I’ll admit it — when I first saw Naomi Grossman as Pepper on “American Horror Story,” I thought she really was microencephalitic. Yes, a pinhead. It didn’t hurt that she’d shaved her head, slapped on a prosthetic nose and teeth, and wore a tiny ponytail at the top of her head, not unlike one of the real “pinheads” we’ve seen in Tod Browning’s “Freaks.” She looked like the real deal — so, it had to be special effects, right? Nope.
When I spoke to Grossman at PaleyFest, she admitted that, while she did shave her head and wear prosthetics (“it takes a village,” she explained), the trick was mostly hunkering down, body padding, and simply acting the part. That she so completely sold me made Pepper’s transition into a wise, thoughtful speaker of truth later in the season all that much more of a shock.
It turns out that Grossman has a wealth of character building experience coming into the role — she was a Groundling and has had her own one woman shows, including “Carnival Knowledge: Love, Lust, and other Human Oddities.” It likely gave her the skill set to be, as she says, “besties with Jessica Lange” late in the season. Though Pepper made her mark, I’m betting we’ll see more shades of Grossman in the future, don’t you?