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Twisty The Clown From American Horror Story Is Unrecognizable In Real Life

Of all the monsters that American Horror Story has scared up over the years, none have been more frightening or fascinating than Freak Show's Twisty. The creepy clown came with a tragic backstory that included his name being slandered, the loss of his beloved clown gig, and an attempt to take his own life that left him disfigured. Even with the tragedies of his past and his misguided desire to protect children from anyone who poses a threat to their happiness (namely their parents), Twisty is a dangerous killer whose combination of makeup and mask is pure nightmare fuel. 

Thanks to some expert work from American Horror Story's special effects and makeup artists, the man behind Twisty's mask, actor John Carroll Lynch, is virtually unrecognizable when he's in full clown mode. Without Twisty's clown outfit, Lynch looks like a normal guy. In fact, one of his most famous non-AHS roles is Norm Gunderson, the sweetly bumbling husband of Marge (Frances McDormand) in the 1996 film Fargo. He's also had major roles on The Americans, The Drew Carey Show, and Body of Proof — but you wouldn't know he's the same guy who spooked everyone on AHS.

Twisty's costume helped John Carroll Lynch stay in tune with the character

In an October 2014 interview with Collider, Lynch revealed that people he had previously worked with often didn't recognize him on set during the filming of Freak Show — and that's exactly how he liked it. For him, the role of Twisty had to be fully immersive in order for his performance to feel honest, and that meant going full Twisty during rehearsals.

"This is definitely outside-in kind of work," he said to Collider. "It doesn't work, if I'm rehearsing and haven't gotten into the costume, hair and make-up. The first thing I do is get into the costume. Oftentimes, in other circumstances, I wouldn't do that. If I'm going to rehearse, I don't necessarily rehearse in costume. But, I never do that for this. I never want to rehearse without being in costume. If I can avoid not being in make-up, I'll do that, too."

His commitment to the role definitely paid off. Not only did he scare viewers and leave his mark on AHS history, he also left many of his cast mates shaken, as well. In the same interview, he recounted a scene in which Jimmy (Evan Peters) is dismembering a police officer with the help of several other characters while Twisty just watches in the background. It turns out that despite the gruesome nature of the scene they were participating in, Twisty ended up disturbing the actors more than anything else.

"I can't remember who said it, but one of the actors standing there said, 'Man, you were really creeping me out,'" Lynch recalled. "I laughed and said, 'You were dismantling a cop's body with a bunch of other people, but the thing that's freaking you out is the clown, 50 feet away?!' That was wild."

The process of creating Twisty's look was worth it for John Carroll Lynch

Getting into character as Twisty required more than a dirty clown costume. Lynch also had to spend plenty of time in the makeup chair and rely on the special effects department to create the disturbing image of the clown's missing jaw. During a 2017 interview with The A.V. Club, the actor shared a bit about what the transformation from Lynch to Twisty entailed.

He revealed that his first time in the makeup chair it took two hours for the makeup artists to bring Twisty to life, but by the end of the season the process took less than an hour. For Lynch, relying on special effects, the costume department, and makeup to help build the character was a true learning experience. "The days that were hard were the ones where I went back and forth between two different looks — where we would go back to the flashback version of Joe, then on to the present version of Joe," he told The A.V. Club. "But it was a great learning experience as an actor to have to rely so much on what the camera is capturing to relay things."

The collaborative process paid off. In addition to creating an unforgettable AHS character, the team also made it possible for a busy character actor like Lynch to fully disappear into the role of the dark and disturbed Twisty.

Twisty is just one of several AHS roles John Carroll Lynch has taken on

The role of Twisty the Clown marked Lynch's first foray into the world of American Horror Story, but it certainly wasn't his last. On the following season of the anthology series, subtitled Hotel, Lynch embodied a real-life serial killer: John Wayne Gacy, a clown-obsessed murderer who performed as "Pogo the Clown" and "Patches the Clown" all the while he was killing innocent people.

Season 7, American Horror Story: Cult, found Lynch stepping back into Twisty's oversized shoes for two episodes. Most recently, Lynch had a substantial role on American Horror Story: 1984, the show's ninth season that took inspiration from '80s slasher films like Halloween and Friday the 13th. A summer camp janitor wrongly accused of being a maniacal serial killer, Lynch's Benjamin Richter was framed for a massacre at Camp Redwood that took place in 1970. After being released from Red Meadows Asylum, Richter stylized as "Mr. Jingles," returning to the campgrounds, slaying campers in revenge, and trying to murder the woman who framed him. He eventually abandons this life of violence, but his past comes back to haunt him in a devastating way. The good — and surprising — news is that AHS: 1984 actually ends on a pretty positive note.  

With three separate AHS roles under his belt, Lynch is essentially a regular member of the show's troupe of actors — even if he does seem to completely transform for each new role he takes on.