Sometimes it's difficult to tell truth from falsehood on American Horror Story. The anthology often has its original characters rubbing elbows with historical figures in ways that blur the boundaries between fact and fiction. So if you're wondering whether AHS: Cult's Dr. Rudy Vincent is based on a real person, you're probably not alone.
After all, the list of real-life people who have been portrayed on AHS throughout the show's seven installments is a long one, ranging from the Black Dahlia to Lizzie Borden, from Madame Delphine LaLaurie to Marie Laveau, from Aileen Wuornos to Jeffrey Dahmer. Could Cheyenne Jackson's Cult character belong on that list? There's definitely more to the handsome doctor than meets the eye, and it's easy to imagine that something turning out to be the revelation that the character was actually inspired by some famous cult leader or serial killer or other nefarious criminal.
Alas, there's no indication so far that Dr. Rudy was inspired by anything other than showrunner Ryan Murphy's imagination. There are certainly no real-life cult leaders named Rudy Vincent, nor any psychologist serial killers from suburban Michigan… that I know of. But Murphy has been known to craft characters loosely based on real people and then change their names — like Mr. March (based on H.H. Holmes) and Dr. Oliver Thredson (based on Ed Gein) — so this could be another case of the writer disguising his influence by giving the character a pseudonym.
It's easy to see why viewers may be suspicious of Dr. Rudy's origins; pop culture is absolutely littered with medical professionals-turned-mass murderers, in real-life and urban legends and fiction. There's just something about a handsome doctor that seems suspicious, I guess; think of the aforementioned H.H. Holmes or Jack The Ripper or Dr. Hannibal Lecter. If a character has an expert knowledge of anatomy and/or psychology, they automatically seem suspicious when the bodies start piling up.
Especially in this case. The creepy clown cult that is terrorizing Sarah Paulson's Ally seem to have an intimate knowledge of her specific phobias. (That's all assuming they're real and not such figures of her overactive and anxious imagination, of course.) They're gaslighting her not just by exploiting her coulrophobia, but also her trypophobia and her claustrophobia and her growing agoraphobia. And who would know about all of Ally's phobias better than her handsome, kindly psychiatrist?
The evidence that Dr. Rudy is the cult leader — and not Kai, as most viewers assume — is piling up, and the season is only two episodes in. If he is the ringleader of this terrifying circus, than it's easy to see how he would suss out Ally's weak spots during their therapy sessions, and then pass that information along to his minions to exploit. Of course, that raises the question of why the cult is targeting Ally… again, if they're even real.
Of course, even if Dr. Rudy does turn out to be behind the nightmares plaguing Ally's daily life, that still doesn't necessarily mean that his character was based on a real person. In fact, so far Cult seems to have the least amount of real-life references of pretty much any AHS season. Aside from brief cameos by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump from archive footage in the opening moments of the premiere, Cult appears to be more an extrapolation of our country's future than an exploration of its past.
Murphy has already confirmed that that will change somewhat — the showrunner teased that Evan Peters will be portraying various real-life leaders of infamous fringe groups throughout the season, including Charles Manson and Jim Jones — so there could be more "ripped from the headlines" surprises waiting around the corner. But until then, it's reasonable to assume that any resemblance Dr. Rudy bears to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.