Murphy was born on November 30, 1965, in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he was raised in an Irish Catholic family. He attended Catholic school from first through eighth grade, and graduated from Warren Central High School in Indianapolis. He has described his mother J. Andy Murphy as a "beauty queen who left it all to stay at home and take care of her two sons." She wrote five books and worked in communications for over 20 years before retiring. His father worked in the newspaper industry as a circulation director before he retired after 30 years. After coming out as gay, Murphy saw his first therapist, who found nothing wrong with him other than being "too precocious for his own good." During a 2012 interview on Inside the Actors Studio, Murphy claimed that he secretly dated "a lot of football players" in high school. He performed with a choir as a child, which would later inform his work on Glee. Murphy attended Indiana University Bloomington, where he majored in journalism.
Murphy started as a journalist working for The Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Knoxville News Sentinel and Entertainment Weekly. He began scriptwriting in the late 1990s, when Steven Spielberg purchased his script Why Can't I Be Audrey Hepburn?. Murphy started his career in television with the teen comedy series Popular, which he co-created with Gina Matthews. The series premiered on The WB on September 29, 1999 and ran for two seasons, ending in 2001. He then created the FX drama series Nip/Tuck, which premiered on July 18, 2003. In 2004, Murphy earned his first Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. Murphy took the show's signature line, "Tell me what you don't like about yourself," from a plastic surgeon he met when he was a journalist researching an undercover story on plastic surgery in Beverly Hills. The series ended after six seasons in 2010. On May 19, 2009, Murphy's musical comedy-drama series, Glee, premiered on Fox. He co-created the series with Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan. In its early seasons, the show was critically lauded. Murphy won his first Primetime Emmy Award for directing the pilot episode. The series concluded in 2015 following its sixth season. Murphy was one of four executive producers on the reality television series The Glee Project, which premiered on Oxygen on June 12, 2011. The show featured a group of contestants vying for the prize of a seven-episode arc on Glee, with someone being eliminated each week, until the winner is chosen in the final episode. The show was renewed for a second season, which ended up being its last.
Murphy and Glee co-executive producer Ali Adler created the half-hour comedy The New Normal, which premiered on NBC on September 10, 2012. The series was based on Murphy's own experiences of having a child via surrogate, with the main characters, Bryan and David, named for Ryan and his husband. The series was ultimately cancelled after one season. Murphy and Falchuk created the anthology series American Horror Story, which premiered on FX on October 5, 2011. Some of the same cast has played different characters in a different setting each subsequent season. In October 2014, FX greenlit a companion anthology series, American Crime Story, which Murphy and Falchuk executive produce. The series premiered on February 2, 2016. Murphy, Falchuk and Brennan next co-created the comedy-horror semi-anthology series Scream Queens, which premiered on Fox on September 22, 2015. The series was later cancelled after two seasons. Murphy's next project, the drama anthology series Feud, premiered on FX in 2017. The first season focused on the rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford on the set of their 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. On June 30, 2017, a day before her 101st birthday, Olivia de Havilland, the only Hollywood star depicted in the series who is still alive, filed a lawsuit against the Feud: Bette and Joan series for inaccurately portraying her and using her likeness without permission. In a 2017 interview, Murphy noted that he had not consulted with de Havilland because he "didn't want to be disrespectful and ask her, 'Did this happen? Did that happen? What was your take on that?'"
Murphy has also created/produced a couple of failed pilots. The WB sitcom pilot St. Sass, starring Delta Burke and Heather Matarazzo, was not picked up. In 2008, Murphy wrote and directed the FX pilot Pretty/Handsome, which also was not picked up. By April 2013, HBO had given a pilot order for Murphy's sexuality drama Open, which began filming in late 2013. By September 2014, HBO had opted not to proceed to series. In 2006, Murphy wrote the screenplay for and directed the feature film Running with Scissors. Based on the memoir by Augusten Burroughs, the movie version starred Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin and Brian Cox and, as the young Burroughs, Joseph Cross. In 2010, Murphy directed Julia Roberts in an adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir Eat, Pray, Love. The film was a box office success but a critical failure, receiving harsh reviews criticizing its pacing and lack of credibility. To date, the film has grossed $204,482,125 worldwide. Murphy next directed the 2014 television film adaptation of Larry Kramer's Broadway play The Normal Heart, starring Mark Ruffalo, Roberts, Baldwin, Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons. Murphy then collaborated with The Normal Heart executive producer Jason Blum to produce the remake of the cult-classic horror film The Town That Dreaded Sundown. The film was the directorial debut of Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and was also released in 2014. Murphy has several films in development: Dirty Tricks, a political comedy, One Hit Wonders, a musical comedy, and a sequel to The Normal Heart. In 2014, Murphy was developing a feature film of the life of reclusive heiress Huguette Clark, based on the bestselling book Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune.
Murphy grew up in a Catholic household and continues to go to church. He serves on the National Advisory Board of the Young Storytellers Foundation. He once owned a house designed by renowned mid-century modern architect Carl Maston. Murphy has been married to photographer David Miller since July 2012. On December 24, 2012, Murphy and Miller welcomed their first child, a son named Logan Phineas, via a surrogate. In October 2014, they welcomed their second son, Ford. In October 2015, Murphy received the Award of Inspiration from the Foundation for AIDS Research for his contributions to TV and film as well as his work in the fight against AIDS.
- According to Angela Bassett, Ryan Murphy is often absent from the set of 9-1-1 during filming. However, she stated that "when we need him, he’s there... When something isn't just the way he wants it," she says, "he's definitely there."