We love Pepper on American Horror Story.
Naomi Grossman holds the distinguished honor of being the first character continuation in Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story anthology series, portraying the gremlin-like Pepper in both Asylum and Freak Show. Pepper will be the focus of the upcoming 10th episode of AHS: Freak Show, “Orphans,” (airing Dec. 17) where we’ll get a better understanding on where she came from and how she got to Briarcliff Manor.
“Ryan has hinted that Freak Show is Pepper’s origin story, and I think it’s fair to assume he means more than just stacking chairs and manicuring nails,” Grossman jokes. “We’ll definitely be seeing more of Pepper later on in the season. Fans should not despair — stay tuned. It’s coming.”
Grossman promises Pepper fans will be pleased and surprised, for she is one misunderstood character.
“Remember Season 2, when Pepper says, ‘That’s what happens to us freaks — we get blamed for everything?’ Well, clearly there’s a story there; we’re going to see how she is misunderstood,” Grossman continues. “It’s quite tragic actually. I think Pepper fans are going to be so thrilled, and so sad. So thrilled to finally get their fill of Pepper, but so saddened by the actual story.”
Described as a microcephalic — a neurodevelopmental disorder where a person’s head is considerably smaller than their body and their brain function is typically quite poor — Pepper has spent most of her time in Freak Show in a playful manner trying to please whoever is within her company. It’s her adorable big ears, kind heart and whimsical spirit that have made her a fan favorite over the seasons.
When asked what her reaction was when she first learned that she would be returning for a then unheard-of second go-around as Pepper, Grossman said she was thrilled.
“I always really loved the idea of this anthology series — kind of like a repertory theatre company — where actors come back season after season with a new character. Of course I would have loved to play someone new, but at the same time, I really wasn’t done with Pepper,” Grossman shares. “I hadn’t had my fill of her and I don’t think audiences had either, so I was really thrilled to be able to give her more life. I don’t know if the chicken came before the egg — if they decided to bring Pepper back and then the idea of the seasons being connected emerged, or if maybe they’ve always been connected and I’m just the first clue that they are. Either way, it’s quite cool.”
What we do know up to this point in Freak Show is that Elsa (Jessica Lange) claims to have rescued Pepper and Salty (who is Pepper’s husband!) from an orphanage.
“Salty [Christopher Neiman] is my husband. That was actually a surprise to me, as well. It makes sense though. I think that when you look like that, and you find someone else that looks like you … You marry them,” Grossman laughs. “Maybe that’s why I’m still single. I haven’t quite found anyone funny-looking enough.”
So how did Pepper get to Briarcliff?
“I don’t want to speak out of turn, but it’s widely known now that Lily Rabe also reprises her role from Season 2 as Sister Mary Eunice, who comes back to admit Pepper into Briarcliff,” Grossman admits.
We do know from Asylum that Pepper was admitted to Briarcliff Manor for allegedly drowning her sister’s baby and cutting off his ears, although she denies it. But who is Pepper’s sister? And, there are so many villains in Freak Show already, including Elsa, Dandy (Finn Wittrock), Stanley (Denis O’Hare) and Dell (Michael Chiklis) — who could be to blame? Hopefully we’ll begin to piece it all together beginning with AHS: Freak Show episode 10 “Orphans” on Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 10pm ET/PT.
Freak Show images: Credit: Michele K. Short/FX