No matter what one might think about the Ryan Murphy series American Horror Story, it still has to be acknowledged that it has managed a feat that relatively few other series have achieved: it’s now gearing up to go into its tenth season (and has been renewed for several more). There’s something infinitely appealing about its mix of gore and camp, high melodrama, and wrenching pathos.
In addition, it has to be said that it has also attracted its fair share of talented actors to its roster, though some, it also has to be acknowledged, are much better than others.
10 Best: Jessica Lange
There’s no question that Jessica Lange is nothing less than the queen of this show (no surprise, given how many great roles she’s had in her career). Though she’s no longer a regular, from the first through the fourth seasons she owned every moment of screen time playing fierce, tough-as-nails women who also had a deeply sensitive soul.
It was her ability to create these fascinating and complicating characters that made her one of the most valuable players on this series, and its success can definitely be attributed in large part to her star power.
9 Worst: Wes Bentley
One has to give Wes Bently a lot of credit for trying. He clearly cares about the characters he creates, but it has to be admitted that they all end up falling rather flat. Indeed, one of the things that make no sense about Hotel is why he was cast in it.
They are basically men who run around the whole season with a very confused look on their face, never quite able to figure out what’s going on around them until the last minute. Just as importantly, though, no one should ever forgive Bentley for his atrocious accent as the ghost Edward Mordrake.
8 Best: Sarah Paulson
Has there ever been a television actress with quite the range of Sarah Paulson? In almost every season of this show, she’s managed to create a character that is entirely different from all of the other ones, but each one has been a success.
With Paulson, her characters are the inverse of Lange’s. On the surface, they often appear deeply sensitive, sometimes even fragile, but time and again they matter to overturn viewer expectations by revealing that they actually have an inner core of strength that makes them formidable opponents to anyone who tries to take them down.
7 Worst: Billy Eichner
Billy Eichner is a very funny actor, and in certain roles, he’s absolutely brilliant. However, this show is definitely not his finest work. There are just too many times when he leans into the camp aspect of his characters, and this robs them of any of the drama or heft that the script sometimes calls for.
Just as importantly, in recent seasons his characters have often proven to be rather ancillary to the main action, leaving some to wonder what, exactly, he’s doing there in the first place.
6 Best: Kathy Bates
Kathy Bates, like many of the other actors and actresses that have appeared in this show over the years, already had a substantial acting career before she became a regular. This is evident in the range that she brings to each and every persona that she has crafted for this series.
Whether it’s the villainous murder Delphine or the bearded lady Ethel, these are women that the viewer is asked to care about and to sympathize with, and Bates makes all of this possible.
5 Worst: Emma Roberts
It’s probably not entirely fair to take Emma Roberts to task. After all, she can only do so much with the material that she’s given. However, it has to be said that she basically has one kind of character that she ends up playing in this series, and it begins to wear thin after the first several times that she appears.
By this point, she’s got the mean girl persona down to an art, but one can’t help but wish that she would give a little more depth to her characters
4 Best: Frances Conroy
Who doesn’t love Frances Conroy? Any time that she has appeared in a television series, she’s been nothing less than amazing. Of course, her best character in this series had to be Myrtle, the zany witch with the outrageous hair.
However, each of her creations has been an absolute delight to watch. As with many of her other fellow cast members, it certainly helps that she has had a long and prestigious career in television, which has allowed her to hone her craft to a fine point.
3 Worst: Leslie Grossman
As with Emma Roberts, it’s probably not entirely fair to blame Leslie Grossman for her characters (and she’s played quite a few). Again, however, it has to be said that she has very few notes, and she plays them repeatedly. It’s honestly hard to tell, though, whether this is her fault or simply the parts that the writers give her to play.
Either way, it’s hard not to wish that she would get some variety in the types of characters she plays if only to help add some spice to the show.
2 Best: Angela Bassett
There’s so much to say about Angela Bassett. She chews the scenery with delight, and yet despite the largeness of her various personae in this show, it’s hard not to admit that there’s often a subtlety there, one that sometimes exists beneath the surface but is definitely there if one takes the time to look for it.
She, along with Lange and Bates, is without a doubt one of the best things about this series, and it can be hoped that they continue to write parts that make the most out of her extraordinary talents.
1 Worst: Cody Fern
Cody Fern is one of the relative newcomers to the show, but already he’s been in several seasons. He’s not a bad actor, necessarily, but it has to be admitted that he’s not always capable of great range.
His character of the Antichrist, for example, lacks any significant amount of subtlety or depth, and the same can be said of his character in 1984. Again, though, part of this is a function of the parts he’s given, but one can hope that he’ll eventually grow into his talents.
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