Time and time again, Evan Peters has proven himself to be a formidable presence onscreen, delivering colorful, dynamic performances that bring 'American Horror Story' to life. He'll spend months preparing for roles and living as his characters. He'll study their accents, walk like them, talk like them, and even dress like them, all in an attempt to become someone else.
It's called method acting--a dive so deep that each character's personality traits are said to meld with the actor's. It can get messy. Evan Peters has been very open about the effect it has had on his mental health. After playing Kai Anderson in 'Cult,' he was forced to take a two-year break, but that didn't stop him from taking on the lead role in 'Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.' He spent four months dressing the part, wearing those ridiculous glasses and custom-made shoes. Peters even wore lead weights on his arms in an attempt to mimic Dahmer's posture. He said it was the most difficult thing he's ever done, and he even admitted to having to rely on the crew for emotional support. But it was worth it. When the series premiered he had jaws dropping by the millions.
The toll it's taken is visible. He's a shell of his former self with dirty, rust-red hair and a pallid complexion. It's amazing how much he's sacrificed for us, and Dahmer is just the tip of the iceberg. He's spent more than a decade showing off his skills on 'American Horror Story,' and he deserves recognition.
Tate Langdon - Season 1 "Murder House"
When the first season of 'American Horror Story' debuted, we were introduced to a young, blond heartthrob with shaggy hair and dimples that would make anyone smile. He was a sexual beast, defined by his bloodthirst and mental illness. He violated the woman of the house wearing a black rubber suit, and he always seemed to be sneaking around, exploring the house behind the scenes, even though he didn't live there. When the father asked him to stop coming, he'd still appear in the daughter Violet's room, where they'd spend hours talking, connecting over their shared masochistic tendencies and their teenage angst.
He was tender and cute. He protected Violet, and he always seemed to be there when she needed him, ready to save the day. It was impossible to hate him, and at times, impossible to love him. But he earned our sympathy. Maybe it was the dimples. Maybe it was the way he cared for Violet, or maybe it was a combination of the two.
Later we found out that Tate was a ghost, trapped in the house. He went on a drug binge 1994. He grabbed a gas can, burnt his stepfather almost to death, then let loose a reign of terror on his school, modeled after the historic Columbine shootings. When he was done, he went back home, and the police stormed the house. He went to reach for his gun, and they filled him with lead. It was sad, but Tate was never actually good. In fact, he was often considered to be the embodiment of evil. He eventually became the father of the Antichrist.
Austin Sommers - Season 10 "Double Feature"
Austin Sommers' look seems to have been modeled after Barnabas Collins, a vampire that appeared in the soap opera 'Dark Shadows.' He had long black bangs and a matching black wardrobe. He was originally a failed playwright, who was forced to do drag performances to make up for his lack of gainful employment in Provincetown.
He was eventually approached by Belle Noir, a romance novelist, who offered him a drug called Muse, which was made from human blood. It was supposed to help him with his creativity. It was so effective that he won 3 Tony Awards, and he was considered to be one of the greatest playwrights of his time.
The drug made him crave human blood. He would spend his evenings with Belle Noir hunting addicts and the homeless-- people that nobody would miss while they recruited other creatives who might be willing to purchase Muse. Sommers had a sick sense of humor, mostly surrounding murder and sex, making it impossible to like him.
Historic Cult Leaders - Season 7 "Cult"
Evan Peters owned season 7. He rocked that stage, portraying all of the most famous moments in cult history. He recreated one of Heaven's Gate's propaganda tapes, masterfully imitating baldheaded Do's strange way of emphasizing his words. He pretended to be Jim Jones, urging his followers to lay down their lives. He paced around, manically quoting scripture like David Karesh. He even played Jesus, coming down from heaven to revive the victims of the Jonestown Massacre. But his best role was Charlie Manson.
Charlie showed up as an Adderall-induced psychosis, wide-eyed and disheveled, hopping around like a monkey. He followed the main character around, whispering in his ear, with a swastika carved between his eyebrows. It was his mannerisms, the way he moved, and his wild demeanor that made him so fun to watch. Peters slipped into the role easily, and at times he was almost unrecognizable. It was a shame he didn't get more screen time.
Malcolm Gallant - Season 8 "Apocalypse"
We all knew Peters could do it--limp his wrist, draw his voice out, and add a little rhythm to his movements. It's not hard to play an exaggerated gay character, but when Evan Peters played Malcolm Gallant, it was almost impossible to think of him as straight. Gallant was a pathetic, simple-minded man whose one contribution to society was his grandmother's money and his ability to cut hair. It was impossible to like him. He was ruthless and childish, and his libido knew no bounds, but he was convincing--up until a point.
There was one loose end in that entire season. Gallant was locked in a nuclear bomb shelter, where he was visited by the Antichrist, Michael Langdon, Tate's son. There he held interviews under the pretense of choosing who would be allowed to enter his post-apocalyptic sanctuary. The interviews were interesting enough. We learned quite a bit about the characters, except for Gallant who puzzled the Antichrist. Michael believed that Gallant was pretending to be somebody, and we never found out who. It's possible that Gallant will show up in later seasons. It's the kind of thing AHS is known to follow up on.
James Patrick March - Season 5 "Hotel"
James Patrick March is by far Evan Peters' darkest character in 'American Horror Story,' and that's saying something. Like many characters in the series, March is based on a historical figure, H. H. Holmes, a serial killer who, like March, built his establishment to make it easier for him to kill without getting caught. March designed his hotel with all sorts of traps--hallways with deadends and blocked paths for sealing in victims. There was a series of chutes that he could use to send bodies down to the basement where they were stored.
March was the mastermind of the Ten Commandment killings. He hated God more than anything else, and he would've killed him given the chance. He once gathered all of the Bibles out of the hotel nightstands so he could stack them with a pile of his victims, a staged performance that he intended to let the police find.
When March died in the hotel, his spirit was trapped there, allowing him to kill inscrutably whenever he wanted. He was defined by murder and bloodlust, which he turned into an art form, building elaborate traps and devising horrific fates for his victims. It was particularly difficult for Peters to take on the role, and he's spoken about it quite a bit to the press.
Kai Anderson - Season 7 "Cult"
Kai Anderson was a millennial with an ego so big that he believed himself to be the messiah, put on the earth to save and rule humanity. He started out as a radicalized 20-something with an Adderall habit, who was recruited by his anger management counselor to stoke feminine rage throughout society. The plan was to cause women to rise up and kill off all of the men. Instead, he started a cult, using people's worst fears and secret desires to gain their loyalty. He baited a gay gym trainer, inspired a spinster to fall in love with him, and coerced a lesbian to drive her wife crazy, all in service of a plan he hadn't really completed.
What was most interesting about Kai was his personality. He had a messiah complex. He'd have people call him Divine Ruler, and he'd hint at being chosen by God. It was an obvious mental illness, boosted by his use of drugs, and it drove everything he did. He was fully aware of the fact that he was running a cult, but he was convinced that cults were really divine interventions, just like his birth. Like many cult leaders, he had a loyalty complex and a serious bout of paranoia. He was always testing people to see if they believed in him, and if he doubted them--which was inevitable--he'd stage their executions for everyone to see.
Kai was Evan Peters' most difficult role in the series, and it was easy to see why. He was intense and profoundly dark, and he had a way of making everything about him. He eclipsed all others in the room. Peters hasn't spoken up about what happened, or why he had to take a break from acting after playing him, but it's possible that Kai was simply too much of a presence. He was overwhelming, and his traits would probably come out in daily life. This tends to happen with method actors.