Over the last seven years and seven seasons, American Horror Story has become a popular drama/horror on TV. Because of its genre-norm breaking ways, it’s employed some genre-defining tactics, especially in the make-up department.
Given that American Horor Story has told all sorts of different terrifying tales — Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, Hotel, Roanoke, and now Cult — the varying forms and techniques of makeup have been as diverse as any show of the past decade.
Unlike any other show on television, American Horror Story is able to use make-up and prosthetics to such an extent that the actors under them don’t even look like themselves. After all, they are telling horror stories, so monstrous looking characters are expected, and given that most actors are quite beautiful people, extensive make-up work is required.
Whether it be a clown with no jaw, a woman with two heads, or a full-blown witch, here are the 15 American Horror Story Actors Who Look Shockingly Different From Their Characters.
15. Lily Rabe – Aileen Wuornos
Charline Theron isn’t the only one to play the infamous serial killer Aileen Wuornos. That’s right, back during the fifth season of American Horror Story, Hotel, Lily Rabe, previously known for her roles as Nora Montgomery in Murder House and Sister Mary Eunice in Asylum, portrayed the legendary murderer during season 5.
Wuornos, of course, was a famous serial killer who murdered seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990 by shooting them at point-blank range. As a defense, Wuornos claimed that all of her victims had either sexually assault or attempted to sexually assault her while she was working as a sex worker, therefore, all of the murders she committed were in self-defense.
14. Lady Gaga – The Witch
During Roanoke, Lady Gaga plays Scáthach in “My Roankoke Nightmare.” Scáthach is a hideous, immortal witch, who is also the original Supreme (a callback to season 3, Coven).
According to legend, Scáthach is an English woman descended from the Druids and their Roman conquerors who left for the Britain as a stowaway on a voyage that was cursed by a plague of death.
Upon making landfall in America, soldiers imprisoned her and sentenced her to be burned at the stake as a witch, blaming her for all the death aboard her ship. She wouldn’t go down without a fight, though, as Scáthach answered the call of more ancient and bloodthirsty gods by massacring the soldiers, allowing her to escape into the wild.
13. Naomi Grossman – Pepper
The makeup used to create Pepper, the misunderstood Briarcliff Manor inmate from American Horror Story: Asylum, is so excellent, that many people have a hard time believing that the actress who plays Pepper, Naomi Grossman, isn’t afflicted by the character’s condition herself.
Pepper, who appears first in Asylum and later in Freak Show, is a microcephalic woman and former performer with Fräulein Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities before being committed to Briarcliff. Abandon by her family upon birthday, Pepper was rescued by Elsa Mars to become the first member of Fräulein Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities.
12. John Carrol Lynch – Twisty
For starters, the entire bottom half of Twisty’s face is missing, so right off the bat, there is not much John Carrol Lynch left to even recognize.
Twisty the Clown, arguably American Horror Story‘s most terrifying creation, first debuted to haunt your dreams back in season 4’s Freak Show. Accused of child molestation, Twisty blew off his lower jaw with a shotgun in a suicide attempt, only to survive.
Horribly disfigured from the failed suicide attempt, he began to wear a disturbing grinning mask as a prosthesis over his missing jaw. It doesn’t matter if his mask was on, off, or crooked — Twisty is one of the most frightening American Horror Story characters to ever exist.
11. Kathy Bates – The Butcher
Kathy Bates may be the most famous actress to ever appear in American Horror Story, but if you were watching certain parts of season 6, Roanoke, you may not have been able to recognize her.
In Roanoke, Bates portrayed actress Agnes Mary Winstead, who in turn played a character called The Butcher. The Butcher, of course, was the leader of the lost colony of Roanoke. Real name Thomasin White, The Butcher was married to John White, the governor of the Roanoke colony, before its disappearance.
Winstead, an aging actress who was already diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, became obsessed with the character after portraying her in the show within a show, “My Roanoke Nightmare.”
10. Wes Bentley – Edward Mordrake
Wes Bentley, a veteran actor who has appeared in big-budget Hollywood films such as The Hunger Games and Interstellar (he’s the guy who gets wiped out on the wave planet), made his American Horror Story debut back in season four, Freak Show.
Bentley played Edward Mordrake, a mysterious man with two faces. Born a privileged 19th century English noble, Mordrake was cursed with a second face on the back of his head. The freaks at the Freak Show had a superstition that any performance on Halloween risked summoning Mordrake, and they were right, as Elsa Mars’ Halloween night rehearsal summoned him.
9. Denis O’Hare – Spalding
Denis O’Hare just seems to have a knack for playing creepy characters. Making his American Horror Story debut in season one’s Murder House, O’Hare won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his portrayal of Larry Harvey, otherwise known as the “Burned Man.”
Harvey would go on to appear in multiple seasons of American Horror Story, including Spalding the butler in American Horror Story: Coven.
Spalding, a mute butler at Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, comes from an ancient line of servitude to the Coven. Faithfully serving as the butler of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for decades, Spalding’s tragic past has tied him to the Academy and to the witches of the Coven for quite some time, maybe even longer than some realize.
8. Zachary Quinto – Rubber Man
This one is kind of obvious, considering the fact that, when you’re covered in rubber from head to toe, there’s nothing to even be recognized. One of the scariest characters from the original season of American Horror Story, Rubber Man was inhabited by multiple actors, including Evan Peter’s character, Tate Langdon.
A coverall made of shiny black latex, the suit was initially purchased by Chad Warwick but adopted by Tate Langdon for his Rubber Man alter-ego.
Chad Warwick, Zachary Quinto’s character in Murder House, purchased the suit after he began sensing that Patrick, his partner, was becoming distant. After discovering that Patrick was participating in an online affair in a BDSM chatroom, Warwick purchased the suit in an effort to reignite the relationship. Needless to say, the suit ended up playing a much darker roll than originally intended by the forlorn lover.
7. Frances Conroy – Myrtle Snow
Myrtle Snow, the head of the Witches’ Council in American Horror Story: Coven, was an odd witch who had a strong dedication towards the coven of the Salem descendants. Alumni of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, Snow attended school with rival Fiona Goode and several other witches during the period when Anna Leigh Leighton was the Supreme witch.
As she grew older, her rivalry with Fiona persisted, as she managed to become the Supreme, while Myrtle became the next Head of the Witches’ Council. Her rivalry with Fiona would eventually be her downfall, though, as Fiona would eventually conspire to burn her at the stake.
Give Myrtle credit, though, as she had maybe the most awesome final words of anyone on the show: “I’ve been swimming against the tide my whole life. Look where it got me. I used to be an outcast, a freak, until I found my place in this coven. I thought I’d come home, but I was wrong. I go proudly to the flame. Go ahead; burn me.”
6. Sarah Paulson – Hypodermic Sally
Sarah Paulson has been the unequivocal breakout star of American Horror Story, although her character in Hotel, Sally McKenna, aka Hypodermic Sally, maybe her worst. Actually, not may — it is her worst.
Hotel was a mess as a whole, and Sally was a part of it. A ghost junkie who had been permanently residing at the Hotel Cortez ever since she was murdered by Iris in 1994, Sally would be introduced to modern life and technology, which she would use to renovate her afterlife, becoming a successful blogger. Sounds pretty ridiculous, right? Not much is known about Sally before her murder, other than that she was a major Heroin user and drug dealer.
5. Denis O’Hare – Liz Taylor
As the second Denis O’Hare character on this list, the veteran American Horror Story actor played the transgender bartender Liz Taylor in the fifth season, Hotel. Liz, who was employed at Hotel Cortez since 1984, is a bartender at the hotel and shares desk duty with the manager, Iris.
Legally born as Nick Pryor, Liz Taylor worked in the Blue Parrot Lounge at the Hotel Cortez. Before her job at the Hotel Cortez, Liz lived a closeted life in Topeka, Kansas.
The father of Douglas and the husband of Tracy, Liz would take some of his wife’s clothing while on business trips to sell medical products. One of those trips leads him to Hotel Cortez, where he is given a makeover by Elizabeth, Lady Gaga’s character in Hotel.
4. Finn Wittrock – Jether Polk
Finn Wittrock is so handsome its almost offensive, so the fact that they were able to turn such a face into such a hideous character is truly a makeup marvel.
In season 6, Roanoke, Wittrock portrays Jether Polk, who is maybe the only empathetic member of the Polk family, as he is the only member of the family to not have killed a human being. That said, he’s certainly far from perfect– obsessed with videos and addicted to cocaine, Jether would often use videos recorded by him to masturbate.
Jether is the fourth character portrayed by Finn Wittrock in the American Horror Story universe, as he previously appeared as Dandy Mott in Freak Show and as Tristan Duffy and Rudolph Valentino in Hotel.
3. Lance Reddick – Papa Legba
In a show about witches, demons, and ghosts, Lance Reddick’s season three character, Papa Legba, maybe American Horror Story’s most supernatural character to date.
The Gatekeeper of the Spirit World who is charged with balancing the scales of life and death, Papa Legba is also the god of travel, opportunity, and luck. According to American Horror Story: Coven lore, before and after a Voodoo ceremony, Papa Legba must be called upon to guide the spirits summoned in a ritual back to the spirit world.
Portrayed as a Haitian man, Legba is a tall with red eyes, grey face paint in the shape of a skull, and long black dreadlocks. Despite being Gatekeeper of the Spirit World, Papa Legba was far more honest and fair than his appearance would let on.
2. Sarah Paulson – Bette & Dot
This one all depends on how you look at it: Sarah Paulson can either look even more like herself, considering that there’s two of her, or even less like herself, because, well, there’s two of her. I don’t know if you’ve seen Sarah Paulson recently, but she certainly doesn’t have a second head protruding out of her body.
Opposites if there ever were two, the only thing Bette and Dot ever shared was a body. Bette, gleeful and naive but gentle and sweet, is obsessed with movie stars like Betty Grable, while Dot, supremely stern and stoic, is the protective one of the two. However, once Dot proves to have a better singing voice, she begins to dream of being separated from her sister so that she can be a star.
1. Chloe Sevigny – Shelle
By far, this is the most disgusting use of makeup that the show has ever employed, and it really isn’t very close. Regarded as the most genuinely frightening season of American Horror Story, Asylum delivered all different sorts of frights: serial killers, aliens, demons, and even monsters.
Back in season 2, the lovely Chloe Sevigny played Shelle, one of the inmates at Briarcliff Manor who has been diagnosed as a nymphomaniac. Despised by Dr. Arden as a whore, he eventually drugs Shelle so he can experiment on her, beginning with the amputation of her legs. While everyone at the asylum believed that Shelle had escaped, Arden continued his maniacal experiments, further mutilating her.
The end result is one of the most disgusting characters to ever grace a television screen. To this day, the initial reveal of the deformed Shelle still sticks with us.
What do you think? Are you shocked by how these American Horror Story actors look in real life? Let us know in the comment section!
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