Who is afforded more candor when speaking with the press — executives minding their words in the fog of a pending merger or actors who've been cast in the latest cycle of Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story? On Friday, it was Murphy's troupe that got surprisingly loose-lipped, announcing a franchise return for Jessica Lange at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour..
"I have the great pleasure of saying, yes, she will be back," said Sarah Paulson, who has become the face of the FX horror franchise since Lange departed after four seasons and two Emmy awards.
Lange's American Horror Story return will be for its eighth installment, Apocalypse, a long-hyped crossover between the anthology's Murder House and Coven seasons. The actress will be reprising her original AHS role of tragic and intrusive Constance Langdon. The character was last seen taking custody of her neighbors' satanic offspring, also playing a part in the new cycle. Paulson, reprising both her Coven and Murder House characters, said that Lange's appearance would coincide with Paulson's first directing gig on the show — Apocalypse's sixth episode.
Confirmed returning cast for the new cycle include Kathy Bates, Evan Peters, Adina Porter, Emma Roberts, Cheyenne Jackson, Billy Eichner, Leslie Grossman and Billie Lourd, while Joan Collins joins as one very high-profile addition.
Executive producer Alexis Martin Woodall was on hand to make sure none of the attending cast — Paulson, Bates, Roberts, Porter, Lourd and Grossman — would offer up too many details, though she did describe how the new season opens.
"The story begins with the end of the world," said Woodall. "It starts in the real world. It's very tangible, and it's a familiar panic."
Paulson also made it clear that she would primarily be playing her role from Coven, New Orleans witch Cordelia Foxx, also appearing as Murder House (and, briefly, Hotel's) medium Billie Dean Howard. Roberts is also playing her Coven role, Madison Montgomery. Murphy is said to have invited all of the Coven witches back to appear in this season, though it's not yet determined who else will be joining. Production only recently started.
Earlier on Friday, the network made it clear that the show, unlike season eight's world, will not be ending soon. It has been renewed for a tenth season, meaning at least two more runs will follow Apocalypse. Ignoring the complication of mastermind and co-creator Murphy's exit for Netflix, AHS really seems like it could live on in perpetuity for FX. The anthology annually starts from square one on storylines, cycling in new castmembers and usually retaining a few familiar faces.
Apocalypse premieres Wednesday, Sept. 12, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.