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Playing a new character — or multiple characters — every season keeps Evan Peters of ‘American Horror Story’ on his toes

Evan Peters says he learned so much in channeling Andy Warhol, Charles Manson, Jim Jones and other characters in ‘American Horror Story: Cult.’

Evan Peters has appeared in every iteration of “American Horror Story” since the anthology series premiered in 2011 (a distinction he shares with Sarah Paulson). But even when series co-creator Ryan Murphy asked Peters if he wanted to be in the upcoming eighth season, the actor didn’t want to assume that necessarily meant he would be cast.

It wasn’t until he read online that he was among the cast members confirmed for the new season that it registered. Not that he has any idea what kind of character he’ll be playing.

“ ‘I don’t even know what it’s about,” the 31-year-old said when he stopped by The Times’ video studio recently.

That sort of playing-it-by-ear approach that being part of this series requires is something that took some getting used to, Peters acknowledges. But he’s grown accustomed to it as a member of the so-called Ryan Murphy troupe of actors.

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“It’s so exciting— I don’t know what I’m going to be doing,” Peters said. “Whatever it is that’s going to be thrown at me, I’ll just hit the ground running. It’s very exciting.”

It’s how he tackled the seventh installment of the series, subtitled “Cult,” which used the 2016 election as a foundation to explore a variety of topics, including misogyny, race and media manipulation.

“I thought this season was very current with what was going on in Charlottesville and the election and the fear that was all over the country,” he said. “I think it was very current and I’m very proud of that. And it was cool to be a part of that because it was saying something about our culture and what was going on.”

In what he called an “exhausting” season, the actor played Kai Anderson, a Trump-loving cult leader — at least, that was his principle character. But Peters was tasked with playing six others, including Charles Manson and Branch Davidian leader David Koresh. But stepping into the shoes of Jonestown Massacre figure Jim Jones was the hardest to work up to.

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“I kept listening to the video of him doing the mass suicide tape, because that’s what we were gonna shoot. It’s horrific. How he’s sort of manipulating all these people. And you hear people crying out and trying to argue against him. … It’s just … it’s tragic. It was intense. But I definitely learned a lot.”

To hear more of Peters discussing his role, watch the full video below:

Evan Peters talks about the long hours on the latest season of ‘American Horror Story’ and getting into the space of a cult leader.

yvonne.villarreal@latimes.com

Twitter: @villarrealy


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