FX’s third installment of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s American Horror Story: Coven has been shrouded in mystery … until now. EW is not only exclusively debuting these images of new stars Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett, but also revealing plot detail on the acclaimed series in this week’s Fall TV Preview, on stands now.
The witch-centric Coven, shot on location in New Orleans, once again stars Jessica Lange (alongside several AHS alums) but in a much different role from last year’s glum Sister Jude on AHS: Asylum. In Coven’s universe, Lange’s glam Fiona is the Wicked Witch of the West. Labeled a “Supreme” for her mighty magical abilities, Fiona is witch royalty, descended from Salem spell casters, and has spent recent years using her powers to stay fabulous, like any good aging diva.
The murder of a young Salem witch near New Orleans inspires Fiona to return home from L.A., where she’s been living the high life, and reunite with her estranged daughter, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson), the headmistress of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies. (Like an all-girls Hogwarts, the school has been a safe haven for young witches since 1868.) The student body — and witchy bloodline — is dwindling due to coven members fearful of reproducing and passing on their powers as well as forces determined to destroy the lineage. Teases executive producer Tim Minear, “Let’s say that Miss Robichaux’s Academy is set upon by multiple outside adversaries.” One enemy faction is the “voodoo witches.” “There’s sort of two formidable clans of witches in New Orleans,” continues Minear. “The voodoo witches were there first, and the Salem witches fled to the South from the persecution of the North, and these two factions are ancient enemies.”
But before dealing with the external threat, Fiona and Cordelia must find a way to coexist. With the coven at risk, Fiona wants to prepare the girls for battle, while Cordelia would prefer peace. The pair also lock horns on their instruction of the school’s four remaining students: troubled teen star Madison (Emma Roberts), tough girl Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), enigmatic Nan (Jamie Brewer), and shy Zoe (Taissa Farmiga). The dysfunctional coven must survive not only each other and the voodoo clan, but also a Tulane frat (Evan Peters plays Kyle, one of the Greeks who crushes on Zoe).
As in previous seasons, Coven will juggle time periods, including the 1970s, when Miss Robichaux’s enrollment was thriving, and New Orleans in the 1830s. This latter era is where we meet society woman Madame Delphine LaLaurie, a historical figure known for torturing her slaves. The Coven version of LaLaurie, as played by Bates, is equally terrible (she even uses slaves’ blood as wrinkle cream), which makes her an enemy of voodoo queen Marie Laveau (Bassett). “The history of LaLaurie and the history of the voodoo witches and the Salem witches are entangled throughout the ages,” says Minear.