‘American Horror Story’: Every Character Sarah Paulson Has Played

Sarah Paulson has become synonymous with the hit TV series 'American Horror Story' over the last 11 years. Here is a look at every character she has played on the show.

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Image Credit: FX Networks

  • Sarah Paulson is an actress known for appearing in several thriller series from Netflix’s Ratched to many seasons of American Horror Story.
  • As AHS premieres its 11th season, Sarah has now appeared in nearly 100 episodes.
  • Despite being a favorite of the show’s creator, Ryan Murphy, Sarah is not appearing in Season 11.

Since 2011 American Horror Story has captivated audiences everywhere. Actress Sarah Paulson, 47, has appeared in nearly 100 episodes of the beloved horror series. She has become a frequent star in the show playing many beloved characters from Billie Dean Howard to Hotel’s Sally McKenna. Below is a closer look at each character Sarah has encompassed throughout her time on AHS.

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Sarah Paulson as Billie Dean Howard. (FX Networks)

Billie Dean Howard – Season 1: ‘Murder House’

In Season 1 of AHS: Murder House, Sarah took on the role of Billie Dean Howard. Billie was a medium who could communicate with ghosts, and was requested by Jessica Lange’s character, Constance. In this role, Sarah’s look consisted of blonde hair, orange acrylics nails, and pearls around her neck. During this season Billie predicts that Michael would bring the end of the world, as the house itself was built over the gateway to hell.

Lana Winters – Season 2: ‘Asylum’

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM, Sarah Paulson in 'The Name Game' (Season 2, Episode 10, aired January 2, 2013), 2011-, ph: Prashant Gupta/©FX Networks/courtesy Everett Collection
Sarah Paulson as Lana Winters in Season 2. (©FX Networks)

Sarah took on the role of Lana Winters for AHS: Asylum, which premiered in 2012. This time, the phenomenal actress portrayed a dedicated journalist attempting to expose the truths and horrors inside Briarcliff Manor. Her look went from blonde to a bold redhead with an impactful red lipstick. During this spooky season, Lana finds herself as an admitted patient inside the asylum and is subject to painful “electro-shock and conversion therapy”, per Screenrant.

Cordelia Goode – Season 3: ‘Coven’

Sarah Paulson in ‘AHS: Coven’ as Cordelia Goode. (FX Networks)

As move onto Season 3, AHS: Coven, we see Sarah play Cordelia Goode, alongside actresses Emma RobertsTaissa Farmiga, and once-more, Jessica Lange. Cordelia is the headmistress of Miss Robichaux’s Academy, and is extremely protective of her coven. At one point the headmistress even stabs herself in the eye in order to succeed her own mother to be the Supreme. This is also known as one of the most classic seasons in the beloved series.

Bette and Dot Tattler – Season 4: ‘Freakshow’

Sarah Paulson as Bette & Dot Tattler in ‘AHS: Freakshow’. (FX Networks)

By Oct. 2014, Sarah took on the double-role of conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler in AHS: Freakshow. Bette is considered to be the softer and more demure twin, while Dot is the victim of her sister’s jealousy. Dot is a singer, and when Bette finds this out she gets very upset and begins to go against her sibling. Bette also killed her own mother by stabbing her when they were fighting. Other stars in this season include Evan Peters, Angela Bassett, Michael Chiklis, and Denis O’Hare.

Sally McKenna – Season 5: ‘Hotel’

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: HOTEL, Sarah Paulson in 'Checking In' (Season 5, Episode 1, aired October 7, 2015). ph: Suzanne Tenner/©FX/courtesy Everett Collection
Sarah Paulson as Sally McKenna in ‘AHS: Hotel’. (FX Networks)

Season 5, AHS: Hotel, is one of the most star-packed seasons with the main character being The Countess, portrayed by singer Lady Gaga. In this abandoned and blood-filled hotel, Sarah plays the character Sally McKenna, a ghost who suffers from a drug problem. Sally is a permanent resident of the Hotel Cortez who can always be seen with messy eye makeup from her constant tears. Sarah’s character is thirsty for love and attention and will go to any lengths to get it.

Shelby Miller & Audrey Tindall – Season 6: ‘Roanoke’

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Sarah Paulson plays Audrey Tindall & Shelby Miller in Season 6. (FX Networks)

AHS: Roanoke is based on the true events of a disappearance of a colony in Roanoke, North Carolina. For Sarah’s sixth season on AHS she portrayed two characters: Shelby Miller and Audrey Tindall. The latter is an English actress who is in love with Rory Monahan (Evan Peters), however, Audrey ends up portraying Shelby in a documentary about the colony. Shelby was a believer in the supernatural events happening at Roanoke, but Audrey was extremely skeptical and didn’t feel the same way.

Ally Mayfair-Richards & Susan Atkins – Season 7: ‘Cult’

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Sarah Paulson in Season 7 of ‘AHS: Cult’. (FX Networks)

By 2017, show creator, Ryan Murphy, had found yet another perfect role for Sarah. In AHS: Cult she plays the role of Ally Mayfair-Richards, a mother and wife married to Ivy (Alison Pill). Ally’s many phobias end up getting the best of her resulting in her killing Ivy in order to keep their son, Oz, to herself. In addition, Ally stops taking her medication and ends up working with the FBI to “infiltrate the cult”, per Screenrant.

Wilhemina Venable – Season 8: ‘Apocalypse’

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Sarah Paulson as Wilhemina Venable. (FX Networks)

Once again, Sarah takes on an unlikeable character in AHS: Apocalypse. This time she is Wilhemina Venable, the Outpost 3 administrator. Sarah’s character sports dark makeup, dark red hair, and Victorian-like outfits. More so, Wilhemina is someone who cannot stand human contact and lacks empathy for others. She often breaks the rules of the outpost and ensures the misery of the residents.

Tuberculosis Karen & First Lady Mamie Eisenhower – Season 10: ‘Double Feature’

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: DOUBLE FEATURE, Sarah Paulson as Mamie Eisenhower, (Season 10, premiered Aug. 25, 2021). photo: ©FX / courtesy Everett Collection
Sarah Paulson as Mamie Eisenhower in Season 10. (FX Networks)

Sarah skipped out on Season 9, which was titled AHS: 1984. But of course, Ryan had her comeback for Season 10’s AHS: Double Feature. For the Emmy-winner’s most recent season on the show, she plays two roles (as she often does on AHS): Tuberculosis Karen and former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. Notably, Season 10 was split into two parts: Red Tide and Death Valley. In the first part, Sarah plays Karen, an artist thirsty for inspiration in Provincetown. Karen also suffers from addiction and being unhoused.

In Death Valley, Sarah takes on the challenging role of real-life person, Mamie Eisenhower, who was the first lady during President Dwight D. Eisenhower‘s administration. This part of the season focuses on the president’s deal with “a race of aliens”, according to Collider.

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