Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt is not a nice person. She’s not even a remotely likable person. Entitled, rude, and willing to leave her husband behind to save her own skin, Coco established herself as a potential series villain from the first episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse.
Leslie Grossman, who made her AHS premiere in Cult and has returned for Apocalypse, played Coco as a purse-lipped brat for Season 8's first three episodes. But, according to Grossman, that’s not all there is to Coco.
**This story contains spoilers for American Horror Story: Apocalypse, Episode 3, “Forbidden Fruit.”**
SYFY WIRE spoke with Grossman after the premiere of Apocalypse’s third episode, “Forbidden Fruit,” and after audiences witnessed Coco get stabbed through the head by her estranged, radioactive husband, Billy Eichner’s Brock. We chatted about Coco’s future (there is one — because nothing is ever as it seems in AHS), the best moments on set, getting stabbed in the head, and how much Grossman loves her “work wife,” Billie Lourd.
So Coco is dead. That’s fun.
This iteration of Coco is dead, for sure.
Okay… Can you tell me what you mean by that?
Ugh, no. They’re so strict about spoilers. I always feel so bad when I have these conversations. I'm like, “Oh my God, call me back after the season finale because I want to hear what you thought!”
Not many fans are mourning her death. Coco wasn't necessarily always the best person to have around.
What do you mean “always” and “necessarily” the best person? She was the worst!
Is there any redeeming quality?
I think with what we know of Coco up to this point, no, there are no redeeming qualities. What I would say is: The story is not over and there's more to learn about Ms. Coco.
People really hate Coco, which makes me feel like I must be doing a pretty good job as an actress — that people hate her so much. So I'm like, “Oh, good, people really hate her.” But like everything in American Horror Story, everything is not always what it seems. So you don't really know yet how she fits into the puzzle. What I would say is, “keep an open mind.”
Her death wasn’t pretty, but it was quicker than some others in the episode.
I have to say, I was not mad that I missed out on getting to film that [mass death] scene. It was so much barf. It was pretty gross, so I was sort of thrilled I got a chance to not be a part of that.
Also, the special effects makeup people are so incredible. They made a cast of my head and then fit me for the prosthetic. Just to watch how they do it, that was actually really cool. So I was lucky to miss the barfing.
How long did it take them to make the prosthetic for your head?
I don't know how long the actual making of the prosthetic was. It took them two hours to do the cast of my whole head, but then when we were ready to shoot, they got that on in under an hour and it looks so real. It looked like it was part of my forehead. They're just so, so good. There was a reason that they win as many Emmys as they do. They're brilliant at what they do.
And when you see it [without] the benefit of lighting or color correction or editing, when you see it just in the trailer, under those fluorescent lights, it looks real. So it's pretty impressive.
When you went into Apocalypse, did you feel like you had an understanding of where the story was going to go or were you surprised every time you got a new script?
I'm still surprised. And we're still not done shooting, so I still don’t know. Ultimately I have kind of a vague idea, but I have not seen the final script.
It was an adjustment for me to learn to work that way and now I really like it because it keeps you on your toes. When I get those scripts, I'm as excited to read them as much as people are to watch the episodes. So it's fun. It's sort of fun to work that way. It forces you to be very present. You can't trip out, you don't have a lot of time to make a million choices. And for someone like me who's a control freak, that's really good.
Is there a noticeable difference working on two different seasons?
Obviously, they're completely different worlds that we're inhabiting, but to me — and I can only speak for myself — the general vibe is still as fun and collaborative as it was last year. The show is obviously dark and scary and has all of these crazy elements to it, but it's actually one of the very best work environments I've ever been in.
The show is in its eighth season and so many of the department heads and members of the crew let alone people like Sarah [Paulson] and Evan [Peters] and cast members who've been there since the beginning — they've all known each other for so long and there's so much respect for each other and people are working at such a high level that it's just a really fun place to work. It's really fun.
Everybody is very collaborative and open and there is sort of a feeling of being in the trenches together because, y’know, when you're getting splattered with blood, it's just sort of fun to do that with a friend. It's funny because my experience doing the actual work is always so fun and then you watch it. You're like, “Oh my God, that was so dark and broody and scary,” but it was so fun to film that!
You’ve been paired up with Billy Eichner twice now in a kind of pseudo-romantic relationship on the show. What do you think works between the two of you that has the creators pairing you up?
Well, Billy and I are genuinely friends and I think we have really good chemistry between each other. We really, thoroughly enjoy working together. I guess maybe when you're with us you see that, but I love working with Billy. We always have a really good time together.
What other relationships have you been able to forge on set? Because, as you said, there are people who have been on the show for years and years now.
Oh, I consider all of those people my good friends now. We have such a good time together.
It's been fun to get to work with Sarah Paulson and I got to have a lot of scenes with Evan this year. He's the best and I think what you don't really get to see — you see a little bit of it in his character this year with Mr Gallant — but Evan is very funny. Truly funny. So it was super fun to get to work with him.
Billie Lourd, who is just my favorite, favorite, favorite person. My work wife.
There is no fun story there. You know what I mean? There's no "there was a lot of tension behind the scenes." There's zero tension. Everybody is there to do the best work possible and I think there's a lot of respect for everybody, but everyone's also really fun and having a good time together.
You say there's not a fun story, but are there any positive stories that really stick out to you?
There were a few scenes with all of us around that dining room table. The days can get long and you're in this bunker. You don't know what time it is. It feels a lot like you're in Las Vegas where you lose your sense of time of day or night and I was wearing this ridiculous wig and you know, I got the giggles.
And it's that feeling of when you start laughing in class, but you know you're really, really not supposed to. And Evan was also doing something, just the way he was saying [his lines]. To me, it was the funniest thing I've ever heard in my entire life and there was a point where all of us could not stop laughing… the crew was also laughing like that. It's just a good tension reliever. You know, when you're going on hour 13 at work, you gotta get a little slap happy.
What has been your favorite season of American Horror Story, even if you didn't work on it?
I mean, I love all of them. Obviously, I love Coven, but I really love Murder House because I think that was our first time to really enter that world and to see what this going to be. I will just never forget that scene towards the end of the season where Taissa [Farmiga]'s character Violet figures out that she's dead. Do you remember that she sees her own head full of flies? Tate takes her down to see it and I remember I was like [gasp] because it was scary, but also emotionally devastating at the same time and I think that's a really unique combination that only Ryan and his brilliant writers could come up with.
What should people be expecting from the rest of Apocalypse?
I'm going to tell you everything that's gonna happen! So, in Episode 4... [laughs] Just kidding!
Ryan had joked before in an interview several months ago that it's going to be like The Love Boat with familiar faces popping up. That is definitely true. And I think for people who are hardcore fans of the show, I think it'll be very satisfying. There's a lot of familiar faces that will come back. It's fun to have different worlds connected to each other and I think it'll be a fun puzzle for people to put together.