To be a fan of American Horror Story is to always battle with excitement and dread. That duality bleeds down into AHS‘ very casting, a tumultuous rollercoaster of big name horror actors and fan favorites who are continuously replaced with little rhyme or reason. In the midst over panic around Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, and Evan Peters’ departure, AHS: 1984 taught us one thing: the future of this warped series is safe in the hands of Leslie Grossman.
Watching American Horror Story season to season is a bit like watching a wave form and fall. You see an actor steal the spotlight from the sidelines one season before watching them emerge as a leading force in the next installment. Their spotlight gets bigger, their fan power grows, and then, slowly, they start to drift away from the series. Jessica Lange was the first star to follow this arc. She was a tour de force in Murder House and later went on to dominate Asylum, Coven, and Freak Show. She then took a break from the series from Season 5 on, only returning briefly in Apocalypse. But just because Lange’s reign on American Horror Story has come to an end that doesn’t mean her relationship with Ryan Murphy is over. After Freak Show, Lange starred in FX’s FEUD: Bette and Joan and is set to star in Netflix’s upcoming movie about Marlene Dietrich.
Recently other stars have followed in Lange’s footsteps. Last season marked the first time AHS has been without Sarah Paulson, who starred in Murphy’s Ratched, as well as Evan Peters. And as the show has progressed, Kathy Bates’ appearances have become more and more sporadic. This is all to say American Horror Story has room for a new queen bee, and Leslie Grossman fits the bill.
Grossman first appeared in Cult season of AHS in a dual role: that of a ditzy neighbor trapped in the middle of a series of riots and as one of Charles Manson’s followers. She then appeared in Apocalypse as a witch whose main power was calorie counting and detecting gluten. But it’s 1984 that really let her shine.
As Margaret Booth, Grossman was able to play something more than an air-headed valley girl, a stereotype she admittedly excels at portraying. In the first half of 1984 Grossman nailed the unsettling religious zealot, infusing a season packed with serial killers with a more relatable and disturbing moral threat. It’s only after creeping out everyone that Grossman changed gears completely, gleefully tackling the role of a deranged killer in hiding. That right there is range. And if we know anything it’s that AHS‘ queen bees always need range. But more than that, watching Grossman flip and slide between new and addicting characters was a delight to watch.
Leslie Grossman is the perfect woman for the job. Watching her boss around Matthew Morrison in 1984 elicits the same joyful reaction as watching Sister Jude or Fiona Goode’s bitchiness in Asylum and Coven. American Horror Story will always need a captivatingly fun leading lady to guide its seasons. Passing that essential baton to Grossman is a very good thing, indeed.
Where to stream American Horror Story: 1984