Kathy Bates won't appear in American Horror Story: Cult, the upcoming election-focused installment of Ryan Murphy's anthology horror series. The actor has been a regular on the show since season 3's Coven, when she first joined the cast as Delphine LaLaurie, a sadistic slave owner/serial killer. She's since appeared in Freak Show as bearded lady Ethel Darling, Hotel as Cortez manager Iris, and Roanoke as the villainous Butcher, the main antagonist for the season. Cult will mark the first AHS chapter without Bates since 2013.
This cycle will, however, feature several returning players: Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Adina Porter, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, and Mare Winningham are all confirmed to appear. Paulson will play a character named Ally, while Peters will portray her lover, Kai, mirroring their couple arc from Roanoke. Also on board are new-to-AHS faces like Arrow's Colton Haynes, Girls' Lena Dunham, Scream Queens‘ Billie Lourd, Billy on the Street host Billy Eichner, Leslie Grossman (Popular, What I Like About You), and newcomer Alison Pill.
According to THR, Bates couldn't commit because of a scheduling conflict with her upcoming Netflix series, the Chuck Lorre-created pot comedy Disjointed, which debuts ahead of AHS on Aug. 25. There, Bates stars as Ruth, a perpetually stoned Los Angeles cannabis-lover living out her longtime dream as a dispensary owner.
The news comes on the heels of several big reveals for Cult. The title was unveiled last week, followed by a newly launched website that promises eight weeks of clues (two teasers have already been unlocked). Murphy further detailed the cycle while speaking to THR, explaining that it's "about illuminating and 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."
As he previously explained to E! News, the show will open on election night with footage of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and now-president Donald Trump playing on TV when something terrible happens that throws their lives into disarray. The 11-episode season is set in Michigan.
It's unfortunate that Bates won't be involved this time around, but it also shows that AHS truly has reignited her career: her performances were compelling enough to land her a starring role in a series on a major platform. Besides, knowing Murphy, she'll be back somewhere down the line.
American Horror Story: Cult premieres on FX on September 5th.