Why James Cromwell Didn’t Return After Season 2


James Cromwell was one of the best aspects of American Horror Story: Asylum, but the actor hasn’t returned to the series since his award-winning role.

James Cromwell was one of the best aspects of American Horror Story season 2, but the actor hasn’t returned to the series since his award-winning performance in Asylum. Cromwell is one of the few major stars to have a one-off appearance in the horror anthology, which often brings back cast members season after season. American Horror Story season 10 will soon be following suit by featuring series veterans like Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Kathy Bates, Billie Lourd, and Adina Porter. Though anything is possible, it seems likely that Cromwell played his first and last American Horror Story character in Asylum.

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American Horror Story‘s follow-up season focused on the staff and patients at an insane asylum in the ’60s. Among the workers was Dr. Arthur Arden, who was played by Cromwell for the duration. Dr. Arden was the resident physician at Briarcliff Manor, but rather than stick to historical treatments, the man was known for experimenting on his patients. In fact, he performed inhumane experiments, turning the patients into creatures known as “Raspers.” As the season went on, it was revealed that Dr. Arden was actually a Nazi war criminal who fled to the U.S. with a new identity.

Related: American Horror Story: Why Lady Gaga Hasn’t Returned After Season 6

Interestingly enough, Cromwell marks the only male actor to win an Emmy Award for his performance in American Horror Story. The other award winners include Jessica Lange for Murder House and Coven, in addition to Kathy Bates, who also won for Coven. Viewers perceived Cromwell as one of the bright spots of season 2 despite the character’s sadistic demeanor. In a season that featured a serial killer in Bloody Face as well as threatening aliens and religious figures, Dr. Arden emerged as one of the most dangerous villains to date. Cromwell expressed interest in returning for season 3, Coven, but an appropriate role for the actor wasn’t fit into the new story so he moved on to new projects. Considering he won a prestigious award for playing Arden, it’s possible that Cromwell was content with going out while on top. Some fans, however, have looked deeper into why he hasn’t returned to the series.

Lily Rabe and James Cromwell in American Horror Story Asylum

Seeing as seven seasons and counting have debuted since Cromwell’s initial American Horror Story appearance, viewers have wondered if there was more to the actor’s departure. If an actor did so well in a debut performance, wouldn’t the series want him or her back for future installments? With Cromwell’s absence, some have theorized that he was uncomfortable with the subject material, axing any chance of his return. Others have suggested that the show has a tight-knit cast and crew of regulars and Cromwell may not have fit in. These theories, however, seem unfounded since the anthology was still in its early days and didn’t have an established recurring cast.

More than likely, Cromwell shifted his focus to other projects when he wasn’t asked to return for American Horror Story season 3. He moved on to the TV series Betrayal before working on titles like Halt and Catch Fire, The Young Pope, The Detour, Succession, and Counterpart. Cromwell also appeared in various movies since his time on the horror anthology, including notable roles in Big Hero 6, Marshall, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. His busy schedule could have prevented any American Horror Story appearances since 2013. Cromwell’s son, John Cromwell, did play the younger version of Dr. Arden in season 4, Freak Show, but time will tell if the actor or any family members have a future in the series.

Next: American Horror Story: Why Dr. Arden’s Death In Asylum Was So Significant

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Updated: December 6, 2020 — 8:30 pm

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