Interview by Holly Grigg-Spall
Images by Rainer Hosch
Styling by Lisa Mosko
Grooming by Jamal Hammadi for Hamadi Beauty
“I’m a huge popcorn guy—I don’t care where we are as long
as the popcorn is up to snuff. I could watch anything; I could watch
the biggest pile of crap and still have a shit-eating grin on
my face the whole time as long as I’m eating that large popcorn.”
— Evan Peters
Evan Peters moved to LA at 15 from St. Louis, Missouri, to pursue acting. With early turns in the likes of classic teen TV show One Tree Hill, he got noticed for his role as Todd Haynes in the original Kick-Ass. From there he was chosen for Ryan Murphy’s central cast on the groundbreaking American Horror Story, in which he plays a new character within a new storyline each season. Evan was introduced as the fastest mutant in the land, Quicksilver, in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, reprising the role in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
American Horror Story
A horror anthology television series created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, American Horror Story starts afresh with each new season—same core cast, but a completely new storyline, theme and setting. The FX show stars Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters. Guest stars have included Lady Gaga. There have been five seasons so far, with the sixth premiering September 2016.
Actor Evan Peters has spent the last few weeks promoting the upcoming season of American Horror Story. A parade of journalists have each tried their best to get out of him the details of what’s to come for this notoriously secretive show, but he’s kept mum. Six seasons deep as a central cast member, Peters is a pro at maintaining the surprise element that keeps audiences hooked. He’s just left behind one of the more successful blockbusters of the summer season, X-Men: Apocalypse, in which he stole every scene with his witty, light-handed portrayal of Quicksilver (a role he’s bound to resume in another year or so). So, what’s in the future for Peters? He’s not one for spoilers, but we’re sure whatever happens, it will be edge-of-your-seat exciting.
Holly Grigg-Spall: Where in the world are you right now?
Evan Peters: Los Angeles. I live here. I’m originally from St. Louis, Missouri, but I’ve been out here since 2002.
HGS: In every season of American Horror Story, you get to play a different character. That must be a great situation in terms of TV-based acting . You don’t ever have to worry about getting typecast.
EP: Absolutely. It’s a dream come true to not be pigeonholed. I’ve been playing these characters for seven years and each time I get to challenge myself and stretch myself. We didn’t know when we signed on that it was going to be like that, and then it was just the best Christmas gift ever to have that opportunity. It’s been awesome.
HGS: I remember watching the first season of the show and it was really one of those “what the hell?” things—it didn’t fit any category, and it was melodramatic, bizarre and weird. Has Ryan Murphy ever asked you to do something on the show where you’re like, “You need to explain this to me.”
EP: Every season I have had some questions, sure, but for the first season I do remember calling up Ryan and asking him, “What’s going on? What happens? Please give me some hints so I’m not completely in the dark.” Sometimes it works to your advantage to not know, because then you can just go off your gut. As an audience member, it’s intriguing to not know what’s going on in the show—it keeps you watching. But as an actor, it can be confusing to not know why you’re doing something, your motivation or how to even play it, so sometimes you’ve got to get on a call and have Ryan explain it to you. Then, and only then, do they reveal what might happen to your character.
“As an audience member, it’s intriguing
to not know what’s going on in the
show, it keeps you watching. But as an
actor, it can be confusing to not
know why you’re doing something, your
motivation, or how to even play it.”
— Evan Peters
It’s a very secretive show, even when you’re working on it. They don’t want details to get out and ruin the surprise. I can appreciate that. I hate it when things are spoiled. I don’t really like to watch trailers. I don’t like it when you go to a movie and your friends start telling you about it ahead of time. I prefer to go in not knowing anything.
I’m very excited for people to be shocked and surprised by what this new season of American Horror Story holds. It’s such a wild ride this time. I want to get a bunch of friends together to watch the first episode and see their jaws drop.
HGS: If it were solely down to you, what theme would you choose for a future season of American Horror Story?
EP: I keep going into space—to me space is terrifying. Maybe a space station with a mechanical problem brought on by a creature or alien being. I’d like to do that out in space with all that terrifying, freezing zero-atmosphere around the station. That trapped feeling. It’s been done many a time before, but I think the writers would do something different with it and make it interesting, new and fresh. They could do some great social commentary too. I’m sure they’d say something about the way the world is headed.
HGS: I assume Ryan Murphy has to keep a lot from you so you have plausible deniability. Have you ever been tempted just to drop a lie to a journalist and see how far it travels?
EP: Ninety percent of the show I just don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m really excited to see it, myself. But yeah, I could do that—find the mole, find the rat. That would be really scary though. I’d get in a lot of trouble for that. I’m trying to stay out of trouble. I don’t want to be the one that ruins it all.
HGS: Who’s been your favorite character to play on the show?
EP: Mr. March was my favorite. He was such a tragic character. I love that Art Deco period of the 1930s. Playing a very wealthy person who doesn’t have a care in the world, including a conscience, is always fun to play. The sets were like champagne sets—so beautiful, so well done, unbelievable to play around in. To pretend that I, as Mr. March, created all that was really fun.
HGS: Are you a fan of the horror genre?
A supernatural horror series from Netflix, Stranger Things is written and directed by Matt and Ross Duffer, and executive produced by Shawn Levy. A homage to movies of the 1980s in style and tone, it stars Winona Ryder alongside a cast of up-and-coming young actors. The first season aired summer 2016, with the second commissioned by Netflix for a 2017 release.
Friday the 13th
A slasher movie released in 1980, Friday the 13this considered a classic of the genre. It was made for $550,000 and went on to gross over $39 million. The film became a franchise, with 11 follow-up movies creating the series, as well as a TV show and several novels. The film’s murderous character of Jason has since become a horror archetype.
Based on the Marvel comic book superhero gang The X-Men, the film franchise began with X-Men and was followed by nine subsequent linking films in the series, including Deadpool and The Wolverine. The latest in the series, X-Men: Apocalypse stars Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaacs, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Elizabeth Olsen and Evan Peters. It was directed by Bryan Singer, who has directed three previous X-Men movies, including the original.
EP: Originally, I didn’t like horror movies; they scared me. But then, working on the show, I got desensitized—you discover, well, it’s not real. Then you just want to know how they do make something scary and real. I really liked the Netflix show Stranger Things. I love the ’80s nostalgia feeling. I love how dark it was shot. I love ’80s horror movies, like Friday the 13th. I like the way those films look, the lighting, and the soundtrack—that breathing sound—you just picture watching it at a drive-in movie theatre. I love drive-ins.
HGS: I’m assuming you’re definitely in the next X-Men movie—do you know much about what that will look like yet? I have seen some reports saying it will focus more on the newer characters, like you.
EP: Oh, I would love that. I love Quicksilver. It was so fun to work on; I’d be honored to do another one.
HGS: I read that you started out loving comedy, especially Jim Carrey movies. You bring a lot of humor to the character of Quicksilver and have some of the funniest moments in the movie—did this appeal to you when working on the role?
EP: They let us play around a lot. We improvise. They let the scene run at the end and you can mess around. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it fails miserably. Bryan Singer is good like that. I’m in a grey wig, Jen[nifer Lawrence, who plays Mystique] is in blue paint—it’s a crazy atmosphere—and you have to have a sense of humor about it all.
Quicksilver is a light character. He’s cocky. He’s the fastest man in the world, I guess, unless there was a race with him and Superman and the Flash…then I don’t know what would happen. He has an arrogance that lends itself to a cheeky humor. I like the technicality of it too. The Quicksilver sequences are fun and challenging to shoot and then the second unit guys make it all come to life.
“Quicksilver is a light character. He’s cocky.
He’s the fastest man in the world, I guess, unless
there was a race with him and Superman and
the Flash…then I don’t know what would happen.”
— Evan Peters
HGS: You moved to LA when you were 15. What was your first impression of this town?
EP: I look back and realize it was quite a life-changing decision that I just made sort of willy-nilly. I just thought it would be awesome and fun to come out here and act. My parents have always been very supportive and checked in, during those early days, that I was still happy to do it. We had just moved to Michigan. I thought, “Well, if my dad can move to Michigan from Missouri and start a new job, then I can move to LA and act.” (Laughs)
Moving to LA from Missouri was such a culture shock—it was so diverse and different. So many cars; so much traffic. When I got my license (I failed twice because driving in LA is a little more difficult than in Missouri), I would drive around, listening to loud music, rocking out. No one seemed to care, that was the thing. In St. Louis, Missouri you wouldn’t be able to do that—you’d get looks left and right. I saw how invisible you became in this sea of people. I ended up really liking that. I love it now. I’ve been here now almost as long as I’ve been in St. Louis. It’s as equal a home to me.
HGS: Do you have a favorite place where you go to watch movies in LA?
Released in 1994, Forrest Gump is a comedy-drama starring Tom Hanks, based on the novel of the same name. It follows one man’s life across several eventful American decades, as he witnesses and participates in various significant historical events. The film took six Academy Awards that year, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Tom Hanks.
EP: It’s always different. I go to the Arclight, the Grove, the Americana and the Los Feliz theatre. It depends on where my friends want to meet. I’m a huge popcorn guy—I don’t care where we are as long as the popcorn is up to snuff. I could watch anything; I could watch the biggest pile of crap and still have a shit-eating grin on my face the whole time as long as I’m eating that large popcorn. In South Africa, I recently found, they have plain popcorn and then they have these flavored powder packets—salt and cheese and so on. It was really good and very different.
HGS: Do you remember what your favorite movie was when you were 15 and you had just moved to LA?
EP: Forrest Gump, I think. The comedy, the drama and then fucking Tom Hanks. He’s hilarious, heartbreaking, everything in that movie. It was one of those epic Academy-Award winning, popular, critically-acclaimed films. I hope one day I can be a part of something like that.