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Scary Monsters and Super Freaks: The All-Stars of ‘American Horror Story’

As the fourth season of the popular TV horror anthology premieres, it’s time to bone up on the show’s returning players and MVPs

Jessica Lange and Angela Bassett in 'American Horror Story'.

Jessica Lange and Angela Bassett in 'American Horror Story'.

Michele K. Short/FX

When Ryan Murphy announced at the end of American Horror Story's first season that his show was, in fact, a horror anthology series and would completely change narratives every time out, many of us breathed a sigh of relief: Great, so it won't just be "here's another family in this haunted house" stories ad infinitum. That reaction was then followed by what can only be described as, well, horror: Wait, what about these great actors that had such juicy roles? We want more Lily Rabe and Taissa Farmiga and France Conroy. Do not deny us our Grand Guignol grande-dame Jessica Lange fix!

Thankfully, the fact that we'd get a totally different story every season did not mean that we'd get a totally different cast as well. There have been a number of returning players over the show's previous three-season run so far, with many scheduled to come back for Season Four's upcoming "Freakshow" story. For every departing star (come back, Zachary Quinto) and series newcomer (welcome to the fold, Michael Chiklis), there are several familiar faces from the AHS repertory company that have signed up for another tour of duty.

So, before the FX series lets its "Freakshow" flag fly starting tonight, we've assembled a breakdown of the American Horror Story all-stars you need to know — the two-seasons-or-more MVPs and pinch hitters who keep bringing the thrills and chills.

American Horror Story

Lily Rabe as Sister Mary Eunice.

Michael Becker/FX/Everett

Lily Rabe

Season 3: Misty Day
Season 2: Sister Mary Eunice McKee
Season 1: Nora Montgomery

Bringing some serious theater chops and an impressive pedigree (her father is the Tony-winning playwright David Rabe; her mom was the late, great Jill Clayburgh) to the Horror-verse, Lily Rabe has been one of the show's best utility players: Her roles as "Murder House"'s ghostly former owner and "Asylum"'s emotionally disturbed nun have been series highlights. And her performance last year as a Stevie Nicks-obsessed white witch in "Coven" prompted multiple on-screen cameos by the rock icon, who performed several of her songs on the show.

American Horror Story

Emma Roberts as Madison.

Michele K. Short/FX

Emma Roberts

Season 4: Maggie Esmerelda
Season 3: Madison Montgomery

Last seen getting hot and heavy with James Franco in the screen adaptation of the actor/director/writer's short story collection Palo Alto, Emma Roberts joined the American Horror Story rep company last season as the drug-addled, foul-mouthed Hollywood wash-up Madison Montgomery. Fans will be happy to know she's back for "Freakshow," Maggie Esmerelda, playing a con artist and fraudulent fortune teller.

American Horror Story

Gabourey Sidibe as Queenie.

Michele K. Short/FX

Gabourey Sidibe

Season 4: Regina Ross
Season 3: Queenie

The face (as well as the heart and soul) of the Oscar-Nominated Precious, Gabourey Sidibe won a legion of new admirers with her AHS role Queenie, a "Coven" witch who has a penchant for projecting her pain — literally. Fans will be happy to know that Sidibe is part of the cast of this season's "Freakshow" as well, though her role has been kept relatively mum for now.

American Horror Story

Zachary Quinto (R) as Dr. Thredson.

Prashant Gupta/FX/Everett

Zachary Quinto

Season 2: Dr. Oliver Thredson
Season 1: Chad Warwick

Folks may know him as the evil Sylar from the NBC hit Heroes or as everyone's favorite Vulcan, Spock, from the rebooted Star Trek films. But for AHS fans, Zachary Quinto will always be the spooky, spectral murder victim from "Murder House" and the rapist with an Oedipus complex from "Asylum" (for which he was nominated for an Emmy). He's left a lasting, haunting impression on viewers, to say the least.

American Horror Story

Taissa Farmiga as Violet.

Ray Mickshaw/FX/Everett

Taissa Farmiga

Season 3: Zoe Benson
Season 1: Violet Harmon

Following in her older sister footsteps, (she actually played a younger version of her sibling Vera Farmiga's character in the latter's directorial debut Higher Ground), Taissa Farmiga is best known for her roles on AHS roles as the brooding teenage Violet Harmon in Season One's "Murder House" and on Season Three's "Coven" as a wholesome witch with an unfortunate affliction (i.e. her lady bits are deadly). She's sitting Season Four out, but her stellar performances on the show helped land her roles in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring (2013) and a soon-to-be released Warren Beatty project.

American Horror Story

Evan Peters as Kyle and Tasissa Farmiga as Zoe.

Michele K. Short/FX

Evan Peters

Season 4: Jimmy Darling
Season 3: Kyle Spencer
Season 2: Kit Walker
Season 1: Tate Langdon

In past seasons, young actor Evan Peters has run the gamut of tormented high-school shooter ("Murder House") to alien-abducted mental patient ("Asylum") to a frat boy Frankenstein ("Coven"). And this season's "Freakshow" will add an even more interesting character to his gallery of misfits: He's cast as “Lobster Boy,” a character whose duality teeters between a peaceful caretaker of the circus freaks and a highly unbalanced depressive. Uh-oh.

phRyan Murphy at the 4th Annual Critics' Choice Television Awards in Beverly Hills, California on June 19th, 2014.

Ryan Murphy at the 4th Annual Critics' Choice Television Awards in Beverly Hills, California on June 19th, 2014.

Kevin Winter/Getty

Ryan Murphy

Showrunner, Seasons 1-4

The man whose twisted mind has brought you the haunted mansions, insane asylums and bitchy witches of the past few American Horror Story seasons, Ryan Murphy has managed to do for TV horror anthologies what he did for high school musicals (Glee) and surgical melodramas (Nip/Tuck): reinvent and reinvigorate a form you thought was well beyond the rigor mortis stage. We have no freakin' idea what he has in store for us regarding the new AHS season's "Freakshow" storyline — but we are sure it will scare the beejesus out of us several times over. We're ready. 

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