Billie Lourd, Alison Pill, and Sarah Paulson attend a panel on “American Horror Story: Cult” on August 9th.
By Frederick M. Brown/.
We’re less than a month away from the premiere of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story: Cult, and as usual, the season remains shrouded in mystery. Will there really be clowns, or are they a metaphor for . . . something? What’s up with all the bees? Who will Frances Conroy be playing this time? Questions abound, but thankfully, as the weeks wind down, answers are coming. Here’s a handy guide to what we know so far. (We’ll keep this updated as the clown-themed dispatches come along.)
This season will span 11 episodes, and will premiere on September 5. It will be set in Michigan, and use last year’s election as a jumping-off point. During a Television Critics Association panel, which Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson attended on Wednesday, the cast alluded to a heightened sense of paranoia this season. The panel confirmed that there will be a haunted house—a theme Murphy seems to like returning to. The cast also alluded to an “addictive” campiness this season.
Murphy told The Hollywood Reporter that this season will be all about “highlighting people who don’t have a voice in our culture—people who are ignored by the current administration and who are afraid and feel terrorized that their lives are going to be taken away.”
So far, we know that Sarah Paulson will return to play a character named Ally Mayfair-Richards, who is married to newcomer Alison Pill’s Ivy Mayfair-Richards. At the T.C.A. panel Wednesday, the two revealed more about their characters, including that they are married and living together. The panel did not reveal how A.H.S. vet Evan Peters will factor into the story; in July, Murphy posted a sketch of the actor’s character, Kai, next to Ally—with the caption “Ally and Kai in CULT…a love story for the ages.” All Paulson offered on the subject was, “I think it’s going to reveal itself in surprising ways.”
Other returning cast members include: Adina Porter, who made her Horror Story debut in Season 6 and will play a broadcast journalist named Beverly Hope this time around; Cheyenne Jackson, who will play “Dr. Rudy Vincent”; and Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, Chaz Bono, and Emma Roberts, whose roles have yet to be specified. It also seems likely that John Carroll Lynch, who played Twisty the Clown in Season 4 and John Wayne Gacy in Season 5, will reprise his Season 4 role, but he has yet to be officially confirmed.
As for the newcomers, there’s Billie Lourd, who plays Winter Anderson; Leslie Grossman, who plays Meadow Wilton; Billy Eichner as Harrison Wilton; Colton Haynes as Detective Samuels; and Lena Dunham, whose role remains unknown. At the T.C.A. panel, Lourd revealed that her character will be more emotional and “human” than her Scream Queens character. And then, there’s one more possibility: Cher. The musician and mother of Chaz Bono fired off a tweet in August that got fans abuzz:
Obviously, we know this season will have something to do with cults. The panel confirmed that the season will use last year’s election as a catalyst, although executive producer Alexis Martin Woodall added, “When Ryan had to make the announcement originally that the season would deal with Trump. It’s not what you think it is. It’s a jumping off point. It’s an element on our launch point.” When pressed for further hints, she offered: “Bloody tension. A well-cooked meal. An exciting trip to a grocery store.”
Those words might hint at another theme at play: cannibalism. We’ve seen people eating people before on this show—like last season’s family of hillbilly cannibals, one of whom was played by Chaz Bono. This season, Ally and Ivy own a restaurant called The Butchery on Main, and if this shot of Ivy is any indication, they might not just be serving burgers.
It seems the shooting process was a little different this year: “We had a bunch of scripts in advance,” Pill said at the panel, “but my understanding is that most seasons aren’t like that. They’re more fly by the seat of their pants.” Paulson confirmed that notion, adding, “Typically we start with one maybe two scripts. We got lucky this year.” The actors seemed cagey as to why this year merited a different process.
Promotional materials have been heavy on clown imagery, bees, and children’s music. It’s perhaps unwise to take any of this literally; A.H.S. promotional materials tend to give very little away about plot details. Still, the season’s Web site offers some clues, separated by week. Perhaps the most noteworthy theme across the Web site and all of its promotional materials is the frequent reference to fear. Aside from that, Week 2 revealed costume concepts that look awfully clown-like, hinting that perhaps literal clowns will make another appearance this season. (That makes sense, considering Murphy’s hint that Twisty will be back, in one form or another.) Week 3 revealed cast photos, which—once again—are littered with clown imagery. Week 4 revealed snippets of script.
Here’s the first one:
INSERT — PLATE
A crumpet full of HOLES sits on top of a bed of endive. Blood seeping
through the holes in the pastry. In the endive, little sausage-shaped
“things” are REVEALED to be severed fingers – pinkies to be exact.
[Redacted] recoils from the image. . . [Redacted] hyperventilates as
she lurches back. Her hand grabbing the dome and covering the
offending plate. She reaches for her glass of wine, but misses,
KNOCKING it off the table.
And here’s the second:
A bloody tongue drops INTO FRAME, a silver rod pierced through the
pink muscle. The image changes into [redacted]. CAMERA PANS [redacted]
showing the demented face of [redacted] holding [redacted]’s phone.
There remains one more layer of information that requires a code to unlock. (That code might be revealed at the real-life gathering taking place Friday in Philadelphia’s Dilworth Park.) We’ll update this post once we crack it.
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