Interview With Naomi Grossman (Pepper) On American Horror Story: Asylum

Posted: 02/22/2014 in American Horror Story: Asylum, Television

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Interview Done By Mike Wilkerson

MW: Please introduce yourself?
NG: My name is Naomi Grossman, I’m an actor, writer, solo artist, and sketch comedienne, best known for my portrayal of fan favorite, “Pepper” on FX’s “American Horror Story: Asylum.”

MW: How did you get into acting?
NG: Throughout my childhood, my parents always exposed me to lots of art and culture. Ever since I was a toddler, dancing in the theatre aisles, it was obvious I wanted to be up on stage instead of in the audience! By the time I was 10, I was involved with anything and everything performance-related. I sang and danced and did children’s theatre every weekend at the Comedy Works in downtown Denver. I appeared in regional commercials, industrials, “Father Dowling Mysteries”– basically anything that came through Colorado! I earned my SAG card at the age of 15, then later went on to study Theatre at Northwestern University near Chicago. Upon graduation, I moved west to pursue the dream full-time.

MW: Tell me about getting the role of Pepper on the second season of American Horror Story: Asylum on FX?
NG: It was an audition like any other… My agent called, and I went in the next day as prepared as I could be with what little information was given to me. Basically, the role was for a 4-5′ tall, possibly malformed person. (Which I’m not.) But you can imagine how wild that waiting room was. I figured I couldn’t hold a candle to those folks… though it’s a big casting office, so at the very least, it behoved me to do a good job so they’d remember me for another role on, say, “Glee.” So I went in, and did a little improv, as well as one of Jessica Lange’s monologues from first season. Again, at the time I had no idea as to what the role was… But they did, and that’s why they wanted to see my range– that I could go from “play with me!” to large chunks of dramatic dialogue. Later I got a call to meet with the makeup department, where they took a bunch of photos, which they later manipulated to see what I, and the other actresses they were considering, would look like as Pepper. That’s how the role was ultimately cast.

MW: What did you think when you saw the script?
NG: I never actually read a full script– not even to this day. They’re extremely secretive– they mustn’t risk a single plot leak. All I had was the first season to get me excited, and the movie “Freaks” to help me prepare.

MW: How long did it take to get prepared each day to be Pepper?
NG: About 2.5-3 hours, and that’s with 2 Emmy nominated makeup artists working feverishly on me the whole time. I of course did nothing– just laid my head back, and slept for most of it.

MW: What was your favorite scene to do on American Horror Story: Asylum?
NG: “The Name Game,” no question. It was so much fun to shoot– and after 9 full episodes of doom and gloom, it came at just the right time. I remember one of the ADs called out through a megaphone: “Everyone can go bigger, except Pepper!” That was the scene where I was most in my element– I was allowed to really let loose and go for it.

MW: Who did you most enjoy acting with?
NG: Acting with Jessica Lange is a real thrill, obviously. James Cromwell is extremely giving– he won “best supporting actor,” but is one of the most supportive too. I love watching Zachary Quinto work, and Sarah Paulson is a blast to be around. I have nothing but nice things to say about all of them!

MW: How has fan response been to Pepper?
NG: Incredible. You just never imagine one day your mug will be tattooed on a stranger’s leg! Or will show up as urban street art around town. Or will inspire countless pieces of artwork–paintings, sculptures, dolls, animations, songs. Or that your IMDb star meter will skyrocket above Brad Pitt’s. Or that you’ll be invited to jet around the world, signing autographs. Or that people will want to read interviews like this one! These are just things that are hard to anticipate.

MW: Are you doing any conventions in 2014? What are they?
NG: Yes, lots! I’ll be at the “Canadian Haunted Attractions Convention” near Toronto in February, then at “Movie Days/the Dark Zone” in Dortmund, Germany, as well as the “Lexington Comic & Toy Con” in March. In April, I’m the keynote speaker at “Cripping the Con” at Syracuse University. In May, I’ll be at Seattle’s “Crypticon,” in June, the “Rhode Island Comic Con,” in July, “Monstercon” in South Carolina, and in September, the “Alamo City Comic Con.” And I’m sure they’ll be plenty more!

MW: What do you have as far as acting coming in 2014?
NG: Hard to say, seeing the year and pilot season have only just barely begun. I’d love to be on season 4 of AHS, though only Ryan Murphy knows about that. I have some upcoming performance dates for my solo show, “Carnival Knowledge” planned, and am always looking to do more of that. Otherwise, I’m writing a pilot, which I’d love to get produced (particularly if I could snag a part in it!). But again, that would require studios and networks and stars to align well beyond my control.

MW: What do you do in your spare time?
NG: I’m super into yoga– I practice every day, about an hour and a half a day. I enjoy writing, and am often working on performance projects of my own. I love attending the theatre and movies– I must see at least 2 films a week– and am very social. My friends call me “tiny dancer”– I tend to tear it up on the dance floor! And I love to travel– I have family in Uruguay and Argentina– which is a nice excuse to have to visit my absolute favorite places.

MW: What would you like to say in closing?
NG: Thanks so much for the interview! For more info, people can check out my website: naomigrossman.net. They can follow me on Twitter @naomiwgrossman, or “like” me on Facebook. I would also encourage people to subscribe to my channel on Youtube, and check out my “Red Meat Entertainment” videos there. In general, I think fans don’t realize how much power they actually have– networks and producers really pay attention to what resonates with fans. So if you like what you see, let it be known– tweet them, post on fan sites, blow up those IMDb and Reddit message boards! We appreciate it!

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