister Jude in Asylum
  • Season 3 — Fiona Goode in Coven
  • Season 4 — Elsa Mars in Freak Show

Best Role: Fiona Goode

It's not easy choosing just one standout role from the work of American Horror Story's most popular star, but Jessica Lange truly was supreme in every sense of the word, solidifying her position as the baddest witch in town with the part of Fiona Goode.

Sarah Paulson

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 1 — Billie Dean Howard in Murder House
  • Season 2 — Lana Winters in Asylum
  • Season 3 — Cordelia Foxx in Coven
  • Season 4 — Bette and Dot Tattler in Freak Show
  • Season 5 — Hypodermic Sally in Hotel
  • Season 6 — "Shelby" aka Audrey Tindall in Roanoke

Best Role: Lana Winters

Each of Sarah Paulson's characters have suffered unimaginable torments, but never have we rooted for a character as much as Lana Banana, the idealistic journalist whose journey to hell and back only made her stronger.

Evan Peters

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 1 — Tate Langdon in Murder House
  • Season 2 — Kit Walker in Asylum
  • Season 3 — Kyle Spencer in Coven
  • Season 4 — Jimmy Darling in Freak Show
  • Season 5 — Mr. March in Hotel
  • Season 6 — "Edward Mott" aka Rory Monahan in Roanoke

Best Role: Tate Langdon

Behind Evan's boy-next-door looks pulses a darker undercurrent which has never been better utilized than in the character of Tate Langdon, a teen killer who left an unforgettable mark on Violet and everyone who tuned into American Horror Story's premiere season.

Lily Rabe

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 1 — Nora Montgomery in Murder House
  • Season 2 — Sister Mary Eunice in Asylum
  • Season 3 — Misty Day in Coven
  • Season 4 — Sister Mary Eunice in Freak Show
  • Season 5 — Aileen Wuornos in Hotel
  • Season 6 — Shelby in Roanoke

Best Role: Sister Mary Eunice

Long before the cast of American Horror Story switched up roles in Roanoke, Lily Rabe's transformation from the demure Sister Mary to a sexually deviant agent of chaos embodied the true horror of the show.

Kathy Bates

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 3 — Madame Delphine LaLaurie in Coven
  • Season 4 — Ethel Darling in Freak Show
  • Season 5 — Iris in Hotel
  • Season 6 — "The Butcher" aka Agnes Mary Winstead in Roanoke

Best Role: Madame Delphine LaLaurie

Attracting the talents of Oscar winner Kathy Bates was quite a coup for American Horror Story. Fortunately, the actress more than lived up to expectations as a 19th century slave owner who arrived in the modern age — and lost her head in the process.

Angela Bassett

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 3 — Marie Laveau in Coven
  • Season 4 — Desiree Dupree in Freak Show
  • Season 5 — Ramona Royale in Hotel
  • Season 6 — "Lee" aka Monet Tumusiime in Roanoke

Best Role: Marie Laveau

It takes incredible charisma to challenge the likes of Lange's Supreme and Bates's Madame Delphine, but Angela Bassett's turn as Marie Laveau, The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, transformed Coven into a tour de force of female empowerment with sass to boot.

Taissa Farmiga

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 1 — Violet Harmon in Murder House
  • Season 3 — Zoe Benson in Coven
  • Season 6Sophie Green in Roanoke

Best Role: Violet Harmon

Despite being the focus at the start of Coven, Taissa Farmiga will always be remembered most vividly for the scene where Violet discovered why she couldn't leave the Murder House in Season 1 of American Horror Story.

Frances Conroy

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 1 — Moira O'Hara in Murder House
  • Season 2 — The Angel of Death in Asylum
  • Season 3 — Myrtle Snow in Coven
  • Season 4 — Gloria Mott in Freak Show
  • Season 6 — Mama Polk in Roanoke

Best Role: Myrtle Snow

Conroy regularly stole the show in every season thanks to a variety of eccentric, supporting roles, but none are more memorable than Myrtle Snow, Zoe's benevolent mother figure who hid a fierce, darker side underneath all that hair.

Jamie Brewer

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 1 — Adelaide "Addie" Langdon in Murder House
  • Season 3 — Nan in Coven
  • Season 4 — Marjorie the Puppet in Freak Show

Best Role: Addie Langdon

Brewer's casting is notable for the fact that she's a Down Syndrome actress playing characters who possess the same genetic disorder — but her talent far outshines any label, particularly when she makes her debut as Lange's daughter Addie in Murder House.

Denis O'Hare

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 1 — Larry Harvey in Murder House
  • Season 3 — Spalding in Coven
  • Season 4 — Stanley in Freak Show
  • Season 5 — Liz Taylor in Hotel
  • Season 6 — "Dr. Elias Cunningham" in Roanoke

Best Role: Liz Taylor

Almost unrecognizable in every role he plays, American Horror Story alum O'Hare was given his most challenging role yet in Liz Taylor, a strong-headed diva whose transition from a man into a woman was handled with a surprising amount of delicacy and poise.

Dylan McDermott

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 1 — Ben Harmon in Murder House
  • Season 2 — Johnny Morgan in Asylum

Best Role: Johnny Morgan

Morgan inherited his father's psychotic traits, continuing the legacy of Bloody Face in one of the most chilling character arcs ever depicted on American Horror Story.

Check out some more American Horror Story killers who were inspired by real-life events:

Emma Roberts

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 3 — Madison Montgomery in Coven
  • Season 4 — Maggie Esmerelda in Freak Show

Best Role: Madison Montgomery

Emma Roberts may have only starred in two seasons before joining the cast of Murphy's Scream Queens, but her role as the mean girl with psychic powers made her the witch you loved to hate most in Season 3 of American Horror Story.

Zachary Quinto

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 1 — Chad Warwick in Murder House
  • Season 2 — Dr. Oliver Thredson in Asylum

Best Role: Dr. Oliver Thredson

Sure, Quinto made a name for himself as the villainous Sylar on Heroes, but Zachary's second role in American Horror Story was by far his most chilling role, thanks to his horrifically calculated approach to torture.

Chloë Sevigny

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 2 — Shelley in Asylum
  • Season 5 — Alex Lowe in Hotel

Best Role: Shelley

After Sevigny's first character on American Horror Story laughed off Dr Arden's advances, the poor girl had both legs removed and was disfigured beyond recognition, resulting in one of the darkest and most frightening scenes to ever appear on the show.

Lady Gaga

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 5 — The Countess in Hotel
  • Season 6 — "Scathach" in Roanoke

Best Role: The Countess

Fans were hesitant when Murphy first announced Gaga's addition to the cast, but The Countess proved to be one of Season 5's greatest highlights, earning the pop star an Emmy in the process.

Matt Bomer

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 4 — Andy in Freak Show
  • Season 5 — Donovan in Hotel
  • Season 6 — ??? in Roanoke

Best Role: Donovan

Bomer's model looks were put to expert use in the role of Donovan, a bored and dissatisfied vampire who no longer enjoyed the pleasures of bloody orgies like he used to.

Cheyenne Jackson

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 5 — Will Drake in Hotel
  • Season 6 — Sidney Aaron James in Roanoke

Best Role: Sidney Aaron James

After the big twist of Season 6 was revealed midway through the season, the mastermind behind My Roanoke Nightmare was unveiled in the form of producer Sidney Aaron James, who Jackson imbued with a worryingly realistic hunger for fame and numbers.

Wes Bentley

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 4 — Edward Mordrake in Freak Show
  • Season 5 — Detective John Lowe in Hotel
  • Season 6 — Ambrose White in Roanoke

Best Role: Edward Mordrake

While Twisty and Dandy stole the spotlight in Freak Show, Bentley's debut as a gentlemanly spirit was equally memorable thanks to that unique combination of giant mutton chops and a secret face nestled under that striking top hat.

Finn Wittrock

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 4 — Dandy Mott in Freak Show
  • Season 5 — Tristan in Hotel
  • Season 6 — Cain Polk in Roanoke

Best Role: Dandy Mott

Wittrock became an instant fan favorite with the character of Dandy Mott, a spoiled little rich kid who ultimately turned out to be the biggest freak of all, killing people left, right and center in a bid to become more fearsome than Twisty.

Gabourey Sidibe

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 3 — Queenie in Coven
  • Season 4 — Regina Ross in Freak Show
  • Season 5 — Queenie in Hotel

Best Role: Queenie

The human voodoo doll made us laugh and recoil in equal measure thanks to the inventive use of her powers and the sassy interplay between her and Madame Delphine LaLaurie. Unfortunately, tragedy struck when she returned two seasons later in Hotel. R.I.P., Queenie.

John Carroll Lynch

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 4 — Twisty the Clown in Freak Show
  • Season 5 — John Wayne Gacy in Hotel

Best Role: Twisty the Clown

Lynch is a natural when it comes to playing freaky, perverse characters who have a thing for face paint. His appearance on the show as Twisty the Clown is easily one of the most iconic roles featured in American Horror Story to date.

Mare Winningham

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 3 — Alicia Spencer in Coven
  • Season 4 — Rita Gayheart in Freak Show
  • Season 5 — Miss Hazel Evers in Hotel

Best Role: Miss Hazel Evers

Don't we all want someone in our lives who's as loyal as Miss Hazel Evers? Perhaps, yes, but not when she goes to extreme lengths to help you commit bloody killing sprees, taking extra care to wash all the blood out of the sheets when you're finished.

Adina Porter

[Via FX]
[Via FX]
  • Season 1 — Sally Freeman in Murder House
  • Season 6 — Lee Harris in Roanoke

Best Role: Lee Harris

Adina Porter may not have appeared in American Horror Story as often as other performers on this list, but her role as Lee Harris in Roanoke is easily one of the most memorable so far, covering everything from alcoholism and cannibalism to possession in one short season.

Check out Lee and the rest of Roanoke's cast playing a new version of The Name Game in the clip below:

See also:

Few shows stretch the talents of their cast as much as American Horror Story. After all, where else would performers of this caliber be forced to play completely different roles between and sometimes even within seasons? Nonetheless, each recurring cast member has more than risen to the challenge, providing us with some of the most striking characters seen on TV this decade. The only question now is what disturbed yet brilliant roles will they tackle in Season 7?


Who's your favorite recurring cast member in American Horror Story?


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