The Familiar Faces Of The Ryan Murphy Universe

Ryan Murphy has been a titan of the television industry for more than twenty years, with genre-spanning work spawning passionate fandoms. From medical dramas (Nip/Tuck), to high school musicals (Glee), to chillingly campy horror projects (American Horror Story, Ratched), Murphy has successfully built his own cosmos of characters and plot lines.

In this Ryan Murphy Cinematic Universe, there are a number of power players you can always count on to show up — no matter what the genre. These A-listers, all hailing from different backgrounds, are attracted to the creator's unique and sometimes twisted vision, and the know how to bring it to life onscreen. Whether the story calls for worshipping the devil or voguing at an underground ball, this ensemble of actors are all in.

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Ahead, get to know the celebrity staples of any Ryan Murphy television project.

Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images.

Jessica Lange


Seen in: American Horror Story (Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, Apocalypse), Feud: Bette and Joan, The Politician

OG film star Jessica Lange has been called one of the greatest actresses of all time, and her roles in Murphy's filmography certainly contributed to that honor. She's starred in five different iterations of AHS and paid tribute to the film legends of old in Feud: Bette and Joan, in which she portrayed Joan Crawford.
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Sarah Paulson 


Seen in: Nip/Tuck, The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, Feud: Bette and Joan, almost every iteration of American Horror Story, Ratched

You can’t talk about Murphy's shows without mentioning his go-to gal, Sarah Paulson. The actress has been acting for years, but most fans got acquainted with her thanks to Murphy’s AHS franchise, where she continues to thrill and terrify us with nuanced performances. Currently, she’s starring in the super showrunner's One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest prequel series, Ratched, as the titular anti-hero.
Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images.

Angela Bassett


Seen in: American Horror Story (Coven, Freak Show, Hotel, Roanoke, Apocalypse) and Fox’s 9-1-1

Angela Bassett is a Black Hollywood icon, starring in cultural resets like What’s Love Got to Do with It?, Waiting to Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and Black Panther, but in 2013, she dipped into the horror genre and showed off her range in Murphy's gory universe. And she delivered every time.
Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images.

Kathy Bates


Seen in: American Horror Story (Coven, Freak Show, Hotel, Roanoke, Apocalypse) and Feud: Bette and Joan

In addition to Kathy Bates’ distinguishably frightening roles in a number of the AHS anthology series, the Oscar-winning actress also played the role of Joan Blondell in Feud: Bette and Joan alongside Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon.
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Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

Finn Wittrock


Seen in: American Horror Story (Freak Show, Hotel, Roanoke, 1984), The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Ratched

No exaggeration — Finn Wittrock is really good at playing unhinged people. It's why he was nominated for an Emmy for his role as Dandy Mott in AHS: Freak Show, and why Murphy keeps recruiting him to tap into his dark sides for other creepy shows like Ratched.
Photo: Morgan Lieberman/FilmMagic.

Darren Criss


Seen in: Glee, American Horror Story: Hotel, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Hollywood

You probably fell in love with Darren Criss as Blaine Anderson on Glee, but the actor's subsequent roles in the Murphy Cinematic Universe might have scared you off. Not to worry; you'll fall for him once more when you binge-watch Hollywood.
Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images.

Emma Roberts


Seen in: American Horror Story (Coven, Freak Show, Cult, Apocalypse, 1984) and Scream Queens

Emma Roberts has starred in five different installments of AHS within the last decade, each role creepier than the last.
Photo: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Tom Ford.

Billie Lourd


Seen in: American Horror Story (Cult, Apocalypse, 1984) and Scream Queens

Billie Lourd's first television credit was her 2015 role in Fox thriller series Scream Queens, in which she played Sadie Swenson/Chanel #3. The actress went on to star in AHS: Cult, Apocalypse, and 1984.

Photo: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images.

Dylan McDermott


Seen in: American Horror Story (Murder House, Asylum, Apocalypse, 1984), The Politician, Hollywood 

Murphy found AHS’s leading man in Dylan McDermott, casting the veteran actor in a number of lead roles in the spooky series. But he’s also been beyond charming in the Murphy universe, winning our hearts as a soft-hearted pimp (yes, it’s possible) in Netflix’s limited series Hollywood.
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Photo: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images.

Patti LuPone


Seen in: Glee, Pose, Hollywood

Grand dame LuPone stunned in Murphy's dreamily optimistic retelling of the Golden Age of Hollywood, starring in Netflix's original series Hollywood as a powerful film executive with a vision of change for the industry.

Photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images.

Matt Bomer


Seen in: Glee, The New Normal, and American Horror Story (Freak Show, Hotel), The Boys In The Band

Matt Bomer is a staple in the Murphy Cinematic Universe, but he's also worked behind the scenes; in addition to acting in several projects helmed by the showrunner, Bomer has also served as a producer.
Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images.

Leslie Grossman


Seen in: Popular, Nip/Tuck, The New Normal, American Horror Story (Cult, Apocalypse, 1984)T
Leslie Grossman is one of the original Murphy stans, having appeared in some of his earliest projects. the actress starred in Popular — Murphy's very first TV show — and in the cult favorite series Nip/Tuck.
Photo: Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb.

Evan Peters


Seen in: American Horror Story (Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, Hotel, Roanoke, Cult, Apocalypse) and Pose

Evan Peters is the most frequent Ryan Murphy collaborator, having starred in eight of the nine existing seasons of American Horror Story as well as Murphy's FX series Pose. He'll add another credit to his list very soon, as Peters has also signed on to star in the mysterious tenth chapter of the anthology horror series.
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