Post Mortems
AHS: Cult Finale

Horror Story's Leslie Grossman Breaks Down Cult's 'Powerful' Message, the Finale's 'Brilliant' Ending and More

American Horror Story: Cult reached its deadly conclusion this week, and while Leslie Grossman‘s Meadow wasn’t there to witness it (RIP!), the actress herself has a few thoughts about how it all went down.

“I loved Sarah Paulson’s performance,” Grossman tells TVLine. “It was very redemptive. It was cool watching someone walk through the fire and change the story of their life. The thing I really like about American Horror Story is that you don’t watch it passively. It forces you to think and feel things, whether it makes you angry or scared or makes you look at your life and your leaders. I like anytime something really stirs something up in you.”

Below, Grossman takes TVLine on a deep dive into the latest season of AHS, including her experience working with the “brilliantly smart” Billy Eichner, the “horrifying” process of filming a mass shooting, and the season’s eerily relevant theme of female rage:

TVLINE | Given Meadow’s love of Bravo, did you ever feel like you were sort of playing an exaggerated version of yourself?
You know, the only thing I really had in common with Meadow was my love of the Housewives. I’m a very specific person. I’m not one of those actors where people say, “Oh, she really dissolved into the role. I didn’t recognize her!” Evan Peters is that kind of amazing actor. I’m a comedic character actress, so it always seems like it’s me, but I had almost nothing in common with Meadow. And it was hard for me at first. Meadow was someone who was just looking for someone to tell her who to be, and I’ve never had that issue in my life. This was more of a challenge for me than a lot of other things I’ve done.

TVLINE | It is unlike anything you’ve ever done.
You’re absolutely right. I didn’t know what was going to happen to my character when I signed on. I certainly didn’t know she was going to commit a mass shooting, then kill herself. I figured something bananas would happen, since no one comes out of American Horror Story unscathed. I was very nervous going into this job, but in a good way. People always say you need to get out of your comfort zone, and my response is always, “Why? I’m comfortable there!” Ultimately, as cliché as this sounds, those are the things that are most rewarding. It’s also very Ryan [Murphy] to say, “I’m going to give you the opportunity of a lifetime, but it’s not going to be easy.” He sees things in you that you don’t see in yourself, abilities you don’t know you have. And then he tells you, “See? I knew you could do it all along,” so it ends up being this really rewarding experience.

TVLINE | No risk, no reward.
Oh, it was daunting. Coming on to such a known entity in its seventh season, I felt like I was jumping onto a speeding train and holding on for dear life. Horror Story also has a fervent fan base with a lot of opinions. I’ve been lucky, because they’ve been so wonderful and kind to me — thank God! I was also lucky that I had Billy Eichner to work with. It felt like I was entering this new world with a buddy.

TVLINE | Was there instant chemistry between you and Billy?
I met Billy for the first time at a Barbra Streisand concert. I mean, could that get any better? We had friends in common, but we’d never worked together, and I was a huge Billy on the Street fan. You know, Billy — besides the fact that he’s hysterically funny — is truly one of the brightest people I’ve ever met in my life. He’s brilliantly smart. We can talk about anything and everything. For me, it was instant chemistry. I pretty much foisted my friendship upon him and gave him no choice.

TVLINE | You’ve worked with Ryan Murphy so many times before. Was this really the first time he’s asked you to do Horror Story?
It was, absolutely. And I never thought this would be the [project] I’d be involved with. Ryan is a studio. He has 55,000 projects going on at any given moment. I’ve always hoped to work on another one of his projects, and I didn’t know which one that would be, but Horror Story was probably on the bottom of the list of shows I would have guessed. I was really, really surprised. But I’m so happy. I’ve also never been part of a genre show, which is its own special animal.

TVLINE | Was it an experience you’d want to do again?
Absolutely. I say that, and then my next thought is that I’ll have to do something scary that really frightens me.

TVLINE | I mean, you did the first non-supernatural season. They could give you horns the next time we see you again.
Oh, anything could happen. But if Ryan felt there was a place for me next season, I would be thrilled to come back. We got along unusually well for a cast. We had a really, really good time together. I only had a few scenes with Billie Lourd, but she really is one of my favorite people in the entire world. She’s somebody I think is a true superstar; I don’t think someone that talented and unique comes along very often.

TVLINE | The season must have been a little cathartic, too.
Absolutely. I related to a lot of what Ally was talking about. What I also love is that the left got it as bad as the right did, maybe even worse. They lampooned the left pretty hard, and I think that’s important. We have to shine a light on everybody’s stuff.

TVLINE | It did a nice job of pointing out the cult-ish practices of both parties.
Yes. And how amazing was it that it became about female rage towards the finale?

TVLINE | It actually somehow became more culturally relevant as the season went on.
I don’t know how [Murphy] does this. The term “genius” gets overused, but Ryan is a genius. He is a special and unique person who has a creative gift, and I do think there’s some freaky sixth-sense element that goes on. Even politically, I’d never heard of the Proud Boys. Then, as we’re filming the season, the Charlottesville stuff happened. Like, that script was written. And all of a sudden it was becoming part of the national consciousness. That happened over and over throughout the season, really crescendoing with this idea of female rage and women getting to a point where they have had enough of men telling them how they’re going to be. They’re reclaiming their power — or reclaiming their time, as the great Maxine Waters says. I loved watching Ally start as one kind of person, walk right through her fear, then on the other side become incredibly powerful.

TVLINE | While we’re talking about fear, what scared you most while filming the season?
The mass shooting stuff was horrifying for me. The day I got that script was the day that Scalise was shot. I just thought, “Of course I’m getting a script about a shooting on the day of a shooting, because this is America in 2017.” I remember thinking, “Oh, God, please don’t let there be another incident right before or after this episode airs.” And then Las Vegas happens, and it’s the worst one. I thought they were going to pull the episode, but I ultimately think they made the right choice cutting out some of the more graphic moments.”

TVLINE | It was subtle, but I agree, it was nice of them to tone it down.
I know there are people out there who would say, “Why do you want to put this on TV when there’s already so much real violence happening out there?” And my answer to that is that we have to be a mirror. Art is a mirror to who we are. Ultimately, I’m really proud of that episode. It was hard for me. I’ve never held a gun — not that it was a real gun, but it was a pretty good fake! My heart was pounding and I was really scared. It was a sad end to Meadow’s story

American Horror Story CultTVLINE | Speaking of endings, that final shot of Sarah Paulson in the robe…
I loved it! I remember reading that in the script and thinking it was so brilliant.

TVLINE | Before I realized it was Bebe’s robe, my mind went straight to Coven.
Well, I do think the show also likes to wink at past seasons. The fact that the final shot reminded you of Coven — and no one has actually said this to me — might not have been unintentional. It’s a different road, but the same imagery.

Your thoughts on AHS: Cult, now that we’ve had some time to digest it? Grade the finale below, then drop a comment with your full review.