It’s nearly October, and you know what that means folks: another season of American Horror Story is upon us. This year, Ryan Murphy’s anthology series brings the action back to present day with American Horror Story: Hotel, and the first images showcasing the multitude of colorful characters have been unveiled. As we learned last year, every season of the anthology series takes place in the same universe (though I’m dubious whether that was really the plan all along, or if they just decided it would be during Freak Show), and speaking with EW, Murphy reveals Hotel’s strong connection to the show’s first—and still best—season: we’ll return to Murder House in one episode. Moreover, the sly realtor Marcy (played by Christine Estabrook) who sold the Harmons the home in the first place returns as the real estate agent for the similarly horrific Hotel Cortez.
As for the cast of characters themselves, Lady Gaga plays Countess, the owner of the hotel who is essentially a vampire, but who Murphy prefers to say is simply suffering from “an ancient blood virus.” She’s involved in a love triangle with Matt Bomer’s Donovan, also a vampire, and the newly turned male model Tristan, played by Finn Wittrock.
Evan Peters plays James March, the man who built the hotel in the 1930s as a place to hide his murderous activities, and he will presumably feature in flashback form. In present day, Angela Bassett plays an ex-lover of Gaga’s Countess out for revenge, Kathy Bates is Donovan’s mother and the front desk clerk, Sarah Paulson is a junkie and friend of Countess’, Denis O’Hare is a cross-dresser nicknamed Liz Taylor, and Wes Bentley is a cop investigating a murderer known as the Ten Commandments Killer.
This fifth season is the show’s first without Jessica Lange, and I’ll be curious to see if that has a significant effect on the storytelling. At times the series felt like “Ryan Murphy Presents The Jessica Lange Show”, which bogged down some of the storytelling, but it appears he’s simply found a new muse in Gaga. We’ll find out for sure when American Horror Story: Hotel premieres on October 7th. Check out the character images, via EW, below.