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Thursday, September 14, 2017

‘American Horror Story: Cult’ Actress Beguiles

Written by  Frankie Kujawa
Leslie Grossman– inspired by Baltimore charm, quirk, and (John) Waters Leslie Grossman– inspired by Baltimore charm, quirk, and (John) Waters

Leslie Grossman loves Baltimore like a vampire craves blood

“American Horror Story: Cult,” the seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology series, premiered this month on FX, taking aim at the current political landscape in America. “Cult” explores the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election and tackles the divisive reality of the US today. Joining the cast of “AHS” powerhouses Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, and Cheyenne Jackson is actress Leslie Grossman. Grossman recently chatted with Baltimore OUTloud to discuss her upcoming role in “Cult,” her love for Bravo’s “Real Housewives,” and her Baltimore connection.

“It feels thrilling and a little overwhelming,” Grossman says of her upcoming season of “American Horror Story,” adding that “The main word, however, would be super, super excited. It’s been so much fun.” Grossman was very cautious in giving hints about her role in “Cult.” “If you were speaking to me a few weeks from now, then I could give you more information.” Grossman laughed. “But what I can tell you is my character is surprising. I’m getting the chance to do stuff as an actress that I’ve never done before. There is absolutely dark-humor involved. There will be comedy, but it’s pretty intense, and I think people will be pretty surprised when they see what I’m doing. It’s something that no one has ever seen me do before. Expect the unexpected!”

“The character, it unfolds over a series of episodes. So, I definitely don’t want to give anything away. Little bits and pieces are revealed and it’s really, really fun,” Grossman said, cryptically adding, “I think people are going to be really surprised and will have a fun time trying to figure out what’s going on with her. It’s going to unravel slowly and go in directions you don’t understand and then it will all begin to make sense.”

Grossman, who has a strong social media presence, was spotted with her “Cult” castmates at a Cher concert in Las Vegas in August. When asked if she felt like the cast bonded throughout the production, Grossman explained, “Absolutely! Coming into a show in its seventh season is intimidating. It’s a machine that runs itself. Evan [Peters], Sarah [Paulson], and Cheyenne [Jackson] have done it for a long time. Everyone has been so welcoming and so warm. I’ve had more fun than I ever thought I would. That Cher concert weekend was such a fun time. For me, I’ve found the set and the working environment very light-hearted, even though the subject is super serious, dark, and twisted.”

The actress continued to share her admiration for her cast. “I live and die for Sarah Paulson,” Grossman deadpanned. “She’s so incredible. I was absolutely intimidated going in because, and I don’t think this is an overstatement to say, she’s one of the most gifted actresses of our generation. There’s nothing she can’t do. She was so open, friendly, and encouraging. She’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with.”

Along with her cast, Grossman also was excited to once again work with “Cult” creator and producer Ryan Murphy, who started his career in TV as co-creator of the teen comedy series “Popular” on the WB Network in 1999. Grossman played the iconic, over-the-top fan favorite Texan-belle Mary Cherry. “I love his sensibility,” says of Murphy, “and that we have a lot of the same ideas about what’s funny. Obviously, this show is not as funny.” Grossman also added that Murphy is significantly busier than when they worked together on “Popular.” “He’s not able to be on the set the way he used to be since he has an empire to run, but we’re constantly in touch and his input is involved every step of the way. I love being in his world, because he’s so good. So is everyone involved, from the hair designers to makeup artists to wardrobe to costumers to props. Everyone is on their A-game and the very best at what they do. He inspires excellence and no one wants to disappoint him.”

As the conversation returned to the beloved, cult-classic character from “Popular,” Mary Cherry, Grossman chuckled at the notion of bringing the character out of retirement. “Look, if Ryan had any interest in doing it, I’d do it in a hot second. That was the most fun I’ve ever had in my career. Almost on a daily basis, on social media or in person, people say something about that show or that character.” Grossman paused and added. “I haven’t spoken in that accent for quite a while. I’d have to re-watch to get that twang back and pull back out those [Manolo] Blahniks. Lou Eyrich, who is Ryan’s key costume designer – we worked closely together on that show and she was so brilliant.”

Along with a strong and active affinity for politics, Grossman also admits to an equal affinity for Bravo’s “Real Housewives.” When asked about her favorite franchise, the actress responded, “That’s very hard. That’s a Sophie’s Choice because I love all my ‘babies.’ But of all the babies I love [“Real Housewives of] New York.” I love the ladies and I love following their stories.” Grossman refers to herself as an “old school” housewives fan.

As the conversation drew to a close, Grossman added that she was quite familiar with Baltimore. “I once had a boyfriend who was from Baltimore, and it’s a lovely city,” Grossman added, “My idol John Waters hails from Baltimore. I grew up watching his movies. [“Popular’s”] Mary Cherry was culled from my knowledge of John Waters. There was a lot of John Waters there in that character – and by many of his characters, as well. I have a huge affection for that part of the world and that city.”

“American Horror Story: Cult” airs Tuesdays on FX.

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