A number of cast members have come back to the long-running American Horror Story series over the years, yet sometimes even the show’s most ardent hardcore fans are unaware of those returns—mainly because the actors tend to be unrecognizable from season to season, morphing from one bizarre onscreen persona to the next in service of the show’s darkly addictive story.
Making these major changes between characters definitely requires a significant display of dramatic chops on the part of the actors. But that’s only half of the incredible behind-the-scenes journey that helps bring these varied roles to life. The show’s award-winning makeup and costume designers certainly play an important part in these amazing transformations—and with that in mind, we’re taking a look at the very different appearances some American Horror Story cast members sport when they aren’t in front of the cameras for the show. These are the American Horror Story characters whose actors look completely different in real life.
Kathy Bates as Ethel Darling
Kathy Bates started working onscreen in the late ’70s with a role on the daytime drama The Doctors, and stayed busy on TV and in film throughout the ’80s—but she really skyrocketed to household name status after breaking through as the terrifyingly unhinged Annie Wilkes in the 1990 big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery.
Bates went on to build an admirably diverse collection of credits after winning an Oscar for her standout work in Misery, but she understandably avoided picking up another high-profile horror role until she joined American Horror Story as Madame Delphine LaLaurie in 2013—the first of many memorable parts she’s played on AHS over the years. Her character from AHS: Freak Show is perhaps her most memorable of all: She plays world-weary bearded lady Ethel Darling, infusing the character with a no-nonsense attitude that’s almost enough to make viewers forget that beard is even on her face.