The Horror Revolution: First off, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Naomi Grossman: I think my favorite is “Rosemary’s Baby.” I love the 1960’s midcentury mod aesthetic— the wardrobe, hair, interior design… I also appreciate that it’s a female story— all these macho men in hockey masks wielding power tools kinda leave me cold. Besides, it’s relatable. As a non-breeder, I can say the idea of something live, growing inside you, that eventually has to come out, is beyond terrifying! Particularly since you don’t know what you’re gonna get! What if it’s a little span of Satan? Or the next Jeffrey Dahmer? There’s no return policy. If there were, I might be more inclined to breed. THR: I loved 1BR! What drew your interest in the project?
Producer Alok Mishra and I have been buddies for almost 25 years— so I mostly just wanted to work with my friend. But it obviously helped that the script was so well-written. I read so many bad scripts… As an architect’s daughter, I often say that the script is the blue print— if the plans don’t make sense, the house isn’t going to stand. If there are holes on the page, they’re only going to get worse on screen. There were no holes in this script! I could tell it’d be a solid film from the very first read. Sadly, that’s very rare; but also a sign of something I want to be involved with! THR: Your character is interesting, one that we don’t really get too much backstory for but who is integral in the plot of the film. When you play a character like that, how much of their backstory do you create in your head before playing the role?
NG: Yes, a little Naomi seems to go a long way! It’s sorta my thing— filmmakers use me sparingly, but effectively! But yes, of course, whether or not we see my story is not important. What’s important is that I have one. We all have a backstory. You, me, yo’ mama, the mailman… It’s the screenwriter who decides which ones to tell. But they exist, regardless. In the case of “American Horror Story,” I didn’t learn my backstory till 4 seasons in— and even then, the one I created paled in comparison to the one they bestowed. Similarly, I’ll be interested to see where the “1BR” franchise goes… I have a feeling writer/director David Marmor will do and/or has done an infinitely better job writing me one than I ever did! THR: I asked David Marmor this as well, but did you get to read the entire script before agreeing to the role? Were you aware of all of the twists going into it?
DM: Yes. Alok shared the script with me, first just as a friend, asking for my opinion. That was in May. Then in November, I got a call to audition. Now, I’m told that was just a formality— a chance for David and I to get to know each other. But that was unbeknownst to me and/or my agent. Then when I was officially cast in December (phew!), I read it again with new eyes. But yes, with film, you’re always privy to plot twists. It's television, where they’re writing it as they go, that you often don’t have that luxury. THR: Is horror your favorite genre to work in? Why or why not?
NG: Horror seems to love me, so… I love it back! But I didn’t choose it. I always fancied myself a comedienne, actually. I spent many years doing improv and sketch comedy at the Groundlings— a fairly shallow Youtube dive will yield all sorts of gems from my time there. But comedy just didn’t love me back, apparently! It’s like was doing some comedic pratfall, and somehow slipped and fell into this horror hole! That said, now that I’m in here, I love it! Horror fans are incredibly loyal. The nicest people in the world are wandering around covered in fake blood at horror conventions. I have a whole room of fan-art they’ve made and gifted me there! My comedian-friends don’t have that. But whether it’s my favorite… I don’t know! I just love to work! And that’s mostly who hires me. THR: You were one of the more memorable characters in American Horror Story and have made your way into that whole AHS universe. What has your experience been like working in the show?
NG: mean, if you can’t work with your best friends of 25 years (shout-out to Alok and “1BR”), I HIGHLY recommend working with THE HANDS-DOWN, BEST OF THE BEST people working today in Hollywood. Literally, everyone on that set is the best at what they do— from the SPFX Makeup department (with whom I spent many, many hours each day) to the guy pulling the string to make the big top tent look windy. He’s the best wind-maker working in Hollywood! That’s the genius of Ryan Murphy— he’s a genius in his own right, then surrounds himself with other genii, who acutely understand his vision and execute it perfectly. It’s inspiring to witness, and thrilling to be a part of. THR: Do you have a favorite movie or television show in which you’ve worked? Any favorite roles?
NG: I’d be hard-pressed to find a more fun role than Pepper. She just gave and gave. For the most part, I was given very little direction except to “do Schlitze.” Schlitzie was the real-life microcephalic person after whom Pepper was modeled. So I just got to play, putting all that improv and comedic character training to use— knowing that so long as I was “doing Schlitzie,” I was doing what I was hired to do. But then, as the seasons got on, and Pepper was abducted, and her backstory was revealed, I got to really explore her pathos, and dust off some serious acting chops I hadn’t worked since I was in drama school at Northwestern. Having a character that just keeps giving and evolving and challenging you in different ways like that is rare. And then to be rewarded for it with action figures and Halloween masks? That’s just icing on the cake. THR: What inspired you to become an actress? Was there any particular movie or show that made you want to do this?
NG: My parents were always real culture vultures— we regularly attended the theatre, opera, ballet, symphony, cinema, you name it. And I just always wanted to be up there, on stage. And sometimes I was— my mom tells the story of me dancing unbridaled in the aisles with the hippos during “Fantasia.” Never mind that it was a cartoon movie— they were very real to me, and I desperately wanted to be one of them! I’m not sure if “Fantasia” is my answer, or just the collective of all things cultural I was fortunate enough to be exposed to as a child. But there's no question from a very young age, I heard the call. THR: What’s next for you? Anything interesting coming up soon?
NG: I’m hard at work on my next solo show, “American Whore Story.” It’s a love-letter to fans, chronicling my history of hustling, pre-Pepper, post-Pepper, becoming Pepper… That’ll be on stage in LA, then NY, then who knows? Hopefully streaming on your TV soon! I’ve got a couple other fun projects in the can— a drama with Mickey Rourke called “Replica,” a kids’ movie with Sean Astin called “Pet Detectives,” and an outrageous, action-comedy series from the producers of “Cobra Kai” called “Obliterated.” So, stay tuned! (@naomiwgrossman) THR: Finally, how many appliances do you own that you’ve never used, not even once?
NG: None! I try my best to be a minimalist— Marie Kondoing anything that doesn’t spark joy, never mind not using. That said, my kitchen appliances are mostly for show— but I’ve used them all, just not regularly.