'American Horror Story' by the Numbers: Looking Back on 100 Episodes
By Stacy Lambe
There’s no doubting that American Horror Story has become a pop culture sensation. Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the FX drama has spanned nine seasons so far -- with a 10th already greenlit -- and made stars out of its recurring players, such as Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters, while reigniting the career of longtime film, stage and TV actress Jessica Lange.
Both fans of horror, the TV duo set out to put their own spin on the genre by creating a series that would not only scare viewers, but also leave them “a little bit off balance afterwards,” Falchuk said at the onset of FX’s now-iconic anthology series. Launching with Murder House, starring Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott and Lange, the series was an instant hit and garnered 17 Emmy nominations.
No sooner than the first season came to its shocking conclusion did Murphy announce his plans to change the cast and location for the second season. “The next year of the show -- every season of the show -- will be a different haunting,” he said at the time, setting off what would become a recurring frenzy leading up to each installment about what subgenre of horror the show would tackle next -- and just who from the previous season would return, either as a new character or offer a connection from one season to the next.
In the middle of its ninth installment -- American Horror Story: 1984, a slasher-themed season starring Emma Roberts, Billie Lourd and Cody Fern -- the franchise has reached a major TV milestone: 100 episodes. Now, ET is looking back on all the highlights by breaking down the series by the numbers.
100 episodes. Easily the most significant number, the series 100th episode airs Wednesday, Oct. 23, and is expected to be both a celebration of the ongoing franchise -- possibly confirming a few connections to past seasons -- while moving the 1984 storyline forward to another epic conclusion.
94 Emmy nominations. Over the course of its first eight seasons, the series has garnered a number of accolades, with the Primetime Emmys being the most coveted among them. Season four, also known as Freak Show, has earned the most nominations in a single year with 19, while the series as a whole has won 16 times.
93 percent. The current Rotten Tomatoes score for 1984 makes the ninth season the most well-received installment of the franchise. Falling behind it is Asylum (84%), Coven (83%), Freak Show (79%), Roanoke (74%), Apocalypse (75%), Murder House (73%), Cult (73%) and the fifth season, Hotel, coming in last at 64%.
51 recurring players. Counting the American Horror Story franchise as one project, many performers in Murphy’s pool of “recurring players” have appeared in at least one episode of AHS and in at least one or more of his other many film and TV projects -- and each has their own specific journey with Murphy. Notably, Sarah Paulson, who has starred in eight seasons of AHS, has won an Emmy for her portrayal of Marcia Clark in The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story, has also appeared in Feud: Bette and Joan, Nip/Tuck, will lead the upcoming Netflix series Ratched and portray Linda Tripp in the third season of ACS. Meanwhile, there’s Adina Porter, who has gone from a day player on Glee and Murder House to an Emmy-nominated, breakout star of Cult. “They went back and reviewed what I did on Murder House and they liked it,” Porter previously told ET about her rise in Murphy’s ranks.
Some of the most notable names include Adina Porter, Angela Bassett, Angelica Ross, BD Wong, Billie Lourd, Billy Porter, Cheyenne Jackson, Christine Ebersole, Christine Estabrook, Cody Fern, Colton Haynes, Connie Britton, Cuba Gooding Jr, Danielle Macdonald, Darren Criss, Denis O’Hare, Dot-Marie Jones, Dylan McDermott, Emma Roberts, Evan Peters, Jacob Artist, Jessica Lange, Kate Mara, Kathy Bates, Leslie Grossman, Lily Rabe, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Mark Consuelos, Matt Bomer, Matthew Morrison, Max Greenfield, Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, Sandra Bernhard, Sarah Paulson, Seth Gabel, Skyler Samuels, Teddy Sears and Zachary Quinto.
22 notable one-season guest stars and cameos. There have been some big names, like Lady Gaga, to breeze through multiple seasons while Stevie Nicks has appeared as the most coveted witch herself in Coven and Apocalypse. But the series has practically a never-ending list of one-time appearances by major athletes, musicians and Lena Dunham.
Some of the biggest names include Adam Levine & Jenna Dewan (Asylum), BD Wong (Apocalypse), Chrissy Metz (Freak Show), Darren Criss (Hotel), Dermot Mulroney (Cult), Gus Kenworthy (1984), Eric Stonestreet (Murder House), Ian McShane (Asylum), Joan Collins (Apocalypse), Lena Dunham (Cult), Malcolm-Jamal Warner (Freak Show), Mark Consuelos (Asylum), Marla Gibbs (Hotel), Max Greenfield (Hotel), Naomi Campbell (Hotel), Neil Patrick Harris & David Burtka (Freak Show), Patti LaBelle (Freak Show), Patti LuPone (Coven), Rick Springfield (Cult) and Sandra Bernhard (Cult).
19 episodes written (or co-written) by Murphy. While very influential to every season, Murphy and Falchuk have co-written every premiere except for one (Asylum), while the pair has earned an Emmy nomination for writing Coven’s “Bitchcraft.” Surprisingly, Murphy has helmed even less -- only directing three episodes total over nine seasons and earning one nomination for Freak Show’s “Monsters Among Us.”
16 characters played by Evan Peters across nine seasons. Considering that Peters is one of Murphy’s most reliable recurring players, appearing in the first eight installments of the franchise, it’s no surprise that he’s played a number of original -- 16 overall -- and recurring characters. The most he’s ever played in one season was seven, including brief appearances as Charles Manson, Jim Jones and David Koresh during Cult.
Angela Bassett, who directed “Chapter 6” of Cult, commended Peters for fully embodying each of the cult leaders featured on the show. “He came ready, I have to say, he came prepared each day,” she told ET at the time, adding that it was a pleasure to watch him get into the headspace of each man. His commitment led them to include a speech from Koresh that wasn’t originally in the script. With most of the flashback footage set to be used in a montage, there wasn’t any plan to include audio from what was shot of Peters as the cult leaders. However, he delivered it so well, she reveals, that they found a way to include it “because it helped to layer the story.”
Evan Peters has played Tate Langdon (Murder House); Kit Walker (Asylum); Kyle Spencer (Coven); Jimmy Darling (Freak Show); James Patrick March (Hotel); Edward Philippe Mott and Rory Monahan (Roanoke); Kai Anderson as well as Andy Warhol, Jim Jones, David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite, Jesus and Charles Manson (Cult); Mr. Gallant, James Patrick March, Tate Langdon and Jeff Pfister (Apocalypse).
14 real-life serial killers, infamous murderers and cult leaders. While American Horror Story is largely fictional, creating new and fascinating frights each season, the show does like to incorporate notorious figures, from the Axeman of New Orleans (played by Danny Huston in Coven) to members of the Manson Family featured in Cult. Most recently, 1984 sees Zach Villa portraying a version of Richard Ramirez, commonly known as the Night Stalker, who has an unexpected connection to John Stamos that is almost too wild to believe.
The names include Richard Ramirez (Zach Villa), Aileen Wuornos (Lily Rabe), Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates), Susan Atkins (Sarah Paulson), John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), The Axeman (Danny Huston), Jeffrey Dahmer (Seth Gabel), Patricia Krenwinkel (Leslie Grossman), Valerie Solanas (Lena Dunham), Anton LaVey (Carlo Rota), and Evan Peters as Jim Jones, David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite and Charles Manson.
10 seasons. While only nine seasons have aired so far, FX renewed AHS for a 10th installment in 2018, ahead of Apocalypse’s premiere. “Ryan asked for a 10th season of American Horror Story which we were happy to give to him,” FX Networks CEO John Landgraf said at the time.
9 episodes. The number represents the season run of 1984, making it the shortest installment of American Horror Story. The longest season belongs to Asylum, Coven and Freak Show, which ran for 13 episodes each.
8 interconnected seasons. Ever since Pepper (played by Naomi Grossman) became the first character to reappear in a second season of American Horror Story -- first in Asylum, then in Freak Show -- the franchise has gone on to connect all eight installments with various characters returning for small or large parts in subsequent seasons. Notably, the eighth season -- dubbed Apocalypse -- was specifically conceived as a Coven and Murder House crossover. Meanwhile, with two seasons still to go, there are likely more connections to come.
7 seasons. That’s the longest gap for any one actor (and notable character) to make in between appearances on American Horror Story. The record is held by Connie Britton, who played Vivien Harmon in Murder House and didn’t return to the franchise until she reprised the role in Apocalypse. Britton is also the only major player to play one character across multiple seasons.
6 Pose stars. As previously mentioned, there have been a number of actors -- “Ryan Murphy’s recurring players” -- to appear in the producer’s various film and TV projects. Most notably, the only crossover with a current FX series is Pose, the groundbreaking drama about the LGBTQ community of color from New York City’s 1980s ballroom scene.
Among those to appear on both are Christine Ebersole, Kate Mara, Patti LuPone, Sandra Bernhard as well as 2019 Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy winner Billy Porter and breakout star Angelica Ross, whose departure on Pose paved the way for her series regular role in 1984. “I am elated that the world will get much more Angelica,” Murphy announced at the time. “She is joining the American Horror Story family in another unforgettable role. Congrats Angelica for making history, leaping from #PoseFX to #AHS1984.”
4 acting Emmys wins. As mentioned before, the franchise has taken home 16 Emmys, with the most wins going to hairstyling and prosthetic makeup. But the series has also garnered four acting wins for some of its biggest stars, including two for Lange (Murder House and Coven), James Cromwell (Asylum) and Kathy Bates (Coven).
3 seasons. That’s the most installments a recurring character has appeared in. The record is currently held by Billie Dean Howard (Paulson), who has popped up in Murder House, Hotel and Apocalypse, and Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), who appeared in Coven, Hotel and Apocalypse.
2 actors who have directed episodes of AHS. Angela Bassett, who has helmed two, and Sarah Paulson are the only major stars to step behind the camera to direct episodes in the franchise.
Paulson made her directorial debut with “Return to Murder House” for Apocalypse. McDermott, who made his big return to the franchise for the episode, told ET that part of the reason why the experience was so great was thanks to Paulson being such an amazing director. “She was phenomenal,” he raved. “She made everyone feel at ease and comfortable. She's such a great actress, so she knows exactly what to say, but also what not to say.” Meanwhile, Bassett directed “Chapter 6” for Roanoke and “Drink the Kool-Aid” for Cult. “I’ve gotten positive feedback on both episodes. I’m always amazed that they turn out as well as they do,” Bassett told ET about working on the show.