Wilhelmina Venable is a tall, slim woman with a dominating and intimidating presence. She has dark red hair styled into a tall, sharp quiff. She dresses in opulent Victorian-esque dress and walks with a cane. Venable later adopts a purple color dress, reflecting her lust for power and to be one of 'the elite'.
Wilhelmina Venable welcomes Timothy and Emily to Outpost 3, following the aftermath of the apocalypse. She explains to them that the outpost used to be an exclusive boys school until it was converted by The Cooperative of visionary minds into a refuge. She tells the pair that they are "purples", the upper-class elites who were specially selected for the survival. "Grays" are their servants, grateful for detachment from the fallout. Venable herself is the local Cooperative representative, and she explains the house rules to the newcomers: Leaving the building is forbidden, due to radiation hazards. Sexual contact, or any kind of "copulation", is also forbidden; the rule that the executed pair broke earlier.
Venable enters the common room, ringing the bell and announcing that dinner is ready. The "purples" get served nutritional cubes, and a frustrated Coco balks. Venable slaps her, warning them that even those supplies are meant for a few years and conditions must improve or options will be limited. She tells them that a carrier pigeon arrived inside the perimeter earlier, with a message from The Collective. The message reports that three other outposts have been overrun, and they are the only "civilized" people left. The rest are starving or dying.
Later, Miriam visits Venable in her room, and they pretend to be "purples", wearing their purple, presumably Victorian-era inspired attire. They conspire about dispensing sadistic punishments which Venable admits that she enjoys, and Mead, a former military agent, admits they've been making up rules and punishments as they go along; Mead set the Geiger counter to maximum sensitivity to frame Stu.
They come back to dinner the next night with a surprise of soup instead of the typical cubes. Andre discovers bones in the stew and assumes the meat is Stu's remains, though Venable insists it is not.
Later, Dinah reminds a raging Andre that Venable also ate the meat, which would be poisoned if it were Stu's radiation-contaminated meat. The purples notice that the song which played in the common room on the radio for several weeks, has changed to a song called "The Morning After". The refugees take it as a sign that they're going to be rescued.
18 months later, the same song is playing and the refugees are desperately bored. Nuclear winter has killed off much life outside, and Venable announces a further ration of dwindling cubes. Gallant rages until the perimeter alert goes off. The gates open to a horse-drawn carriage, bearing Michael Langdon, an agent of the Collective with an unlimited clearance. Mead disposes of the horses while Michael Langdon parlays with Venable. He explains that he is there to evaluate the residents for possible transfer to the last remaining sanctuary as six have been overrun, and the remaining three beyond Outpost 3 are soon to be. He could take any, all, or none of them; those who do not meet his say-so will meet the same fate as the horses. 
To Timothy Campbell and Emily: "The house rules are simple. You will refer to me only as Ms. Venable. You may never leave the building. If you wander out onto the grounds, you will not be allowed back in due to the danger of radiation contamination. You will take your chances with the canker pus monsters beyond the gates."
To Miriam Mead: "It's our world now, to remold as we see fit."
Ryan Murphy revealed to EW that Sarah Paulson is "very excited about the dental appliances she will be wearing on the show."  She was one of the first characters to be confirmed.
The surname 'Venable' originates from Eure, France, probably named after Late Latin venabulum ("hunting ground"), a derivative of venari ("to hunt").
Venable is the eleventh character portrayed by Sarah Paulson. For a complete list of her characters, see Cast. She was one of the first characters of Apocalypse to be revealed.