American Crime Story's Katrina Twist: Sarah Paulson Is Now the Star After Ryan Murphy Makes a "Creative Pivot"

Ryan Murphy has made a major "creative pivot" in the upcoming installment in his critically-acclaimed anthology series.

By Lauren Piester, Billy Nilles Aug 10, 2017 8:29 PMTags
Watch: Ryan Murphy Teases "American Crime Story" Future Seasons

Ryan Murphy and co. have changed their minds yet again.

After switching the air order of The Assassination of Gianni Versace and Katrina, the minds behind American Crime Story have decided to go a different direction with Katrina all together, E! News has confirmed. Originally, this installment in the franchise was to based on the book The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley, dealing broadly with the American government at the time. Dennis Quaid had signed on to play George W. Bush, while Annette Bening was playing the Louisiana governor and Matthew Broderick was set to play the director of FEMA. 

Now, a day after FX Networks CEO John Landgraf admitted to reporters at the 2017 TCA summer press tour that Murphy had made a "creative pivot," it's been confirmed that they're dropping the original source material altogether and narrowing the installment's focus with Sheri Fink's book Five Days at Memorial as its source. Set in a New Orleans hospital that lost power for five days after the natural disaster, the show will examine the decision made by hospital staff, led by Dr. Anna Pou, to euthanize critically ill patients. 

American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: How the Cast Compares to Their Real-Life Counterparts
Donato Sardella/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter

And in an even larger twist, Murphy's muse Sarah Paulson will now be the star of the installment, stepping into the role of Dr. Pou. As of press time, no other cast members are attached to the revamped installment, though the hope is to find new roles for the A-list roster previously cast in the original idea. After all, if you land Bening, Broderick and Quaid, you don't really want to let them go if you can help it.

Deadline first reported the news. 

While Katrina continues to take its new shape, so to is Murphy's latest installment of American Horror Story, subtitled Cult. Once again, Paulson takes the lead in what sounds like will be a rather interesting love triangle involving her character's wife (played by Allison Pill) and the mysteriously blue-haired Kai (played by Evan Peters). Here's everything we know about the upcoming season, premiering Tuesday, Sept. 5!

The Title

The title for season seven is American Horror Story: Cult, but perhaps it should be Cults, because the season will explore multiple cults throughout history, focusing on a new one that arises after the results of the 2016 election. 

The Setting

Murphy revealed the 11-episode season will be set in Michigan. He previously revealed it takes place the night of the 2016 presidential election. The co-creator previously told E! News it would be a "very, very scary" modern story, yet "fun" and "topical."

Evan Peters Returns

And it's his busiest season yet! He'll be playing the leader of the main cult that rises up after the 2016 election, as well as five other cult leaders from history, including Charles Manson, David Koresh, Andy Warhol, and Jim Jones, according to Ryan Murphy. 

Peters as Warhol

Speaking of Peters' turn as the famed pop artist Andy Warhol, creator Ryan Murphy shared an Instagram photo of the actor in his costume on Thursday, Oct. 5, and the resemblance is damn near uncanny. "Evan Peters or Andy Warhol?" Murphy asked. Good question.

Sarah Paulson Is Obviously Back

Murphy quickly revealed Sarah Paulson would be in season seven, which is generally a forgone conclusion. She's one of the leads. After he announced the title, Murphy revealed Paulson's character is named Ally. She's married to Allison Pill's character Ivy, and she does not take well to the results of the 2016 election. 

Alison Pill

Alison Pill, a newcomer to the cast, stars as Ivy Mayfair-Richards, the wife of Sarah Paulson's Ally Mayfair-Richards, with whom she owns a restaurant. 

Cheyenne Jackson

AHS veteran Cheyenne Jackson is Dr. Rudy Vincent, a therapist. 

Billy Eichner

Known for comedies Parks and RecreationDifficult People and his own show, Billy on the StreetBilly Eichner is going dramatic for the new season of AHS. He'll appear as Harrison Wilton, a neighbor of Sarah Paulson's character. 

Billie Lourd

Scream Queens star jumps to AHS as Winter Anderson, the new nanny of Sarah Paulson and Allison Pill's characters. 

Colton Haynes

Teen Wolf and Scream Queens veteran Colton Haynes will appear in AHS: Cult as Detective Samuels. 

Leslie Grossman joins the cast

Leslie Grossman, who worked with Murphy on Popular, re-teams with the creator for AHS: Cult. "My friend Leslie Grossman is joining this season of American Horror Story. One of the funniest and most talented ladies I know. Congrats Ms Leslie G," Murphy posted on Instagram. She plays one of Ally and Ivy's neighbors. 

Lena Dunham will guest star

Lena Dunham will guest star in AHS: Cult, making it her first TV gig since Girls wrapped up. Murphy tweeted about her involvement, saying, "Thrilled that my talented friend Lena Dunham is joining the AMERICAN HORROR STORY family. Always wanted to work together, and now we r!" 

Dunham will appear in episode seven as Valerie Solanas, the woman who tried to shoot Andy Warhol. 

Adina Porter is back

American Horror Story: Roanoke breakout Adina Porter is back in the fold, playing a news reporter. 

Emma Roberts

Bet you thought you'd seen the last of her, but of course you haven't Roberts will be back as news reporter Serena Belinda, who gets promoted over Adina Porter's character "simply because she's much more superficial and willing to do what it takes to survive," according to Murphy. 

Frances Conroy Returns

AHS veteran Frances Conroy will be back in some form or another. She previously appeared in seasons one, two, three, four and six and played everything from a cannibal hillbilly to the Angel of Death to the iconic Myrtle Snow.

Mare Winningham Returns

Mare Winningham, a veteran of AHS: Coven, Freak Show and Hotel, will be back in some form or another. Murphy revealed her involvement on Twitter and teased there will be more familiar faces back in the fold as well.

Twisty's Also Back Whether We Want Him or Not

Did you miss the homicidal clown played by John Carroll Lynch on Freak Show? No? Too bad. Twisty's presence will clearly be felt, as evidenced by all those clowns. Murphy also revealed a behind-the-scenes photo of a Twisty comic book.

No Gaga

Lady Gaga, who starred in American Horror Story: Hotel and appeared in American Horror story: Roanoke, will not be in season seven.

Jessica Lange is missed

OK, this isn't exactly about American Horror Story: Cult, but Sarah Paulson was asked by a fan on Twitter if she missed Jessica Lange, her costar for the first four seasons. And Paulson's answer? It's going to break your heart: "More than I can say," she responded. No, you're crying.

MORE PHOTOS: American Horror Story characters—ranked!

Are you surprised by the creative pivot Murphy's made with Katrina? Or relieved? Sound off in the comments below!

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story will debut in January 2018 on FX, with the revamped Katrina arriving sometime after that.