Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk don't get everything right with American Horror Story all the time, but they do always nail the casting and character development. The FX series has seriously had some of the most disturbing, otherworldly, colorful, eccentric, and sometimes straight nightmare-inducing characters ever seen on television since the start.
It is not even just the well thought-out and imaginative supporting characters and monsters that only appear in a few episodes; what the team behind the show can do with their ensemble cast composed of incredibly talented actors to scar its audience for life each season is the really astonishing part.
So, in case you have been so enveloped by all the twisted imagery and storylines that you haven't really paid attention to the cast, here are 15 AHS cast members who are actually hot and look nothing like any of the characters they have played on the show in real life.
15 Naomi Grossman as Pepper in AHS: Asylum/Freak Show
Pepper first appears in AHS: Asylum and then has a recurring role in Freak Show, which once and for all confirmed at the time that everything in the American Horror Story universe is connected. The real shock came when Naomi Grossman strutted down the red carpet looking hot as all hell, nearly unrecognizable -- and no one would have recognized her if it weren't for her trademark Pepper hair. It is truly something to watch when an actor seamlessly becomes the character they portray that you can't even imagine them looking and behaving differently in real life, but holy crap, it is hard to even believe that they are the same person seeing the photos side by side. Genuinely fantastic job by the make up artists and Naomi.
14 Grace Gummer as Penny in AHS: Freak Show
Grace Gummer's character Penny's story is just as heart-wrenching as any other character's back story in Freak Show -- if not more. Because of her controlling asshole of a father, she literally runs away and joins the circus, well the freak show to be exact, in an attempt to rebel. Penny doesn't start out a freak, though; that is the handy work of her OWN father. A father so vicious that he turns her daughter into what you see above as punishment so she can really fit in. Grace Gummer is a classic beauty in real life, so watching her character's transition from a naive, beautiful girl with dreams to become a star into a grotesque monstrosity is so very hard-hitting.
TV buff side note: Grace Gummer is also pretty fantastic in HBO's The Newsroom.
13 Robin Weigert as Mama Polk in AHS: Roanoke
Robin Weigert has been a prominent name in Hollywood who has had quite a few roles roles in some truly outstanding shows in the last several years, including Netflix's Jessica Jones, FX's Sons of Anarchy, and HBO's Big Little Lies. But she is one of those actors whose face you quickly recognize and name you may forget. She's just one of those chameleon characters that appears everywhere and blends in seamlessly. So you probably had no idea that the talented Robin Weigert portrays the horrifying Mama Polk in AHS: Roanoke -- the matriarchal head of the abominable, cannibalistic Polk family. Weigert's Mama Polk is the real deal, though, as opposed to Frances Conroy's portrayal of the disheveled mama cannibal in the My Roanoke Nightmare segment of the season.
12 Lily Rabe as Aileen Wuornos in AHS: Hotel
If Charlize Theron's Oscar-winning portrayal of the infamous murderer Aileen Wuornos was a little bit too much for you to handle, Lily Rabe's delivery in AHS: Hotel is not only up there, but it is also on the lighter side -- including cracking jokes about how men suck. Her performance is incredible, and those who are not a fan of hers as I may not have even recognized her. It is a bummer that Lily Rabe is only a guest star for one episode in AHS: Hotel, but it is such a memorable one that I didn't tweet @RyanMurphy for such an abomination.
Plus, Rabe has been in every single season since the show began, and she is one of the leads in AHS: Roanoke, so rest assured, we good, Murphy. Personal favorite: Stevie Nicks-obsessed Misty Day in AHS: Coven.
11 Kathy Bates as The Butcher in AHS: Roanoke
We can all agree that Kathy Bates is a national treasure, and her raw, versatile talent is on par with Meryl Streep's, who is obviously another incomparable legend. Bates nails whatever role she takes on so authentically, and often terrifyingly, with very little effort. She can make you feel things as a mother who is constantly worried sick about the well-being of her adult vampire son in a twisted hotel, and then a season later, she can make you go, "Whoa, WTF? Is that horrid woman with the weird English accent and butcher knife Kathy?!" Ironically, Kathy's secondary character Agnes Mary Winstead in AHS: Roanoke who plays The Butcher in the My Roanoke Nightmare segment ends up identifying with the scary-ass character on a dangerous level and basically becomes one with her.
10 Ameer Baraka as Bastien the Minotaur in AHS: Coven
To this day, the notorious Delphine LaLaurie's storyline in AHS: Coven is still the most disturbing and terrifying because that racist motherf#@king monster--played by the lovely Kathy Bates--actually existed. Madame LaLaurie, just as the second season of AHS loosely depicts, tormented and killed slaves for at least a few years in her torture chamber; though unlike what happens on the show, the bitch fleed to France in real life.
In AHS: Coven, when LaLaurie finds out one of her precious daughters is sleeping with Bastien, a house slave, she tortures him and places a bull's head over his head, and he eventually becomes a full-blown minotaur. Everything about the storyline is so disquieting that it is hard to pay attention to the actor who plays the Minotaur, but as it turns out his name is Ameer Baraka and he is hot as f@#k.
9 Sarah Paulson as Sally McKenna in AHS: Hotel
Sarah Paulson is one of those people lucky enough to have it all: talent, beauty, and intelligence. She has been an indispensable part of American Horror Story, regardless of how small her part is, e.g., Billie Dean Howard in AHS: Murder House. In fact, she has been an indispensable part, nay A GIFT in every Ryan Murphy production, e.g., The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
Any Ryan Murphy production can go awry, but they will always have amazing characters played by incredible talents, e.g., Hypodermic Sally in AHS: Hotel. Sally is the most memorable and screwed-up character Paulson has portrayed on AHS, and it is the only character for which she basically transformed into a nearly unrecognizable hot mess of a person.
8 Lady Gaga as Scathach in AHS: Roanoke
Now a Golden Globe winner for her performance as The Countess in AHS: Hotel, Lady Gaga took a smaller and much scarier role in the following season, AHS: Roanoke, as the enigmatic forest witch bitch, Scathach. Despite being such a big name and having a recognizable face, most people had no idea that freak of nature was actually Gaga until they were a few episodes in.
But hey, if anyone can take almost an entirely different form by putting on eccentric clothes and makeup and then freak you the hell out, it is Lady Gaga. People who are as comfortable in their own skin as she is in real life are often never afraid to look ugly as fuck for a part. Just imagine running into THAT in a dark forest now, though. Shudders.
7 Mare Winningham as Alicia Spencer in AHS: Coven
Is that really Emily Carson from Turner & Hooch? Oh yeah. Though nothing can top her performance as bloody-sheet-obsessed Hazel Evers in AHS: Hotel, prior to that, the legendary Mare Winningham also has a recurring role as Kyle Spencer's (Evan Peters) mother, in AHS: Coven. Alicia Spencer as a character and mother is a mess in every conceivable way, and not just because she always looks like she hasn't showered in a week. Not even because she is a selfish bum with no self-awareness, but because she is just a wretched human being who sexually abuses her son, who, by the way, ends up brutally murdering her in a fit of rage so justice was served even though it's always bittersweet. This show is so delightfully messed up.
6 Chrissy Metz as Ima 'Barbara' Wiggles in AHS: Freak Show
Before Chrissy Metz became a more prominent TV star with her role on NBC's This Is Us as Kate Pearson, she had made a memorable appearance in AHS: Freak Show as Ima Wiggles, aka The Fat Lady who sings. To be fair, Metz has beautiful features, so even as Ima with that ridiculous bow and dress having Elsa Mars capitalize on her love of food, she still looks just as damn fine. Though she doesn't have a standout role, Chrissy Metz's addition to the freak show was certainly a brilliant idea in terms of having all the staples of a freak show at Fräulein Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities. Once again the show runners prove that they certainly have an epic vision when it comes to the AHS universe and the way all the puzzle pieces fit together.
5 Lance Reddick as Papa Legba in AHS: Coven
Papa Legba, played by Lance Reddick in AHS: Coven, is by far one of the most terrifying characters AHS has ever had. Papa Legba is known as the gatekeeper of the Voodoo spirit realm who is typically seen cutting deals, collecting souls, and demanding newborns. You know, the standard things a gatekeeper of a spirit world would do. Though he looks like a scary motherf@#ker, Legba is actually quite reasonable when it comes to his job, which is pretty much based on the basic principle of an eye for an eye, or a life for a life if you will. Pretty fairplay if you ask me. Lance Reddick (Fringe, The Wire), who is super charming and attractive in real life, is absolutely unrecognizable as Papa Legba.
4 Wes Bentley as Edward Mordrake in AHS: Freak Show
Wes Bentley, who stepped on the scene with his creepy performance in American Beauty, seems to like to act in films and shows that are very AMERICAN. Wes has been a part of the AHS ensemble since Freak Show in which he brings alive the urban legend of Edward Mordake -- the man with a second, more disgruntled face on the back of his head. Now matter how you slice it, even with that gorgeous face, a guy with two faces is a horrifying dealbreaker. Of course, Bentley only has a one classically handsome, well-groomed face in real life and doesn't go around hunting down depressed freaks once a year. Wes is also in AHS: Hotel as his hot self; though he becomes a brutal savage with a heart of gold again in AHS: Roanoke.
3 Frances Conroy as Myrtle Snow in AHS: Coven
Frances Conroy has been an irreplaceable member of the AHS ensemble since the very beginning, whose talent also knows no bounds -- a statement with which anyone who is a fan of Six Feet Under can fervently agree. In Murder House, she is the mysterious, scorned maid Moira who appears as her young, seductive, home-wrecking self only to Dr. Ben Harmon; in Asylum, she is the most stunning angel of death ever; and in Coven, she has a much bigger and way more eccentric role as Myrtle Snow, who is the archnemesis of the baddest, bitchiest witch in town, Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange). Frances Conroy, just like Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates, has the type of acting chops that cannot be taught in acting school.
2 Celia Finkelstein as Nurse Gladys in AHS: Murder House
Even if you have been watching American Horror Story since season one, you may not remember Nurse Gladys from Murder House all that well. Let me remind you: she was a nursing student staying at the house in 1968 and was brutally murdered in a bathtub, which is her specific haunting spot to this day. Gladys is a terrifying presence in the beautiful estate, but the actor who portrayed her, Celia Finkelstein, is actually quite stunning and does not look as agitated in real life. While you would never want to be confronted by the vengeful spirit of a nurse, Celia looks like a fun hang. The kind of person you'd gladly invite over for a picnic and a chat. She has such an approachable face it would be a delightful outing.
1 Mat Fraser as Paul the Illustrated Seal in AHS: Freak Show
Mat Fraser is quite a heartthrob whose body is not inked-up up to his neck in real life unlike his character Paul the Illustrated Seal in AHS: Freak Show. But he really does have a British accent in real life, which is bloody sexy in many people's book, as well as mine, and he really was born with a condition called thalidomide-induced Phocomelia. Phocomelia translates to "seal limb," which also explains his stage name. Fun fact about Fraser: starting out his career as a musician, Fraser had performed at various freak shows and even been featured on numerous documentaries before portraying Paul on AHS: Freak Show. The tattoos must have taken hours to do. Can't imagine sitting in a make up chair that long. Talk about commitment.