Although we know that Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates are coming back, and this is Jessica Lange’s last season, Ryan Murphy has yet to let slip any major details on season four of American Horror Story. The show was a pivotal moment in Lange’s career, as the veteran actress made a return to prominence and earned multiple award nominations. As Lange prepares to bow out from the anthology series, here are eight actresses who should take her place:
1. Shannen Doherty
We all know that Shannen Doherty is suffering; have you seen her Education Connection commercial? It’s a little heartbreaking because she once starred in the legendary Heathers, and was a TV staple for a better part of the 80s and 90s. Most notably, she portrayed Brenda Walsh and Prue Halliwell in Beverly Hills 90210 and Charmed respectively. Doherty as “Charmed One” Prue Halliwell wouldn’t have been out of place in American Horror Story: Coven. She’s done a few minor things here and there since leaving Charmed in 2001, but nothing that would have been a career landmark like American Horror Story. Then again, Ryan Murphy might not want to take a chance on Doherty. She left both 90210 and Charmed due to feuds with her co-stars. How the mighty have fallen, indeed.
2. Salma Hayek
Mexican beauty Salma Hayek is best known as the award-winning actress who played Frida Kahlo, but TV wouldn’t be a complete 180 for the glamazon. Hayek got her start in telenovelas and went on to executive produce Ugly Betty and guest star in 30 Rock. Hayek’s stint as the heart-breaking Sofia Reyes in Ugly Betty proves that she can do campy and cutthroat at the same time, while Frida just goes to show she has the acting chops and potential to do even more. I can see Hayek perfectly pulling off the twisted seduction of Sister Mary Eunice from American Horror Story: Asylum and/or the empowered ruthlessness of Angela Bassett in Coven.
3. Felicity Huffman
Before the American Horror Story series, Desperate Housewives served as a comeback vehicle for veteran actresses from 2004 to 2012. Felicity Huffman was, for me, the emotional core of the show as Lynette Scavo. The role won her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress n a Comedy Series and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. Huffman was already a successful stage and screen star, winning a Golden Globe for her role in the critically acclaimed series Sports Night. She played a pre-op transwoman in the film Transamerica, earning her the Golden Globe for Best Actress as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Huffman has a few films lined up — but I think many people would love to see Huffman return to television. If not, maybe Lynette Scavo’s neighbor Susan Mayer could star in American Horror Story: Teri Hatcher’s Face.
4. Anjelica Huston
The model-turned-Academy-Award-winner is often overlooked. Anjelica Huston is a low-key icon ideal for American Horror Story. Huston played Morticia Addams in The Addams Family and Addams Family Values, and the Grand High Witch in The Witches, falling perfectly in line with the acid-tongued quips and ready-to-wear of AHS‘ season three. She frequently appears in Wes Anderson’s films, voices the role of Queen Clarion in the Disney Fairies film series, AND directed Riding the Bus with My Sister, starring Rosie O’Donnell in the cinematic performance of the century. Huston is also just a very cool individual — she has donated annually to the Transgender Law Center for over a decade and, in 2007, led a letter campaign to the United Nations Secretary General urging him to secure the release of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma.
5. Lindsay Lohan
Let’s face it – Madison Montgomery (played by Emma Roberts in American Horror Story: Coven) was essentially Lindsay Lohan as a Witch Bitch. If there’s room for Taissa Farmiga to add a touch of drab, there’s room for LiLo to stage a comeback. Lindsay Lohan already made a guest appearance in Ryan Murphy’s Glee, and she’s openly confessed her love for American Horror Story. Such a critically acclaimed and commercially successful show would be the perfect comeback vehicle for the troubled young actress, who never really successfully transitioned from teen stardom to Hollywood A-list, amidst all her legal battles.
6. Heather Matarazzo
Heather Matarazzo is something of a cult star, having portrayed the unattractive, unpopular Dawn Wiener in Todd Solondz’s delightfully sick Welcome to the Dollhouse in 1995. Millennials may recognize her as the weird-looking best friend in The Princess Diaries and Saved! (both co-starring Mandy Moore). Matarazzo, whose TV work includes Roseanne and The L Word, would bring a slightly more awkward sense of terror to American Horror Story. She would have been a great coming-of-age witch in Coven, or she could have been a genetic experiment a la Chloë Sevigny (who deserved a bigger role) in Asylum. Either way, I’m pretty confident Ryan Murphy would find a great use for Matarazzo in a future season.
7. Rose McGowan
Okay, so Rose McGowan may or may not be the actress who replaced Shannen Doherty in Charmed, but she is on the list for very different reasons. McGowan can do dark comedy – The Doom Generation and Jawbreaker – and she can do campy horror. Remember the redhead who got caught in the garage door in Scream? McGowan. The stripper with a gun for a leg in Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror? McGowan. The crazy high schooler who kills her grandma in Devil in the Flesh? McGowan. She also stars in an upcoming adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. The former fiancé of Marilyn Manson, Rose McGowan has both a lightness and darkness to her that would make for a great addition to the American Horror Story ensemble.
8. Winona Ryder
Winona Ryder was everything in the 1990s: the cute, alt girl the boys wanted and the stylish trendsetter the girls wanted to be. The only couple more perfect than Johnny Depp and Kate Moss is Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. She has a lot of great films in her repertoire — Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands; Heathers; Mermaids; Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Reality Bites; Girl, Interrupted… I could go on. Unfortunately, ever since she got caught shoplifting, Ryder’s career has slowed down a little. She’s been in some pleasant indie flicks, but nothing amazing. American Horror Story would be Ryder’s first big starring role in a TV show, but as her potential co-stars can attest to, “TV” isn’t always a dirty word.