AHS: Cult: Leslie Grossman on reuniting with Ryan Murphy and whether Popular could ever be revived
One of the best surprises of American Horror Story: Cult was Leslie Grossman’s wickedly funny turn as brainwashed, Bravo-lover Meadow Wilton. The actress, who gained fame on AHS co-creator Ryan Murphy’s first series Popular, was killed off in the Oct. 10 episode, but Grossman reappeared in the latest AHS episode as one of Charles Manson’s followers.
EW talked to Grossman about reuniting with Murphy, reviving Popular, and harassing Cher over what soda she drinks.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did this happen? Did Ryan text you and say, “I want you on”? Or did you reach out?
LESLIE GROSSMAN: Well, Ryan and I have always stayed in touch, and we would text, and a lot of times it would be about the Housewives [franchise]. Honestly, we were in the middle of a text conversation and he said, “I think you should come do the next season of Horror Story.”
I also think he wanted to see me in something different. The thing about Ryan that’s so amazing is he sees your potential before you do. So I, of course, was like “Okaaay!”
In one of the episodes, you had to be in an open grave. What was that like?
When I first read the script, I was like, oh, this is going to be on stage, right? Nope. They dug a pit at the house that we shot at on location in the backyard. I don’t have phobias. I’m not claustrophobic. I’m not afraid of clowns. It frankly didn’t faze me at all. Did I love it when they told Billy [Eichner] to shovel the dirt on top of me? No, I wouldn’t say that was super fun. But I had these adorable Chloe flats on and I was just so upset. I was like, “These Chloe flats! I’m worried about the flats!”
Your character is obsessed with the Housewives. Have you heard from Sonja Morgan, who you mention on the show, or any of the Housewives cast?
I did not hear from Sonja, who I absolutely worship and adore and is a legend in the Housewives franchise. I do have to say last weekend I was at [AHS costar] Colton Haynes and Jeff Leatham’s wedding and Lisa Rinna was there. She actually approached me and could not have been more lovely. I really didn’t even let her get a sentence out before shouting out, “No! No! I love you!” That was very rewarding for me.
Meadow was responsible for a mass shooting and took her own life. That episode aired shortly after the Las Vegas tragedy. Is it scary how prescient this show has become?
It’s very disturbing to me. The day that I got the script was the day when the Republican baseball team was practicing [a gunman opened fire on a group of Republican politicians in Washington, D.C. on June 14]. So I got the script the day of that. I remember thinking to myself, I wonder if something is going to happen immediately before or immediately after this airs. It never ends. I’m a person who’s a big proponent of gun control. I’ve never held a gun, and when we first shot that scene, my heart was pounding out of my chest. It was physically difficult for me to do. Of course, I had a lot of feelings about it. Here’s the point: I think the reason this season has resonated so much with people is it’s reflective of what’s really going on.
The entire subject of the shooting was really uncomfortable for me. But ultimately, I think this show doesn’t shy away from anything and it shouldn’t shy away from this. I thought Ryan made the right choice in deciding to edit down some of the more graphic stuff. I thought that was the right decision to make, but I don’t think it was the wrong thing to do to put that in the episode. I think it’s an ugly mirror of what’s happening.
You all recreate the Manson murders this week, which is equally disturbing. What was that like to shoot?
I grew up in Los Angeles, very close to Beverly Hills. So that lore is something I knew a lot about, and I read Helter Skelter in high school. I always found the Manson story really fascinating. It’s very disturbing and really horrific what happened to these people. That was actually harder for me to shoot than other things because it was real. I did as much research as I could into those women. When it came time to shoot it, there was absolutely an element of feeling like, “Gosh, this is real. This was somebody’s sister. This was somebody’s wife. These were people’s beloved family members.”
Let’s pivot: The entire cast of AHS went to Las Vegas to see Cher in concert. Tell me about that.
I get this fantastic email from Chaz [Bono, who costars on AHS] saying, “My mom is going to be playing in Vegas and I think it would be so fun if we all went.” My fingers could not fly across my keyboard fast enough. I was like, “Yes! Yes! I’m in!” Obviously, there are a lot of big Cher fans in this cast. It was so fun.
We were all waiting for her backstage in this green room. She was holding a drink and it looked like a soda. My first thought was, I have to know what Cher was drinking. Something took over me and I just went, “Cher, what are you drinking! Is that a Diet Coke?” She kinda laughed. Then, she sorta turned away from me, like, who is this crazy person demanding to know what I’m drinking? I wouldn’t let it go. Then I yelled, “Is it iced tea?” She looked at me and paused for five seconds and said, “Look, it’s Dr. Pepper, okay.” At that moment I said to myself, “If Cher drinks Dr. Pepper, so do I now.”
Have you and Ryan Murphy ever talked about a Popular revival?
No. Never. I mean, Ryan and I have never spoken about that. We will sometimes reference things that happened all those years ago. But Ryan is a studio. I don’t know if there’s anyone busier than Ryan. That was Ryan’s first series. That was my first series. I have really fond, great memories. If that show was gonna have a revival, I would be thrilled to do it, but it’s not something that Ryan and I have discussed.
Where do you think your character Mary Cherry is now?
She definitely is a major Trump supporter. I think she’s a hardcore lover of Mr. Trump, which is part of her seriously misguided belief system. Have you watched Real Housewives of Dallas? I feel like people are sleeping on Dallas and it is really such an important newcomer to the franchise. There’s a woman who’s new to Dallas this year. Her name is D’Andra. Her relationship with her mother reminds me of Mary Cherry and her mother Cherry Cherry so much! I think that Mary Cherry is on her seventh marriage, living in a major McMansion in Dallas and somehow has her hands dirty with the Russian scandal and will probably end up incarcerated. I think currently Mary Cherry is really sweating it out because she knows Mueller is coming for her.
Would you come back for another season of AHS?
In. A. Heartbeat. It was probably one of the most fulfilling work experiences of my life, creatively and personally. I know the show is really dark and it’s horror, but I had the best time. I really looked forward to going to work. If Ryan felt there was a character that was right, I’d love to go back and work with that group of people.
I was nervous because the fan base is so fervent, I didn’t know how people were going to receive me. And people have been so lovely to me and so welcoming and so warm. It’s fun to be involved in something that has such an incredible fan base.
American Horror Story
An anthology series that centers on different characters and locations, including a haunted house, an insane asylum, a witch coven, a freak show, and a hotel.