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Celebrity Close-Up
Dec 01, 2012

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Head Case

The insane Hollywood life of STL-bred actor Evan Peters
Story: Katie Davis
Photos: Eric Williams

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He might be the star of FX's hit show "American Horror Story," but Evan Peters' own American story in Hollywood is anything but. After years of working hard in both TV and movies—including a stint on "One Tree Hill" and supporting role in "Kick-Ass"—it's all starting to pay off for the STL native-turned-star.

Last year, his fan base skyrocketed with the debut of “American Horror Story,” in which he played the creepy-yet-charming boy next door, Tate Langdon. The show, written and directed by Ryan Murphy (creator of “Nip/Tuck” and “Glee”), has received considerable attention for its unconventional anthology format—each new season, rather than continuing an ongoing story, has its own unique storyline with a fresh batch of characters to terrorize. Peters returned with Season 2 this fall, this time as Kit Walker, a patient in Briarcliff Manor Asylum for the criminally insane, who’s nicknamed “Bloody Face” for what he does with his victims. Yes, it’s as skin-crawlingly gory as it sounds.

Between seasons, Peters managed to squeeze in filming for upcoming movies: the dark, humor-filled “Adult World” (starring John Cusack and Peters’ now-girlfriend, Emma Roberts) and the more emotionally charged drama, “Truck Stop,” in which he plays a kid with cerebral palsy. Though for now it seems that Peters is carving a niche for himself on the darker side of Hollywood, he aspires to comedy—the kind with a message—and plans to pursue that path after he finishes his time in the asylum.

Evan Peters

You’ve been in Hollywood for 10 years now. Does it feel like home yet?

EVAN PETERS: We’ve just been taking it a year at a time. So, this is home right now, and I’m getting more and more comfortable with the idea of being an actor. It’s a crazy schedule, but I love it. You spend your life doing all of these really weird things or stunts, and it’s all pretend. You have to make it look like it’s real. The purpose is entertainment—and maybe enlightening people.

ALIVE: How did your role as Tate Landon in the first season of “American Horror Story” compare to what you were expecting when you showed up on set the first day?

EP: I knew going in that I was going to be portraying a school shooter, because the original pilot had me playing one. But, when they rewrote some of the script, they pushed that scene off for a couple of episodes. It was also a little different in how it was shot. I mean, even just working with Ryan Murphy, the director, was different. He’s very visual, and he sees things in detail before they’re there. Sometimes, he’ll act out little parts and then say, “I’m not an actor, I’m not an actor!” But that helps.

Evan Peters

How did you prepare for the role?

EP: Once I read the script and realized that he was going to be a school shooter, I decided it would be interesting to read about some—why they did, and what was going on in those situations. They said there was supposed to be a charm to Charles Manson, so I thought, “That’d be really cool to use this idea for the character.” I read “Helter Skelter,” and I kind of changed the movies I was watching. I watched scarier movies to get in the right mindset.

ALIVE: Who on set has influenced you most?  

EP: I’ve learned a lot from working on the set. Jessica [Lange] is cool. When she has an idea or a concern, she just says it. I think that’s made me more confident. I ask more questions, and if I have an idea, I go ahead and describe it. Working with Sarah Paulson this season has been really funny—she just cracks me up. It’s nice to know that there’s someone you can really laugh with on set.

ALIVE: The actor who plays the creepy Rubber Man in “American Horror Story,” Riley Schmidt, is also from St. Louis. Did you bond over this at all?

EP: Oh yes. We’ve definitely discussed Imo’s and toasted ravioli. There’s a big difference between the Midwest and LA. There are a whole lot of people out here. It becomes very difficult to be friendly to everybody, so you develop a sort of shield or a front. And that’s the thing about St. Louis. It’s a lot more interconnected, and everyone’s kind of on the same level. Out here, there’s almost a hierarchy. Everyone’s trying to impress everybody else and be the “next thing.” It can be extremely off-putting. And I’m probably prejudiced. My friends are great, though. They’re my family out here. Everyone sort of has [his or her] own little group or clique with the people that mesh well. Everybody else is just everybody else.

ALIVE: Most of your immediate family still lives in St. Louis. How often do you come back to visit?

EP: I usually come back for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I try to come back some- time in the summer, but each summer’s been different so far. It kind of depends on what’s going on. My brother and sister usually both try to come out here once a year for a sort of getaway. And then, once a year, my parents visit and clean up my place a bit.

ALIVE:  Tell us about your upcoming role in “Truck Stop.”

EP: It felt really tight to me, because I think I had just two days off in between [shooting “Adult World” and “Truck Stop”]. It was a drama, and I had to be someone with cerebral palsy. At first, I was pretty stressed out about it and didn’t think I could do it. I thought, “I haven’t had enough time to prepare for this, because I’ve been working on a comedy.” Physically, it was pretty demanding. I liked the whole aspect of having a physical ailment where you don’t have something to cling to all the time. I’m pretty curious to see what it all looks like in the end.

What are career goals moving forward?

EP: You know, I’d really like to direct comedy. My goal after this season is to somehow focus on that a bit. I’ll still be acting, because I still want to do really cool roles, but I’d like to do more stuff that’s grounded in real-life problems—things that people face every day. I’d definitely approach things with a grain of salt, though. You can’t take everything too seriously, and I think that’s a bad way to go about life. It’s entertainment, but you can say something. And if I had to say something, I’d want to communicate that. I guess it’s a very Woody Allen approach, but I think it’s smart.
ALIVE: Who in Hollywood do you aspire to work with someday?

EP: I’d love to work with Tom Hanks. He seems like the nicest guy, and he’s obviously creative and talented. As an actor, he always shows feeling extremely well. It’s so entertaining to watch him go through the emotions of a character. I’d love to see how he works and goes about doing all of his roles. Jack Nicholson would also be cool. He just seems like a total badass.


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