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American Horror Story's Naomi Grossman Had No Idea What Pepper Looked Like Until After She Was Cast

"American Horror Story" loves to change its format, setting, and characters in the long-running anthology series. The very first "American Horror Story" is wholly dedicated to a beautiful and spacious house, though unfortunately, this exceptional domicile is populated by an incredible array of ghosts and damned individuals, and even the house itself may represent a schism between this plane of existence and one filled with pain, suffering, and evil. Considering that the first season of "AHS" focused on the aptly named "Hell House," the second season needed to do something big and different.

Luckily, fans of "American Horror Story" were treated to one that visits one of the most popular settings for the horror genre – an insane asylum. However, this asylum, on top of the typical pratfalls for this kind of organization in the mid-20th century, also has a fair amount of supernatural elements to it, and both demons and aliens populate the second season alongside their usual retinue of ghosts, killers, and tyrants. One of the inmates of the asylum is known as Pepper, (who is unrecognizable in real-life and played by Naomi Grossman), and she has a rather prolific look that allows the character to not only stand out in "Asylum," but the later season of "Freak Show" as well. Surprisingly, Grossman was entirely in the dark about what her character would look like, which may have helped how she approached the role.

Pepper doesn't belong at Briarcliff Asylum

As mentioned earlier, Pepper made her first appearance in "American Horror Story: Asylum," though chronologically, "Freak Show" came before "Asylum," with the former helping to fill in the background history for the character. Although when audiences first meet Pepper, she is simply an inmate at Briarcliff Asylum who suffers from microcephaly, which is a condition that results in a significantly smaller head than most, as well as a bevy of other medical conditions like a decreased brain size, poor eyesight, and seizures, according to Britannica. Pepper does not belong at the asylum, but her condition raises prejudice and apprehension in many during mid-20th century America. Pepper is simply dumped at Briarcliff because nobody else would take care of her.

Speaking with Collider, Ryan Murphy spoke about his inspiration in crafting this season of "American Horror Story" by saying, "That's one of the first things, when I, with the writers, landed on the idea of 'Asylum,' with that period and those documentaries that were made. There was a very famous documentary that Geraldo Rivera made in that period, that this is a loose homage of. If you haven't seen it, that's on YouTube, and it's quite fascinating. That made Geraldo's career. Also, there was a brilliant movie that we were very influenced by for the last episode, which is this documentary called 'Cropsey,' which was about the unraveling healthcare system in our country and how so many people were dumped there and left to rot." Considering the nature of Pepper's role and the dismal conditions audiences find her in, Naomi Grossman was provided next to nothing for her audition.

Grossman had no idea about the role she was auditioning for

During a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything session, Naomi Grossman was asked how she landed the role of Pepper, and she replied, "I had no clue until after I was cast. Initially, I just had a regular old audition — I had to a monologue from 1st season (just to see if I could act, probably to make sure I could pull off the 'New Pepper.' And I had to do a short improv as if I were a little girl, probably to see if I could do the old Pepper. Makes sense now, but at the time, it didn't. They took a bunch of pics at my callback, then later manipulated those images to see what I'd look like with all the prosthetics on. Once I was cast, they showed me the pic. That was the first time I had any idea what I was in for!"

This makes perfect sense for those that are familiar with "American Horror Story" on account of Pepper's character arc. Throughout the early parts of "American Horror Story: Asylum," Pepper is generally pleasant, behaving innocently and without malice, though aliens improve and augment her mind later in the season. After the aliens influence Pepper, she gains an aura of mystery and a telekinetic power to defend the progeny of Kit Walker (Evan Peters). This is why Grossman had two distinct aspects to her audition, and it is interesting to speculate why the casting department of "AHS" decided to keep those auditioning in the dark. Still, auditing for a role with very few details must have been a unique experience for Grossman and one that yielded a memorable character.