Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
American Horror Story
Currently Known For:
Actress, Writer and Producer
2012 - 2014
February 6, 1975
American Horror Story
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“Well, it’s so easy to get famous now. Have a big butt and an Instagram account. I happen to have both, but that’s not how I want to be known.” Getting her start in Hollywood with minor television roles and theatrical appearances, Naomi Grossman took a huge leap of faith in 2012 when she blindly auditioned for American Horror Story: Asylum. Cast as a microcephalic named Pepper, Grossman was the first actor invited back to reprise her role in a second season, which has been an honor that has followed her over the last five years as she’s starred on the silver screen in The Ones, The Chair and Fear, Inc. before returning to television in 2017 for an episode of Hell’s Kitchen. So, what’s her Hollywood story before and after American Horror Story: Asylum? Advertisements:
Hailing from the exquisite Rocky Mountains, Grossman was born on February 6, 1975 in the bustling town of Denver, Colorado. She showed an early interest in performing and first took the stage in community theatre before her family moved to Argentina. Graduating from high school in Argentina, she returned to the States when she enrolled at Northwestern University and graduated with a degree in theatre. With no question about her future as an actress, she left Illinois and joined the prestigious sketch comedy troupe known as The Groundlings in Los Angeles with dreams of performing on Saturday Night Live. However, fate had other plans as the group cut ties with Grossman and SNL never picked her up as a regular cast member.
“SNL was always the dream,” she told Salon magazine. “I finally got over never being a regular cast member. Maybe I’ll host instead? That’d work too! We don’t always choose our path… Regarding my time at the Groundlings: ‘twas the best of times, ‘twas the worst of times. I’ve never been so inspired… surrounded by such smart, witty, creative, talented, comedic genii. I’ve also never been so fearful. It’s as if we needed each other to succeed (you’re only as strong as your weakest link), but yet we also needed each other to fail (as not to be upstaged). So, it was a wonky environment.”
Ultimately grateful for her time with The Groundlings, Grossman faced the biggest hardships of her early career when she cut ties with the group. She quit acting entirely and got a “normal” job as a Spanish teacher. “I figured since the comedy/acting/writing thing wasn’t working, I might as well ‘be a normal person,’” she admitted. “A year later, I realized I was miserable! I had to create. So, I dumped the boyfriend, scaled back the day job and got back to my real work: writing a new solo show… As disillusioned as I was after my time [in Hollywood], I could never really leave—or at least not the work anyway. There was simply nothing else I wanted to do!”
Returning to her true passion, Grossman’s efforts were well-received when she debuted in her first solo show, Girl in Argentine Landscape, which LA Weekly praised as “Pick of the Week.” She received a Weekly Theatre Award nomination and went on to tour with the show throughout Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Her second solo show—Carnival Knowledge: Love, Lust and other Human Oddities—was an even bigger hit with so many sold-out venues that she extended the show twice before reprising it at theatre festivals in Scotland and London only to enjoy a successful run Off Broadway.
As Grossman wrapped up Carnival Knowledge in 2011, she was looking for her next project when her agent sent her for an audition for American Horror Story: Asylum, which was the show’s second season. “It was an audition like any other” or so she thought, Grossman recalled. “I walked in and I’ll never forget—it was all little people. I’m petite, only 5 feet tall, so occasionally I’d get an audition for a small person. But small people and little people are technically different. So, I thought, ‘Well jeez—I need to have a talk with my agent. Like, come on. What are you doing? You’re wasting my time.’ I remember going in for the audition and nailing it. I thought, of course, that would be the audition I nail—the one I can’t possibly get, the one I’m competing with this room of little people for.’”
Although Grossman didn’t know what character she was auditioning for, she certainly nailed it and was cast as Pepper, a microcephalic. Immediately researching the condition and ways to bring the character to life, Grossman embraced every nuance of Pepper as the makeup team worked their magic with a prosthetic forehead, brows, ears and a nose. Adding in fake teeth and a special contact lens to create a creepy eye, Grossman even shaved her head for the part. “It was important to make my head look as small as possible,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “Ultimately, the end-product is well worth sacrificing my hair and sitting countless hours in the makeup chair. It’s at rue gift of a character, on a major hit show. I didn’t think twice about it. I figured I’m an actress first, a person with hair second.”
Joining the ranks of bald actresses like Natalie Portman and Sigourney Weaver, Grossman’s commitment to her character was highly praised and even rewarded when she returned for the fourth season, American Horror Story: Freak Show, which made her the only character to return for two different seasons in the show’s history. Since then, the 42-year-old returned to the silver screen for the 2014 short film, Just Me and All of You, with The Ones and The Chair currently in post-production. In 2017, she appeared in Hell’s Kitchen but is still on the hunt for her next major project. Until then, she’s grateful saying, “I’m thankful for the horror genre because, for whatever reason, it sort of breeds this incredibly loyal and borderline psychotic fan—who has been very good to me.” We certainly can’t argue with that!