Ryan Murphy‘s long-running “American Horror Story” kind of runs the TV horror genre. For 11 seasons and 11 years on TV, the show has held a special cultural significance for its dedicated fanbase. Year after year, it consistently surprised audiences that every season they’d get a fresh new take on the horror genre with their favorite actors like Sarah Paulson, Angela Bassett, Evan Peters, Vera Farmiga and Emma Roberts. 

In the show’s 11-season-long tenure, it has never had a Black lead. It has had Black series regulars in past seasons — one of whom is actress Angelica Ross. Notably, Ross played the beloved, Candy in the groundbreaking Murphy-produced “Pose.” She has also been in two seasons of the horror show: “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 inclusiveness but lack of protection for minorities, specifically Black people on his shows.

Ross also accused AHS veteran Emma Roberts of misgendering her behind the scenes during AHS filming. She isn’t the only Black cast member who has felt uncomfortable on a Murphy production. In 2020, Lea Michele was accused of creating a hostile, racism working environment for her Black co-star Samantha Marie Ware on “Glee.”

Ross took to her social media to share screenshotted emails between Murphy and herself. In the screenshot dated July 2020, Murphy seemingly shows interest in Ross’ idea about an “AHS” season starring Black women. He said, “Well I’m doing it. Not sure of the story yet, but we will start a writers room in the fall.” He mentioned that he would feature actresses he’s worked with before like Keke Palmer and Gabourey Sidibe. Ross replied to Murphy with excitement for the development of her idea and added a list of Black actresses in Hollywood that she would love to work with like Viola Davis, Angela Bassett, Lynn Whitfield, Alfre Woodard and plenty more. 

After not hearing any 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 contractually bound to FX and Murphy’s productions first before going elsewhere. There has been no response from Murphy himself and his team after Ross’ claims that he ghosted her.

Needless to say, Murphy was using the idea of an all-Black horror season as a way to do his part as an ally, a role he had actually embraced in the past. He is a TV magnate who has been quoted saying, “If you’re not writing about women or gender or race, you’re not writing.” He had also started the Half Initiative to increase the presence of women and other marginalized groups behind the camera, and this yielded significant results. And while television shows get stuck in development all the time, it’s funny how this one show centering on Black women is the one show that isn’t currently being made. It’s even funnier that he revisited the idea from Ross during the height of the George Floyd protests. If that doesn’t sound hilariously performative to you . . .

Besides the point that Murphy seemingly has ignored an important Black voice as he continues to claim he is an ally, he’s 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 the general audience with his knockout horror is the everyday racism Black people film in the Oscar-nominated “Get Out.”

But Peele isn’t the only one delivering in the horror genre for Black people in 2023. Black people have made fascinating horror films or have even starred in the films themselves. In the last few years, films like “Ma” starring the hilariously camp Octavia Spencer, “Talk to Me” starring breakout actress Sophie Wilde, Nia DaCosta’s “Candy Man,” Tim Story’s “The Blackening,” “Barbarian” starring the entrancing Georgina Campbell and the Hulu workplace horror “The Other Black Girl,” have all dominated the genre.

This is a massive misstep from Murphy, who is usually on top of cultural trends in his shows. I mean he literally has Kim Kardashian in the newest season of “AHS.” An all-Black women-led starring some of Hollywood’s strongest and most versatile Black actresses with an all-Black writers’ room and production behind the scenes would fill the hunger people have for Black people at the helm of the ever-evolving genre. To me, it so evidently shows that even people who say they are champions of representation have their limitations. Limitations that continue to box in Black performers to supporting characters to white protagonists. 

Nardos Haile

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