“American Horror Story” is notoriously mysterious, reaching new levels with Season 6, which didn’t even reveal its title, “Roanoke,” until its premiere.
But FX has given us a few more breadcrumbs to feast on leading up to the Season 7 premiere. The most obvious, its title, “Cult,” was revealed last month at San Diego Comic-Con. The show’s co-creator, Ryan Murphy, broke the news months ago that it would focus on the 2016 election. Here’s what else we know about this politically charged season, which premieres Sept. 5.
The Cast and Characters
“AHS” fans, rejoice; the horror anthology is bringing back franchise favorites Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson as main characters, in addition to fellow vets Emma Roberts, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, John Carroll Lynch, Adina Porter, and Mare Winningham. Joining this season are newcomers Billie Lourd (who worked with Murphy on “Scream Queens), “Billy on the Street” star Billy Eichner, Lena Dunham, Alison Pill, Colton Haynes, and Leslie Grossman.
Not returning, as far as we know: Lady Gaga, who appeared in the past two seasons; Kathy Bates, who starred in Season 3-6; and of course, Jessica Lange, who anchored the show before leaving after Season 4.
Paulson and Pill will play married couple Ally and Ivy. As we can see in the full trailer released this month, Ally is not doing very well, to say the least. She screams as Donald Trump is announced to have won the election, and can be seen telling her therapist (Jackson) about her fear of clowns, especially Lynch’s Twisty (more on that later). In a Q&A and press screening earlier this month, Murphy revealed that her anxieties extend far beyond coulrophobia. “She just has particular fears,” he said. “She has a fear of blood; she has a fear of coffins that we will explore. She has a fear of holes.”
And then there’s Kai, Peters’ character, who can be seen excitingly rushing the television (and dry-humping it?) as Trump wins the presidency. He is the leader of the eponymous cult in what Murphy has teased as the “best performance” of his career. Along with Kai Anderson, Peters will portray a number of cult leaders, including Charles Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Andy Warhol. In fact, Murphy teased that Peters will be playing eight roles.
Dunham’s guest role has been hyped significantly, but as far as we know, she’s only appearing in the seventh episode of the season as Valerie Solanas, the woman who tried to assassinate Warhol. Lourd seems to have a significant, but mysterious role as Winter Anderson, who, in the trailer, both loves children and hates them, and is a member of Kai’s cult. Roberts plays a Michigan newscaster who is promoted above Porter’s character “simply because she’s much more superficial and willing to do what it takes to survive.” Lynch, of course, will reprise his role of Twisty the Clown.
“Cult” will be about the election… but not really about the election? “I think people have the wrong idea about what it’s going to be, but that’s because people know my politics,” Murphy, who supported Clinton in her 2016 campaign, said.
The trailer for this installment makes pretty clear what Murphy was going for. He’s described the election as “a jumping off point,” with the trailer kicking off with Ally first seeing the election results in suburban Michigan. Rather than zero in on Clinton and Trump, Murphy has said that he wants to examine the “cult of personality,” especially with Kai and his following.
“Cult” will also be more “grounded” than the past seasons, according to Murphy, all of which have more than dabbled in the supernatural. “The thing about this season is that it’s much more grounded. You’re with this family; you’re with the rise of somebody who seems very dangerous; you’re in Michigan.” “Everything seems a little pulled back,” he added, though he did clarify that it has “an element of humor and satire in it.”
There will also be clowns. Lots of clowns. If that wasn’t obvious from all the teasers and posters that could be confused for “It” ads, Twisty the Clown from Season 4, “Freak Show,” will be making his grand return. He’s featured predominantly in the trailer, in the form of both a comic book held by Ally and a doll that Winter hands to a small child.
But really, what it all comes down to is love (?). Last month, Murphy shared a photo of Ally and Kai on his Instagram with the caption, “a love story for the ages,” though who knows if that was sarcasm. Plus, that’s leaving out Ally’s wife, Ivy. Later, however, he did share a similar drawing of Kai, Winter, Ally, Ivy, and the married couple’s son, captioning the image “family.” With a cult in the mix, one could imagine that polyamory is hardly out of the question.
Despite the election apparently being the catalyst for the entire season, Murphy’s recently taken pains to stress that “Cult” isn’t about left wing v. right wing. “It’s not about Trump, it’s not about Clinton,” he explained. “It’s about somebody with the wherewithal to put their finger up to the wind and see that that’s what happening and using that to rise up and form power. And use people’s vulnerabilities about how they’re feeling afraid… and they feel like the world is on fire.”
Even still, he noted that the characters have “very strong points of view” when it comes to Trump and Clinton. The two political rivals take up a lot of real estate in the creepy opening credits of “Cult,” though it’s worth noting that footage of two is not shown, but rather, people donning Trump and Clinton masks.
For what it’s worth, though, Murphy is ready if Trump happens to tweet about “AHS…” but would be “shocked” by it. “I would hope that he would have more important things to do,” he said. “I know he’s always been obsessed with the entertainment industry. All I can do is I can only be in charge of my side of the street.”