While Ryan Murphy has found success in the TV industry, he’s also faced his fair share of controversies.
Murphy is most well known for creating and producing several popular series including Glee, American Horror Story, Pose and more. Over the course of his career, he’s earned six Primetime Emmy Awards from 36 nominations, a Tony Award from two nominations and two Grammy Award nominations.
Along with his accomplishments, Murphy has also faced a series of controversies. Speaking about his time on Glee, Murphy described the days on set as the “the best” and “the worst time” in his life as he navigated behind-the scenes drama with the cast.
“There was a lot of infighting. There was a lot of people sleeping together and breaking up,” he recalled in a 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly. “It was good training for being a parent, I’ll tell you that much. But I also made a mistake: We all got too personal.”
Keep scrolling to see Murphy’s ups and downs over the years:
Murphy, who got his start in TV by cocreating the 1999 WB series Popular, got his first taste of success after creating his FX show Nip/Tuck, which aired for six seasons. The drama series scored him his first-ever Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series.
Five years after the prosperity of Nip/Tuck, Murphy returned to TV with Glee. He earned his first Emmy for directing the pilot episode. Throughout the show’s six seasons, it took home six Emmys, nine Golden Globes, 14 Teen Choice Awards, one SAG award and more. The popularity of the series led to the spinoff reality show, The Glee Project, which Murphy also created in an attempt to find new talent for the series.
Along with the musical dramedy gaining popularity the cast also faced several controversial and tragic events. While filming the series, Lea Michele was accused of toxic behavior and bullying on set. Ahead of shooting season 5 in 2013, Cory Monteith died at age 31 from an accidental drug overdose. After the show wrapped up in 2015, two more cast members died: Mark Salling, who by suicide in 2018, and Naya Rivera, who accidentally drowned in 2020.
Murphy went on to cocreate the critically acclaimed American Horror Story. The anthology series has earned four Critics Choice awards, 16 Emmys, two Golden Globes and more. As of 2023, AHS is in its 12th season. Murphy later created AHS’ sister show, American Horror Stories, in 2021.
Murphy continued to create more TV shows including Pose, 9-1-1 and its subsequent spinoff, 9-1-1 Lonestar. Murphy earned a series of praise for his work on Pose as the first season had the largest cast of trans actors in a network series. At the time, he revealed his plans to donate his profits from the LGBTQ drama to several non-profits involved in the community including the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, and Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.
“The thing that struck me in talking to so many of them, was how much they’ve struggled, how under attack they feel, how many of them find it difficult getting healthcare and finding jobs,” Murphy told Variety. “I just decided I need to do more than just making a show for this community. I want to reach out and help this community.”
In that same year, Murphy signed a $300 million deal with Netflix to create original content for the streaming service.
After news broke of Rivera’s tragic death, Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan announced they were putting together a college fund for the late actress’ son Josey. However, one year later, Naya’s father, George Rivera, claimed that Murphy did not honor his promise and never established a fund for Josey.
“When you are part of the Hollywood elite, some people treat others as they are ‘less than’ …. vocalize a good game, but it’s as shallow as the sets on stage, that they create,” he tweeted at the time. “Promises made in public, only to fade with time and excuses … even in an unexplainable tragedy.”
Murphy responded to the claims and shared that he had been in contact with the “appropriate executors” of Naya’s estate to create the fund.
Murphy’s Netflix show Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, which chronicled the life of the infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmner, faced backlash amongst its viewers for how it portrayed the victims’ perspective. Several family members of Dahmer’s victims also argued that the Netflix program dramatized the truth. Despite the controversy, Murphy stood by the series.
“It’s something that we researched for a very long time,” he said at a Dahmer event at the time, per The Hollywood Reporter. “And we, over the course of the three, three and a half years when we were really writing it, working on it, we reached out to 20 — around 20 of the victims’ families and friends trying to get input, trying to talk to people and not a single person responded to us in that process.”
During the 2023 SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes, Murphy was criticized for allegedly refusing to halt production for AHS season 12 and also threatened to sue the former WGA strike captain Warren Leight. Following the backlash, Murphy launched a fund starting with $500k to support past and current actors and crew members in his projects during the strike.
“Remember your idea about a HORROR season starring black women? Well I’m doing it,” Murphy seemingly wrote to Ross, according to the screenshot via X at the time. “Not sure of the story yet, but we will start a writers room in the fall.”
Ross shared her excitement about the project and let Murphy know she was interested and offered some suggestions for other potential cast members. In a separate alleged exchange, Ross reached out to Murphy to follow up about the project since she was still under contract with him and seemingly never heard back.
“Mind you, marvel had called twice now. I haven’t heard from him since,” she noted. “Please ask somebody about me. If I’m at the point of publicly showing receipts you can believe I don’t have any f—ks left to give when it comes down to it. And I’m not even done pulling out the receipts.”