American Horror Story season 6 was originally going to be a lot different, focusing on the American Civil War instead of lost colony Roanoke.
American Horror Story season 6 was originally set to be a lot different, focusing on the American Civil War. Despite these originally plans, Murphy and Co. ended up settling on a story revolving around the past and present of the lost colony of Roanoke, a famed urban legend that saw the unexplained disappearance of a group of colonists. American Horror Story season 6 starred many of Murphy's past collaborators, but it also brought in some new faces, too. Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Kathy Bates, and Angela Basset joined newcomers Cuba Gooding Jr. and Andre Holland for the game changing season.
American Horror Story season 6 followed a new format for the show and brought life back to the show after what many fans and critics saw as a dip in quality with American Horror Story: Freakshow and American Horror Story: Hotel. The first half of the season played as a documentary named My Roanoke Nightmare, following a couple (Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr.) as they dealt with the strange happenings at their newly bought estate. The second half of the season brings in the real life counterparts of the characters in the first, and is presented as a found footage horror film.
In an interview with Gay Times, frequent Murphy collaborator Cheyenne Jackson revealed the original theme for the season. Jackson said that Murphy's plans included him, Matt Bomer, and Finn Wittrock as brothers, but didn't elaborate much further than that. Jackson cited Nicole Kidman's The Others as a potential source of inspiration. That movie was also set against the backdrop of the Civil War, but was more of a ghost story rather than a historically accurate period piece. Jackson still went on to star in Roanoke, playing an insane producer who would do anything to get the perfect shot for his television show. Check out Jackson's full quote below:
Matt Bomer, me, and Finn Wittrock were going to be brothers, which is funny, because there’s that meme of us where people think we all look exactly the same. Ryan said, ‘Yeah, it’s gonna be it’s gonna be a Civil War thing.’ He pitched it to us and that’s what we were all gearing up for. Then, it turned into something totally different.
At this point, it seems, American Horror Story fatigue had begun to set in. After lackluster fourth and fifth seasons, a shakeup was much needed. Roanoke's format did just that, pushing the show in new and exciting directions, proving Murphy could still keep viewers on their toes. The show-within-a-show format, while done before, was utilized effectively here. This was due in part because of the intricate structure of the plotting, which made the season feel like multiple shows in one and allowed for the all-star cast to continue expanding.
American Horror Story is no stranger to breaking new ground when it comes to format, though. The show itself is said to be one of the main reasons that anthology format is so popular today. Almost every major network and streamer has played around with the idea of a horror anthology television show, but none have been quite as successful as Murphy's. Even though Murphy chose to go a different route for the sixth season, instinctually, it was probably the right one. American Horror Story: Roanoke was praised for its revitalization of the series and allowed the show to continue to experiment with form and genre in a way that will keep the show going for at least the next few seasons.