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Set Photos That Will Change The Way You See American Horror Story

American Horror Story is probably the most terrifying, unsettling, brutally violent, and bloody show on TV. Since 2011, co-creator Ryan Murphy and his recurring cast of players — Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, and Emma Roberts among them — have brought to the screen unforgettable tales from a Murder House, an Asylum, a Freak Show, a Coven, a haunted Hotel, and tied them all together against the backdrop of an Apocalypse. 

But despite the dark subject matter (and occasional strange occurrence) that must be taxing on the actors and the crew, at the end of the day American Horror Story is just a TV show, and it's all make believe. When the cameras stop rolling, the cast and crew seem to get along, enjoying each other's company and the fun of making a TV show. Here are some photos snapped on the sets of the various iterations of American Horror Story that should make for a nice, calming visual salve after viewing even the most disturbing episodes.

The Prince of Darkness keeps things light

As the season-linking Apocalypse incarnation of American Horror Story unfolded, viewers came to understand that Michael Langdon, a handsome, charismatic, and incredibly powerful witch, also happened to be the spawn of Satan, born out of the unholy union between ghost and human back at the end of the first season, Murder House. As a toddler, he brutally murdered his babysitter. As an adult, he passed all the "seven wonders" witch tests better than anyone ever had, making him both evil and in possession tremendous magical power. 

Australian actor Cody Fern imbues Michael Langdon with darkness, mystery, and an unflappable sense of dominance wherever he goes. That makes his character both compelling and extremely intimidating, but Fern takes it all in stride, and he needs to cut loose now and then. Here he is on a location shoot one day while filming an episode of Apocalypse. Honestly, it's just kind of weird to see him smiling and laughing.

They're fine. It's fine

When Apocalypse began, Billy Eichner and Leslie Grossman's characters, Brock and Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt, respectively, were happily married...until the end of the world separated them. She got on her wealthy family's private jet and hightailed it to a special survivor bunker for the elite, while he presumably died in the nuclear winter on the Earth's surface...or so it seemed. He actually survived, although horribly disfigured, and tracked his wife down at her bunker. 

For refusing to wait for him when she escaped to safety, he snuck in and took a huge knife to her face, leaving her presumably dead and bleeding all over her extremely elaborate hairdo (reminiscent of Marie Antoinette, who famously met a similar fate at the end of a blade). But hey, they were just acting, and they're actually both fine in real life. In this photo, though, they're both providing an accurate tableau of theirs characters' outlook...and resentful feelings toward one another.

Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange aren't actually locked in a power struggle

Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange have spent a lot of time together on the various American Horror Story seasons. After all those long days on set tackling psychologically difficult and emotionally taxing material, they'd either be very close friends who respect each other's work, or so sick of one another that they'd turned into bitter rivals. It would seem from this photo, taken on the set of AHS in 2018, that the former would be true. 

Lange, who generally plays ice-cold, not-to-be-trifled-with people throughout the series, seems genuinely warm and happy to be around Paulson. It makes sense that she would be thrilled for her friend and colleague, who happens to be making her American Horror Story directorial debut on this episode where Lange returns to the show after a long absence to revisit her Murder House character, Constance Langdon. The feeling seems to be mutual on Paulson's part — must be nice to have people supporting you on your first day...and keeping things happy amidst all the death and murder.

What a doll

Frances Conroy never got much of a chance to have fun on American Horror Story. Her three major roles across the seasons: Moira O'Hara, a maid and ghost trapped forever in the purgatory of the Murder House (because she was murdered there); high-ranking witch and councilor Myrtle Snow on Coven; and devoted cult member Bebe Babbitt on Cult. As Moira, she was a quietly tormented tragic character, a murder victim and cooped-up spirit. As Myrtle Snow, she was a deadly serious, coven-first boss with an amazing head of impeccable pumpkin-orange hair. 

About the only time Conroy has ever gotten a scene approaching sweetness or levity on American Horror Story was when Moira's bones were discovered in the yard behind the Murder House, setting her free and off to live with her mother in the spirit realm. Conroy herself, on the other hand, got this nice moment, cracking a wry smile as she holds a cute, folk-arty kind of doll that somebody made for her in the image of Myrtle Snow.

The rare American Horror Story splat that isn't blood-related

Cinematic Satan-worshippers may be all about bringing the reign of pure evil to Earth, but they do enjoy a certain level of fanciness. In American Horror Story: Apocalypse, the wicked leaders of Outpost 3 hold a handful of survivors essentially captive, but still make sure they dress in nice clothes, drink out of nice goblets, and enjoy the occasional celebratory banquet or high-end party. It's just nice to be fancy, even after the end of the world.

Leslie Grossman, along with other members of the Apocalypse cast, had apparently spent a few too many hours filming one of these party sequences. "Sometimes you're nearing the end of a long day of work and you're wearing a crazy wig and you get the giggles," Grossman captioned this Instagram photo of herself. With costars Joan Collins and Evan Peters looking on in amusement, Grossman got so punch drunk that she and her blonde fright wig took a faceplant on the fine china.

Sew what?

American Horror Story: Hotel is arguably the most deeply upsetting of the various seasons. While the scenes with Lady Gaga as the ageless, blood-drinking owner in residence at the Hotel Cortez were compelling, and the parts with Kathy Bates and Denis O'Hare as hotel employees were often oddly heartwarming, the nightmares came from Evan Peters' activities as Mr. March. Nothing but chills could come from watching March use the place to trap, torture, and murder people (disturbingly, it's all inspired by real-life "Murder Castle" builder and serial killer H.H. Holmes).

Viewers get to see him do unspeakable things to people, and it's so graphic that it's easy to forget that this is a show and these people are actors. Here's a scene where actress Emilia Zoryan gets her torture in the form of being sewn into a mattress. It's okay in real life, though — it's just like a big sleeping bag, and Zoryan seems to be having fun with this ghoulish scene.

Prepping for a role

Denis O'Hare disappears into his roles. He's clearly one of those actors who does everything he can to learn everything about a character, both inside and out. He's played many memorable parts in several American Horror Story iterations, including severely burned philanderer Larry Harvey in Murder House, mute witch school servant Spalding in Coven, and on Hotel, a transgender hotel clerk with a heartbreaking backstory named Liz Taylor. Having lived as a Kansas salesman who secretly wore women's clothing on business trips, a visit to the Hotel Cortez and a meeting with Elizabeth (Lady Gaga) inspired Liz to be true to herself and take a stint working at the haunted Hotel Cortez.

Not only did O'Hare have to dig deep to find the motivations and executions for his complex character, he had to prepare his body, too. He endured extensive makeup to get that bald head and heavily made-up look, as well as regular facial hair trim sessions. Here he is preparing for a shooting day.

There's only one Sarah Paulson

Obviously, recurring American Horror Story cast member (and frequent Emmy nominee) Sarah Paulson doesn't have two heads in real life — which means the effects wizards behind American Horror Story: Freak Show had their work cut out for them. In order for Paulson to play Bette and Dot Tattler, two heads with unique personalities who shared a body, it required a lot of special effects, digital manipulation, and time.

First, the crew took a mold of Paulson's real head and used it to build a prosthetic head that, as this on-set snap shows, bears a striking resemblance to the actress (if she were green, bald, and didn't have any eyeballs, that is). The head was then positioned differently, depending on if Paulson was filming her lines as Bette or Dot. Scenes took as long as 15 hours to shoot, and then the footage went to the computers to make the idea of a double Sarah Paulson seem visually convincing.

Becoming Pepper

One of the most memorable and striking characters in American Horror Story will always be Pepper, who appears in both the Asylum and Freak Show seasons, first as an institutionalized patient and later as a performer in an unsettling traveling sideshow. There's been no shortage of stunning transformations among the AHS cast, but Naomi Grossman is almost completely unrecognizable when she's not in her Pepper guise. That's because becoming the character involves an elaborate physical transformation

In addition to three hours in a makeup chair for every day she was needed on set, Grossman's preparation required fake teeth, a single contact lens that both distorted her vision and altered the appearance of her eye, as well as a unique hairdo. For that, Grossman had to shave off most of her hair — which was step one in her precise and perfect Pepper preparations. In this photo, the actress submits to the razor for the first time while trying to remain calm, as fascinated crew members look on.