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Naomi Grossman: On Her Role as Pepper on American Horror Story, Comedy, and Having Fun with Fashion


Who are your inspirations, comedic or dramatic?

My touchstones were always Lily Tomlin, Carroll Burnett, Tracy Ullman, and Gilda Radner.
Funny, fearless, character-comediennes.
I’d love a show like Nick Kroll’s, where he gets to transform himself into a dozen, vastly different characters in a given episode.
As far as drama goes, AHS has been my first serious role; I never really thought of myself doing drama, so my inspirations are more limited.
Now that I do, I see inspiration everywhere.
I thought Emma Stone killed it in Birdman.
Orange is the New Black‘s Uzo Aduba brilliantly treads the line between drama and comedy, which is my goal as well.
And of course, Jessica Lange is inspiration personified.
I still can’t believe we get to share the screen, and we’ve been at it for years now.

If you had your choice of role, would it be dramatic or comedic and do you have a type of character in mind?

Why do I have to choose?!
Why can’t I do both?!
That’s part of what I think is so magical about this show.
It’s horror, it’s drama, it’s camp, it’s musical.
It’s not any one genre.
And it’s characters are complex; they’re not just dramatic, nor comedic.
Just like real people.
For a while, Pepper was just the comic relief; the editors would pepper her in when they needed a nice button or quick shot of shock.
But then in
“Orphans,” we found out she’s so much more than that.
She has a whole backstory; and it’s heart-breaking, no less.
So yeah, for the longest time, I would have unflinchingly answered, “comedic,” but now that I’ve been bit by the drama bug, I feel no reason to limit myself.
Especially when the best roles are a little bit of both anyway.

As for what type of character, I don’t know.
I enjoy transforming myself.
It’d be interesting to play Pepper’s opposite– high status, attractive, with sex appeal.
But then, that’s most female roles.
And I like seeing real women doing more than just that.
I mostly just want to push the envelope, and surprise audiences with what a chameleon I can be.

How would you describe your sense of style?

I’m whimsical and fearless, and don’t take myself too seriously.
I like to have fun with fashion.
My favorite is vintage shopping, and eclectic, quirky combos and colorful patterns.
I like clean lines, and modern design.
I’m not interested in being trendy.
I like to wear clothes that flatter me, regardless of whether they’re hot now.
I like to showcase the booty, cinch the waist, and play down the bust.
I know exactly what something looks like on me, while still on the rack.
I wear almost exclusively dresses. I cried when my mom made me wear blue jeans to camp!
They’re a one-stop shop– I look put-together, with the least amount of effort.
I’m often the most dolled-up, and I prefer it that way.
I figure if all the world’s a stage, why waste it out of costume?!

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