Today, I invite you all to a freak show and that’s not all! You get a VIP Ticket (the ticket we dream about every time but that costs way too much) which gives you access to an interview with an icon of the hit series “American Horror Story”, Naomi Grossman! Naomi plays Pepper, the most beloved character of the show. Behind Pepper’s mask, Naomi is a successful actress who earned an LA Weekly Award Nomination for best solo AND an Emmy Award Nomination AND she was a cheerleader.
So, with your VIP Ticket you’ll get the chance to learn more about Naomi and even play the Name Game with her! Beware, she’s a very good player.
Jean : First, it’s important for me to ask, how are you and how are you surviving this whole COVID-19? Don’t you think it’s a good plot for a season of “AHS” ?
Naomi Grossman : Ugh. I hate it! As a super-affectionate, extreme extrovert, with a normally very busy social schedule, who lives alone, doesn’t cook, and is a technophobic news junkie, raised in Christian Science, it’s safe to say I fit the profile of someone especially averse to isolation and social distancing. As far as being a good plot, NO! I remember watching the movie, “Contagion” like 10 years ago, and thinking how boring it was to spend 2 full hours watching people catching a virus! A whole season of that? No, thank you. We watch television to escape. If we could escape this, we would!
I did some research and learned that you played a cheerleader in “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” in 1998. Were you a cheerleader yourself when you were in college? How were your teenage years? Was there a lot of bullying then, like today?
I was a cheerleader in high school, yes. But only because I was a total over-achiever, and just had to have my hand in all of the extracurricular activities! As far as bullying goes, I would think today’s callout-culture and overly PC, social justice warriors would frown upon that, especially! Back then, the drama kids like me weren’t particularly picked on, though I do remember a boy committed suicide in my elementary school due to bullying. So yes, it was definitely an issue.
In 2002, you did a play called “Girl in Argentine Landscape,” which earned you an LA Weekly Theatre Award nomination for best solo performance. Non-actors would argue it’s best to do film and TV, so that more people can see you. But most actors prefer doing theatre. Why?
Well, film and TV weren’t so much of an option for me then. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t lack of desire! I just wasn’t being cast! Not in a traditional way. Yet I still had this drive and passion to act. So I found ways to still do that, on stage! Typically, in order for a film or television show to be green-lit, you need A LOT of money and people to agree. A one-woman show requires… one woman! So, I figured that was the cheapest, easiest way to still accomplish what I was put here to do.
That said, I think a lot of actors prefer theatre because of the process. You get to live the entire character’s arc over the course of an evening! Whereas on film, sometimes you shoot the last page on the first day, the first page on the last day, and in the case of TV, you don’t even know how or when the story will end! It’s really a writer and director’s medium; although of course, it’s the actor’s face we see.
So, you’re mostly known for portraying Pepper in “American Horror Story.” Pepper is the 1st character to appear in 2 seasons of “American Horror Story.” Why do you think Ryan Murphy chose to bring back Pepper?
There was no question she was popular. I mean, the networks read the tweets, and watch the Nielsen ratings. They would be foolish not to pay attention to what’s working, and give the audience more of what they want! That’s why Norman Reedus will never be killed off “The Walking Dead”. Admittedly, I don’t actually pay attention to that show, so maybe he has? I’m just saying, I imagine AMC got a great return on that initial investment. At the end of the day, it’s all about the Benjamins. 😉
Is it harder to rely solely on one’s physicality to communicate a character’s emotional life, without depending on the crutch of language ?
Some would say so, certainly, but that happens to be one of my niche-strengths! Harder for me, personally, is rattling off a ton of super-procedural dialogue à la Kerry Washington. So see, we all have our thing.
Are you afraid of only being remembered by the audience for your role in “AHS”?
Of course not! Being remembered for ANYTHING is a boon, in my opinion. We don’t decide what sticks, or how the audience will react ever, favorably or otherwise. So the fact that they loved anything I did is great. I hope for more, of course, but I also don’t control that. All I can worry about is doing work of which I’m proud. The rest is up to the audience and universe!
I once read that directors are afraid to cast an actor who is known for a particular role because the audience will always see that actor as the character they are known for. (example: if I say, Lisa Kudrow, we all think of Phoebe Buffay in “Friends.”) Do you think this is true?
Afraid? No. I think there are certain roles that put an actor on the map, like Phoebe, for sure. I hadn’t heard of Lisa Kudrow before that, although she worked for years at the Groundlings, where I studied and performed as well! I’m sure she’s thankful, as I am, to have moved on from Melrose Avenue! Any director would be so lucky (and definitely not “afraid”) to work with her! With someone so talented as her! It’s up to the actor to transcend those roles we’re most known for, and prove that we’ve got more than just that one character in our arsenal. Of course, some actors can’t… or they get lazy, or type-cast, or whatever. That’s definitely not going happen to me. We haven’t seen a character like Pepper since Schlitzie in “Freaks,” back in 1933. And who knows when we’ll see another? I do get cast as a lot of creatures now; though even then, every character I take on is unique.
How do you deal with the stress of having a job, and then not having one, and waiting for another role?
That’s just the actor’s life! I don’t know any other way. I wish there were more stability, and had something always waiting in the wings. But I don’t “wait” for another role, regardless. I’m always working, creating something— I’m just not always getting paid!
In 2018, you were nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for your role as Lorna in “Ctrl Alt Delete.” That’s huge! How did you feel about it ?
It was incredible. Again, I never would’ve anticipated such a thing. I did it because I believe in its message, trusted the people involved, enjoyed the material, and hoped it would translate into something more… But an Emmy was the last thing on my mind. It has to be! Besides, we don’t control these things anyway!
What does the future hold for you? You told me you’d done a film called “1BR” coming out later this month with Giles Matthey, whom I also interviewed. What is that about?
It’s about a young woman who moves to Hollywood, and into a “community.” It seems like the perfect utopia at first, but quickly she realizes she’s being brain-washed and trapped into this creepy, cult-like society. I think it’s relatable to anyone who’s moved to Hollywood from somewhere else (like me), and of course, to EVERYONE on lockdown due to the coronavirus right now. Its release, April 24th, couldn’t be more timely!
Other than that, Hollywood’s shut down. So, it’s impossible to say… for anyone! I have another film, “Murder Rx” that was just released digitally this month as well. And I’m working on my third solo show, which I hope to sell to a streaming service as a 1-hour comedy special. That’s what’s keeping me busy during this quarantine.
Let’s play a game: The Name Game. If I tell you Lana, what do you say?
“Lana Lana Bo Bana, Banana Fana Fo Fana, Me my mo mana, Lana!”
Don’t hesitate to follow Naomi on social media : @naomiwgrossman.
She also has a website where you can learn more about her : naomigrossman.net
And one last very cool thing, a patreon where you can directly get in touch with her and get some stuffs like autographs, skype call, … It’s almost like a convention 😉 Go take a look by yourself here : patreon.com/naomigrossman
PS: Keep your VIP TICKET, you’ll have access to more soon! 😉