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From Sarah Paulson to Billy Porter: Creating Ryan Murphy’s Repertory Company

Uber-producer Ryan Murphy has made small screen stars out of A-listers and fresh faces alike.

Angela Bassett (pictured above)
Bassett starred in four seasons of “American Horror Story” (starting with “Coven” and continuing onto “Freak Show,” “Hotel” and “Roanoke”), earning two Emmy nominations. She helmed two episodes as a director, the first during her final season as an actor, on “Roanoke,” before Murphy invited her back behind-the-scenes for a pivotal episode in the seventh season, “Cult.” She also signed on to star in and serve as executive producer on Murphy’s first-responder drama “9-1-1” for Fox, which is now in its second season.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: APOCALYPSE -- Pictured: Kathy Bates as Ms. Miriam Mead. CR: Kurt Iswarienko/FX
CREDIT: Courtesy of FX

Kathy Bates
Bates joined the Ryan Murphy family in 2013, with the third season of “American Horror Story,” subtitled “Coven,” and continued on through the sixth season, “Roanoke.” The Oscar winner scored three nominations and one win to date with her work on Murphy’s anthology before moving over to “Feud,” in which she played actress Joan Blondell. Bates came back to “Horror Story” in the eighth installment, “Apocalypse,” and says it was all because of Murphy himself. “He’s been very loving and supporting of me personally,” she says. On a personal level she has been thrilled to be gifted with such “rich and complex” characters at this stage of her career, she adds. But on a broader level, she also admires how he is “very plugged in to what’s going on in the country, what has been going on for years, what hits people in the heart.”

THE ASSASSINATION OF GIANNI VERSACE: AMERICAN CRIME STORY "The Man Who Would Be Vogue" Episode 1 (Airs Wednesday. January 17, 10:00 p.m. e/p) -- Pictured: (l-r) Annaleigh Ashford as Elizabeth, Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan, Nico-Evers-Swindell as Phil. CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX
CREDIT: Courtesy of FX

Darren Criss
Criss’ role of Blaine Anderson on Murphy’s Fox musical “Glee” catapulted him to stardom among a young audience and gave him the opportunity to expand his songwriting, earning his first Emmy nomination for music and lyrics for the 2015 song “This Time” from the series. He also appeared in a two-episode arc on the fifth season of “American Horror Story,” subtitled “Hotel.” But it was Murphy casting him as Andrew Cunanan in the second installment of his other anthology drama, “American Crime Story,” that shot him to larger industry acclaim and earned him his first acting Emmy nomination — and win. “There wasn’t even a script when I signed on,” Criss says, “but there were too many boxes to be ticked that were interesting [and] the fact that Ryan was a part of it certainly gives it an amount of credibility.”

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: APOCALYPSE -- Pictured: Leslie Grossman as Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt . CR: Kurt Iswarienko/FX
CREDIT: Courtesy of FX

Leslie Grossman
Grossman first worked with Murphy in 1999 when she played soon-to-become cult icon Mary Cherry in his teen comedy “Popular.” She went on to guest star in Murphy’s FX drama “Nip/Tuck,” as well as his NBC family comedy “The New Normal.” Most recently and most notably, though, Grossman starred in “American Horror Story” in the 2017 season “Cult” and the 2018 season “Apocalypse.” “I love that Ryan can create this entire universe and do what he wants and follow his own rules, which is why I think his shows have such fervent followings — because they’re so unique,” she says.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW "Curtain Call"- Episode 413 (Airs Wednesday, January 21, 10:00 PM e/p) --Pictured: Jessica Lange as Elsa Mars. CR: Sam Lothridge/FX
CREDIT: Courtesy of FX

Jessica Lange
For the first four seasons of “American Horror Story,” Lange was a central figure, playing the mother of a devil in “Murder House,” a nun in “Asylum,” the supreme witch in “Coven,” and the manager of the titular “Freak Show” in the FX series’ fourth season. She was nominated for four Emmys for those roles and won once (for “Coven”). In 2017, she embodied real-life legend Joan Crawford for the inaugural season of “Feud,” earning another Emmy nomination. She followed that up with a highly anticipated return to “American Horror Story” as the woman who started it all, Constance Langdon, in the eighth installment, “Apocalypse.”

THE PEOPLE v. O.J. SIMPSON: AMERICAN CRIME STORY "Manna From Heaven" Episode 109 (Airs Tuesday, March 29, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark. CR: Byron Cohen /FX
CREDIT: Courtesy of FX

Sarah Paulson
Paulson first worked with Murphy as a guest star in a 2004 episode of “Nip/Tuck”; they reunited four years later for his “Pretty/Handsome” pilot. She re-teamed with him more permanently in 2011, with the first season of “Horror Story,” through the first season of “American Crime Story” in 2015 and a guest spot on “Feud” in 2017. Their partnership has brought her six of her seven Emmy nominations and a trophy for her star turn as Marcia Clark in “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.” She is one of only two actors to appear in all seasons of Murphy’s horror anthology, “American Horror Story,” and this year Murphy also gave her the chance to direct her first episode of television with the “Return to Murder House” episode of “Apocalypse.” “In every instance when Ryan has said, ‘Be brave, just step forward,’ it has been the right choice to make,” Paulson says, noting that he has taught her to “go big or go home.”

POSE -- "Giving and Receiving" -- Season 1, Episode 3 (Airs Sunday, June 17, 9:00 p.m. e/p) Pictured (l-r):  Evan Peters as Stan. CR: Sarah Shatz/FX
CREDIT: Courtesy of FX

Evan Peters
Peters has been an “American Horror Story” staple since its premiere season, “Murder House,” in 2011, in which he played the demonic (and dead) Tate Langdon. He is one of only two actors who has been in every season of that anthology drama, and in some seasons, including the most recent eighth installment, “Apocalypse,” he played more than one character. Murphy also cast Peters in his 1980s ballroom culture drama “Pose.”

POSE -- "Giving and Receiving" -- Season 1, Episode 3 (Airs Sunday, June 17, 9:00 p.m. e/p) Pictured (l-r):  Billy Porter as Pray Tell. CR: Sarah Shatz/FX
CREDIT: Courtesy of FX

Billy Porter
The Tony Award-winning actor had only done a handful of guest spots on television before landing the pivotal role of Pray Tell in Murphy’s ballroom culture period drama “Pose” for FX. That show is heading into its second season, but Porter spent the hiatus appearing on “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” as a warlock whose allegiance shifts to the witches. “Ryan is one of the kindest men I know. He likes to play the stone-cold diva, but underneath it’s love that motivates his every move,” Porter says.

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