Most of you may recognize Naomi Grossman from her role as Pepper on ‘American Horror Story’, though she looks extremely different in real life. Naomi made an incredible transformation from beautiful woman into her character ‘Pepper’ for both season 2 (Asylum) and season 4 (Freak Show) of ‘American Horror Story’.
Not only is this sassy lady a seriously talented actress, she is also a talented writer and producer. Naomi has such light hearted titles as ‘Paradrunken Activity’, ‘Hot Yoga’ and ‘Men at Work’ listed on her resume under writer/producer credits. Naomi is currently working on her latest role in the horror-thriller ‘The Chair’, directed by Chad Ferrin. ‘The Chair’ has an incredible cast list including legendary wrestler and actor Roddy Piper (They Live), Zach Galligan (Gremlins) and Kyle Hester (Then Comes Marriage).
Naomi was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. I have to say, by the end of the interview, I was even more impressed with Ms. Grossman. She is funny, honest and smart.
KM “How did you get your start in film and TV?”
NG “I did a lot of children’s theater as a kid in Denver, Colorado. The performing company I was involved with had a talent agency, and would send me out on film and television auditions. Soon I was doing regional commercials, ‘Father Dowling Mysteries’, basically anything that came out of that area at the time. Which wasn’t much, but enough to get me my SAG card by the time I was 15. At the time I didn’t realize what a coupe that was for when I moved out to Hollywood.”
KM “Your first role was in ‘The Father Dowling Mysteries’ back in 1989, but really rose to fame with your role as Pepper. What has your experience with ‘AHS’ been like?”
NG “Doh! Now you know how old I am! It’s a lot of time to work at something without mainstream acknowledgement, huh? I never really saw it that way, or I would have spiraled into a deep depression. I just knew that this was what I was supposed to do…Though I didn’t know how or when or even if it was even going to happen. But I did know why: because I had my eye on the prize, and was staying in the game, regardless! To answer your question though, the ‘AHS’ experience has been a dream come true. Literally, I’ve dreamt of it since 1989! This show, this cast, this role, these fans… were all worth the wait!”
KM “What did it take to transform into Pepper?”
NG “About 3 hours and 5 prosthetic pieces: namely a nose, brow, ears and arms. And a mouth full of fake teeth, a wonky lens, a fat suit, a pony tail and a razor. Those Makeup artists deserve every accolade, though ultimately makeup just sits on your face unless you actually do something with it. So, I like to think the transformation was a group effort.”
KM “Will you return for season 5 of ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ ?”
NG “I can’t answer that!”
KM “Can you tell us about your latest role in the horror-thriller ‘The Chair’ ?
NG “Sure, I’m the mother of a death-row inmate, in line for the electric chair. It’s another unattractive role–except this time, it’s my actual face. Meh, beauty is over rated! I’m more attracted to nice, meaty, scary, villainess anyway.”
KM “If you had to chose your favorite role, what would it be and why?”
NG “Gosh, I always thought I’d never find a better role than one I’d written for myself (which is why, for the longest time, that’s what I did). My own self-penned solo-shows allowed me a real character arc and broad emotional range, which I wasn’t getting from “under 5″ roles (which is what developmental actors, like me at the time, are mostly reduced to). That was before I met Pepper though…She would probably have to be my favorite now. She just gives and gives. She was supposed to be an itty bitty co-star…She turned into a guest-star, and then the first crossover character to return for a second season, thus changing the paradigm for the entire AHS franchise. She scored her very own episode, featuring an epic story line, complete with temper tantrums and tearful goodbyes, which now has me being considered for an Emmy nomination! She has an ultra-devoted, super-creative fan base, which have allowed me to quit my actor-side-job, and realize what I’ve always wanted to be. I have a career now because of her. All of this practically without any dialog! She’s pretty extraordinary.”
KM “Between being an actress, writer, producer and attending so many conventions, how do you manage?”
NG “Ha! You forgot about my 2 IRS audits and a boyfriend! They say, “if you need something done ask a busy person.” I don’t know how, but I get it all in. I’d be really good at Tetris now.”
KM “What’s next for you?”
NG “I’m, doing a “zombedy” next! Which is exciting-it’ll combine the genre I’m known for, that’s been so good to me (horror), with the the genre I love most, and I feel best at (comedy). I’m excited to do the two together!”
KM “I have to know, what is your favorite horror movie and favorite horror-themed show and why?”
NG “AHS, obviously! And not just because I’m biased. I think it’s one of the best shows on TV, horror-themed or otherwise. Which is why Stanley Kubrick’s films have to be my favorite horror movies. ‘The Shining’, ‘Clockwork Orange’ … these were really well-crafted dramas, that just happened to scare the bejesus out of me! I’m not a huge horror-person (only because I know horror-fans, and they’re on a whole other level!) but I do appreciate artful film making regardless of genre.”