America Horror Story: Asylum has such an amalgam of strange, creepy characters who slither in and out of the FX horror show’s criminally insane asylum, Briarcliff Manor. But one character that’s a hit with fans is Pepper, the childlike yet murderous microcephalic female inmate with a tuft of hair and a joyfully toothy grin recalling the derogatorily named “pinheads” in Tod Browning’s 1932 side-show film Freaks, and one of its stars, Schlitzie. In this funny, sassy exclusive essay to EW.com, actress Naomi Grossman explains her transformation from a pretty, comedic actress to mischievous Pepper with the aid of prosthetics and makeup. She even shaved her noggin for the part.
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By: Naomi Grossman
Might as well start at the beginning! The “breakdown” for the role (that is, the notification that goes out to agents and actors as to what casting is looking for) read something like, “4-5 feet tall, possibly malformed, childlike.” Now, I’m short — 5 feet exactly. But I’m proportionate, darn it! There’s not much I can do to prepare for that! So I suited up in my best baby doll dress, and I walked into the audition waiting room to find a room full of little people. My first thought was that I needed to have a sit-down with my agent, explain the difference between “little” and just “not big.” So I already felt like I was at a disadvantage. Besides, it’s American Horror Story! They’re going to cast the real freak! And, well, they cast me. The audition itself was unusual in that they didn’t give us Pepper’s actual part to read. But that’s of course because the role was under such tight wraps. I didn’t know well after I was cast what the role even was! They basically had us read one of Constance’s (Jessica Lange’s) monologues from the first season, which had obviously already been cast, and then do a short improv, as if we were a child. I think they just wanted to see if we could act. I remember feeling like I’d nailed it, for a giant. But still didn’t expect a call back. READ FULL STORY