Ryan Murphy’s long-running hit “American Horror Story” is, in a sense, the leader of the TV horror genre. For 11 seasons and 11 years on television, the show has held special cultural significance for its dedicated fan base. Year after year, audiences continued to be surprised by the new take on the horror genre each season with their favorite actors like Sarah Paulson, Angela Bassett, Evan Peters, Vera Farmiga and Emma Roberts.
In the series’ eleven seasons, there has never been a black person in the lead role. In recent seasons there have been regular guests on the Black series – one of them is actress Angelica Ross. Notably, Ross played the beloved Candy in the groundbreaking Murphy-produced Pose. She also appeared in two seasons of the horror series: American Horror Story: 1984 (Season 9) and American Horror Story: Double Feature (Season 10).
After her years of working on Murphy productions, Ross seems to have finally revealed the performative inclusivity but lack of protection for minorities, particularly black people, in his shows.
Ross also accused AHS veteran Emma Roberts of abusing her behind the scenes during AHS filming. She’s not the only black performer who felt uncomfortable in a Murphy production. In 2020, Lea Michele was accused of creating a hostile and racist work environment for her black co-star Samantha Marie Ware on “Glee.”
Ross used her social media to do this Share screenshots of emails between Murphy and her. In the screenshot from July 2020, Murphy appears to be interested in Ross’ idea of an “AHS” season with black women. He said, “Well, I’ll do it. I’m not sure of the story yet, but we’ll be opening a writers’ room in the fall.” He mentioned that he would be introducing actresses he’s worked with before, like Keke Palmer and Gabourey Sidibe. Ross responded to Murphy with excitement about the development of her idea and added a list of black actresses in Hollywood that she would like to work with, including Viola Davis, Angela Bassett, Lynn Whitfield, Alfre Woodard and many more.
Having received no developments from Murphy since she last sent a follow-up email in February 2022, Ross said She missed an opportunity from Marvel Studios because she was initially contractually tied to FX and Murphy’s productions before going elsewhere. There was no reaction from Murphy himself and his team after Ross claimed he had ghosted them.
Needless to say, Murphy used the idea of an all-black horror season to do his part as an ally, a role he’s actually embraced in the past. He is a television tycoon who was quoted as saying, “If you’re not writing about women, gender or race, you’re not writing.” He had also launched the Half Initiative to increase the presence of women and other marginalized groups behind the camera and this led to significant results. And while television shows are constantly stuck in development, it’s funny that this one show focused on black women is the only show not currently filming. What’s even funnier is that he revisited Ross’s idea at the height of the George Floyd protests. If that doesn’t sound hilariously performative to you… .
Besides the point that Murphy has seemingly ignored an important black voice while continuing to claim he is an ally, he has also ignored the missed opportunity of an all-black foray into horror through the female lens. The way we understand and consume horror has changed since Jordan Peele stunned general audiences with his stunning horror is the everyday racism of black people in the Oscar-nominated Get Out.
But Peele isn’t the only one delivering on the Black horror genre in 2023. Black people have made fascinating horror films or even appeared in the films themselves. Recent years have seen films such as Ma starring the hilarious Octavia Spencer, Talk to Me starring breakout actress Sophie Wilde, Candy Man by Nia DaCosta, The Blackening by Tim Story and Barbarian the enchanting Georgina Campbell and the Hulu workplace horror The Other Black Girl have all dominated the genre.
This is a huge misstep from Murphy, who is usually on top of cultural trends on his shows. I mean, he literally has Kim Kardashian on the newest season of AHS. An entirely Black female-led film starring some of Hollywood’s strongest and most diverse Black actresses, an all-Black writers’ room and behind-the-scenes production would satisfy people’s hunger for Black people at the forefront of the ever-evolving genre. To me, it shows so clearly that even people who say they are advocates for representation have their limits. Restrictions that continue to include black actors from supporting characters to white protagonists.