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American Horror Story: Cult: What we know so far

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Aug 11, 2017, 1:00 PM EDT

We have less than a month to go until the new season of American Horror Story premieres. Ryan Murphy's popular horror anthology visits a new setting, new time period and (mostly) new characters every season, with Season 7 being subtitled Cult.

Normally, Murphy and crew keep their lips zipped on season details. Last season, Roanoke, didn't even reveal the subtitle until just before the show aired, and I think that was only because someone leaked photos from the set, revealing the premise centered on the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Almost all the posters and trailers for Roanoke had nothing to do with what the season actually was about -- a purposeful mislead that kept details like the found-footage aspect secret.

While details are still slim, we do know a few general things about Cult. Let's go over what we know, what we suspect and what we hope to see this season.

It will start with the 2016 election

Before the subtitle was announced, Ryan Murphy revealed in February on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live that, even though he didn't have a title, "it will be about the election we just went through, so I think that will be interesting for a lot of people." It makes sense, as the 2016 election was the most horrific, stressful and terrifying election in my lifetime. When asked specifically if there would be a Trump character, Murphy only replied with a "maybe."

A few weeks later, Murphy said this to the Hollywood Reporter: "What I’m interested in doing is not just the obvious, single-minded point of view but rather express all sides of that equation. What needs to happen in our country now is for people to listen to each other – we may not always agree with each other and we may be horrified by what the other side is doing but we have to move toward understanding." It will be interesting to see Murphy handle all sides of politics right now. He is openly gay and extremely vocal about LGBTQ rights, as well as the rights of women and minorities, so for him not to instantly vilify an administration that looks down on those minorities will be an interesting experience. I don't think he will draw in any conservative viewers that didn't already watch the show, but who knows?

In a conversation with E! Online in April, Murphy got more specific about the election aspect of the story: "We don't have actors playing them [Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump]. You'll see them on television. The first 10 minutes of the season, this season, takes place in a very eerie macabre way on election night and there's something terrible that happens in the lives of our characters on election night as they're watching it all go down. Which in itself was a horror story, so it's like a horror story upon a horror story." To me, this suggests that the election isn't the main story this season; it is more of a backdrop, perhaps a catalyst for events.

The cast

Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson were confirmed early on to be returning to AHS. The two are the only actors who have appeared in every season of the series, so it is no surprise that they are back. Murphy promises they will have "a love story for the ages." However, Paulson's Ally Mayfair Richards is already married to a woman named Ivy Mayfair-Richards, played by series newcomer Alison Pill. I have no idea if the hyphenation in Ivy's name and lack thereof in Ally's name is purposeful or a typo.

Others in the cast this season include returning actors Emma Roberts, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, Cheyenne Jackson as Dr. Rudy Vincent and Adina Porter as Beverly Hope, a broadcast news journalist.

Billie Lourd, who starred in Murphy's Scream Queens on Fox, joins AHS for the first time this year. She plays Winter Anderson, a young woman with grey hair, a look she chose because she wanted something "iconic." Another Scream Queens grad, Colton Haynes, joins the cast as Detective Samuels. Billy Eichner (Parks & Rec) will play Harrison Wilton. On Seth Meyers' talk show, he said, "There are some darkly funny moments, but it's mostly serious and violent and sexual." On the season as a whole, he described it as "a gory, fantasy, violent, sexual, surreal take on post-Trump America." Leslie Grossman, who worked with Murphy on Popular, will play Meadow Wilton. No other details on her role are available, but it seems safe to assume she will be either the wife or sister of Harrison.

Twisty the Clown, the homicidal clown from Season 4's Freak Show, is confirmed to return this season, but the actor who plays Twisty, John Carroll Lynch, is not confirmed. Perhaps just the idea of the character is returning, in the form of a comic book character as Murphy showed off on his Instagram. Or perhaps Lynch is returning.

Lena Dunham (Girls) will appear this season, but only in one episode. Activist Chaz Bono will also appear this season. No details on either actor's role has been announced.

The promos

The promotional material, unlike Roanoke, all follow a theme: mindless drone-like movements, clowns and bees. The bees may not have anything to do with the plot. It could have something to do with ancient Egyptian cults that worshipped the curative properties of honey and bees, but more likely, I assume it represents the hive mind of cult members.

The clowns are tough to read. It could, again, be representational. Twisty the Clown is returning in some capacity, so maybe that has something to do with it. Or maybe the entire season is set at the Gathering of the Juggalos.

The universe

Murphy has suggested that each season of AHS takes place in the same universe. This was confirmed in Season 6 when Sarah Paulson reprised her role of journalist Lana Winters from Season 2 (Asylum) and when Gabourey Sidibe's Queenie from Season 3 (Coven) made an appearance in Season 5 (Hotel). Murphy has promised that "we lay a lot of pipe" in regards to connecting the seasons, and "you'll see it explode in Seasons 7 and 8."

Interestingly, in Season 4, Lynch played the homicidal Twisty the Clown. In Season 5, he played the ghost of John Wayne Gacy, the real-life serial killer who used to dress up like a birthday party clown. With Twisty definitely returning in some capacity, will these pieces all link up?


A few other details that may be important:

*This season will be set in Michigan.

*This season will consist of 11 episodes.

*Despite rumors, Lady Gaga and Kathy Bates (both stalwarts of the series) are unable to come back this season. Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) was also rumored to have been cast. She has not.

*American Horror Story: Cult premieres September 5 on FX. Remember: because of the subtitle, most cable systems will require you to set up a new recording on your DVR.

Check out our gallery of AHS: Cult images below. What are your theories about the upcoming season?