Ryan Murphy has confirmed at least one fan-favorite American Horror Story character is returning for Freak Show: Pepper, the encephalitic Briarcliff patient played by Naomi Grossman, will indeed make an appearance.
“She is in this [season],” confirmed series co-creator Ryan Murphy.
"What Elsa has done for 20 years is she goes around to hospitals and jails and rescues these ‘freak’ circus performers who are going to be shipped away to asylums and she signs the waivers and she becomes their guardians," he explains.
”My character is very manipulative,” says Lange. “She understands what’s needed and she provides it. However the thing I want to be very clear that Elsa really loves these people. She truly cares for them in her own selfish narcissistic way," Lange tells EW. "It’s not just exploitation.”
Freak Show is set in 1952 Florida, more than a decade before and hundreds of miles from Asylum. "[It's] sort of like what happened to Pepper before she went to the asylum," says Murphy.
Other troupe members include Jimmy (Evan Peters), born with lobster-like hands, and his mother, bearded lady Ethel (Kathy Bates). Michael Chiklis plays Ethel’s ex-husband (and Jimmy’s father), a circus strongman on the run from the law.
Other AHS regulars coming back for the new season include include Emma Roberts and Denis O’Hare as a pair of con artists, Frances Conroy as a wealthy woman whose son (Finn Whitrock) wants to join the sideshow, and Gabourey Sidibe plays a socialite who comes back to Jupiter when her mother (Patti LaBelle) goes missing.
Publicity photos for the new season also reveal British actor-burlesque performer Mat Fraser, who was born with phocomelia of both arms, is also in the cast.