American Horror Story Freakshow just made Chrissy Metz the newest buzzed about actress last week. Her role as Barbara aka Ima Wiggles is mysterious, and mostly all we know is that she the latest addition to Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities.
In the ShareTV Exclusive Interview Chrissy talks about who she thinks will be murdered next, how scary the show is, her fat suite nicknamed “The Brisket,” and what it’s like on the set of arguably one of the best television shows this year. Chrissy’s excitement was contagious, she was so easy to talk to (Like an old friend, no wonder everyone is so open with her!), and if you're a fan of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, then this is interview (Am I allowed to say my favorite one ever!?) is a very special treat.
ShareTV: Congratulations on the new role! When I saw you in Blood Bath, I knew I needed to talk to you, the new addition to this amazing show!
Chrissy Metz: Yeah! I know it’s kind of surreal, I’m still like, “Is this my life?” it’s really cool.
ShareTV: How long ago were you cast?
CM: Early October.
ShareTV: Wow, so they move really quickly!
CM: Oh yea, for sure. I went on the audition; I got the materials the night before. Probably a week later I heard that I was one of the four choices that they sent to Ryan, and then he chose. The week and a half that I had to wait was the longest week and a half of my life. I got on a plane, and I think I was here on the fifteenth of October.
ShareTV: We got a little taste Barbara last episode; can you tell us a little more about her?
CM: Ima is who was Barbara. Elsa has renamed her Ima Wiggles for the Freak Show. She never felt “part of” in her family growing up in an affluent home on the Upper East Side. Her parents wanted her to be a certain way and she just wasn’t. She actually likes who she is and she doesn’t want to change that. Elsa sees that in her and is like, “Hmm, well I can capitalize on that and I’ll bring her into the Freak Show and bring in more customers.” So she really feels that she’s at home. She has never felt normal even though she accepts herself for who she is just as all the other freaks, so she really finds a family in them and they bond. They’re going to be doing some bonding coming up.
ShareTV: Obviously, we know Ima loves to eat, what do you think her favorite food is?
CM: Oh wow, I think Ima’s favorite food is probably a brisket and mashed potatoes… something really hearty.
ShareTV: What was it like to jump right in with a famous and talented cast that's been working together for seven episodes already, and in some cases, multiple seasons?
CM: That was a concern as a person, as an actress, as a newcomer. Sure, I’ve done other jobs and Independent movies and guest stars and have met many famous people, but Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett, Michael Chiklis, the list goes on, Sarah Paulson- who I’m obsessed with. I was like, “Okay. Chrissy you have to compartmentalize and realize their people too.” You kind of are enamored with them and their work, being such a huge fan of everybody on the set. I thought, I just have to go and do my work, and not think of myself as less-than or inferior, and think of myself as a colleague. It was difficult because you can’t help but want to watch them. I’m like, “Oh, oh right I’m in the scene.” I really just have to separate that this is Elsa Mars, this is not Jessica Lange. This is Jimmy Darling, not Evan Peters, and Kathy Bates! Oh. My. Gosh. [Pretends like unable to speak from Starstuck Syndrome] So, it was definitely challenging, but I had to jump into it with a bang. It’s amazing.
ShareTV: Do you know how many episodes you'll be on for?
CM: I believe I’ll be on for four or five. I will definitely be seen more for sure.
ShareTV: The show is obviously creepy onscreen, does it feel just as scary when filming?
CM: It’s interesting we did a scene the other day and I was really freaked out. That was the first time that I actually got really freaked out. Rose who plays Suzi, asked if I was okay and I said, “I’m just really invested in the scene and I’m actually really scared… you know I want it to be authentic.” You realize all the special effects they do, it looks real. Even watching it as a fan before I even had the opportunity to audition for it, I would watch it through my fingers and with a friend because it’s really scary. The music, forget it. At first I thought, “Maybe I should watch it on mute.” The music really gets me and it’s the whole vibe and the way that they shoot it. It’s creep-ola and scary and amazing. On set, I try to tell myself it’s not real, and everybody is so loving, warm, and fun that in between takes I kind of get acclimated to it and tell myself we’re just doing a TV show. But, there are definitely moments where I’m admit, “Okay, I’m scared.”
ShareTV: One of the reasons I love this show and I think a lot of people do is because it’s so dramatic, and realistic, and it’s not cheesy. You really feel the fog is real, not just a machine.
CM: Oh, the fog is real! The fog in New Orleans is crazy, but even though on stage it’s fake, I just think the actors are so good that you think it’s real fog.
ShareTV: That’s really cool that the show carries that, even live when you’re filming it.
CM: Yea, we did a scene that the scope was just incredible and I thought, “This is going to be magical.”
ShareTV: Do you know what episode we’ll see it?
ShareTV: How long is a typical day on set?
CM: It varies. Yesterday I was on set for probably 10 hours and I only worked for maybe 22 minutes. That’s the life of every actor because when they are ready for you on set and it’s your turn, you just go. What people don’t see is the waiting around for ten hours, we’re ready for you, get into character, action. You have to just be in that moment. And that’s why theater actors are so amazing, because they just get that one take. On this set everybody is so fun, focused, and creative. I enjoy it and on the days off I I’m bummed, I wish I could be on set. I think any actor enjoys being around people that are like-minded and are there for a common purpose and goal: to tell a story and to make an amazing show that people love. It’s so fun.
ShareTV: That’s really lucky and amazing!
CM: It’s very lucky because sometimes you don’t instantly bond with people. I love people and meeting new people and learning about them, so I’m really inquisitive about their lives and people end up telling me everything all through my life, which I love.
ShareTV: How has AHS changed your life?
CM: I knew how to Tweet, but Matt Fraser who plays Paul was literally giving me a tutorial while we were tweeting live at this country club where they show the episodes every week and all the fans in New Orleans go and watch, it’s really cool. We do a meet and greet and talk to everybody; everybody is so amazing down here. So when nobody has seen you on the television and then they are sitting next to you in a bar and they’re looking at you, they’re like, “Is that you? You’re her?” And I’m like, “Yeah!” Nobody knew who I was two weeks ago and now they are all tweeting me. I literally had six followers, who I think were all my family members, and now I have like 400 something. It’s so awesome that people are receptive. I think when you’re a plus-size actress and playing an even larger-than-life character (No pun intended, honestly!) on the show, you don’t know how you’re going to be received. People don’t know you; they just know what you’ve shown them through the character, so everybody’s been so lovely and so complementary. I spend more time on my phone now connecting with fans because that’s what makes us successful and I’m really thankful for them. Really it’s just being more social on my phone, being more cognizant of what it is that I’m doing and what I want the trajectory of my career to be, and being recognized a little more than I had before. I don’t want to change as a person and I know that I won’t, but it can be overwhelming in such a good way. I think I’m adjusting well.
ShareTV: Yea, and being in a place like New Orleans where the people are so friendly and hospitable is great!
CM: I’m from Florida originally. I was born in Homestead, moved to Japan for ten years, and then back to Gainesville. In the south, the hospitality is amazing. I also feel like I’m in a bubble because there are no paparazzi here. We go out with Angela Bassett or whoever from set and people are really cordial and polite, but they are not obnoxious, so it’s nice.
ShareTV: What are your hobbies besides acting?
CM: It’s funny you should ask, you might see one of them on the show tonight. I work on music and I’m writing a feature, it’s kind of a coming of age story. I love movies, I love concerts, I love crafty things. I literally decorated my hotel room for Christmas. I bought a little baby gingerbread house, and everyone’s telling me “That’s cute for a 5 year-old.” And I’m like, “Leave me alone!”
ShareTV: It’s nice to get to know the person behind the character!
CM: Yea, you know them as a character, but there’s actually a real person there. My niece actually said to my sister, “That’s not aunt Chrissy. She doesn’t talk that soft.” And I just laughed because I’m definitely a huge personality and I’m very social, so it’s interesting to see how demure Ima is right now. It was pretty funny.
ShareTV: What are some of your favorite TV shows to watch?
CM: Orange Is The New Black, House of Cards, I’m really not up to speed on Homeland, but I’m obsessed. I love Parks and Rec. It’s interesting because I rarely watch television. When you’re working you don’t really have time- after spending 14 hours on site you’re exhausted. I got into this new show called The Affair. I’m still trying to figure it out because I’m watching it in pieces. The acting really good, so I want to get into it, I just haven’t had the time. And I love Game of Thrones.
ShareTV: If you could guest-star on any show, what would it be?
CM: [Whispers] Oh my God. How could I choose? I have to think about the dream and the fantasy or something realistic… I would love to be an inmate in Orange Is The New Black. Oh my God, that cast is amazing.
ShareTV: Back to Ima! I read that you wear a fat suite for the role. Can you tell us about it?
CM: I do! The irony is that in most other roles they’re like, “You might be to big, you’re pretty, but…” Finding the right role is tricky, for anybody regardless of your size, race, age; you’ve got to find what fits. They [AHS] were looking for literally as large of a woman as they could find, but there aren’t a lot of large women who act for a myriad of reasons, but they told me they were going to fit me for a fat suite. I thought it was super cool. I went to this really great special effects house and the gentleman who made my suite, was Fred Frailey, he actually worked on the Birdman suit from the Michael Keaton movie that’s gotten a lot of buzz, and has worked on huge productions like Narnia. So they plastered my entire body and I thought, “This is strange.” Then he made it out of this really light couch-like foam, so it looks really heavy but it’s more warm and cumbersome than is heavy. It’s awesome the way he constructed it because I put the legs on and they zipper to the top of the stomach and the chest. That way, I’m luckily able to zip out of it if I have to go to the restroom or got eat lunch or whatever. It definitely gets warm and I have to wear cold packs. There’s a vest that I wear underneath, so it’s a process. When they call for me on set I need at least ten minutes. We’ve clocked it down to 7-10 minutes, which is amazing (to put it on and then my dress). But it definitely takes a village because Sean (who is the costumer) dresses me and then Fred is with me at all times because he’s really the only one who knows how the suite operates. I always laugh because I can’t cross my legs, and everyone tells me to cross my legs. It’s a larger than life character and suite. They have now coined the bottom “The Brisket” and it’s just so silly and everyone has a really good time with it. I feel really lucky because I don’t have anything on my face; poor Naomi who is Pepper and then of course Grace Gummer who plays The Lizard Girl now- she’s so beautiful even with the lizard face on- when it’s on your face it’s a different feeling than you’re body. We’re all dealing with and contending with something. I mean poor Angela; she’s got a tri-breast.
ShareTV: Who do you think is the scariest character on Freakshow?
CM: I think personally it would be Elsa now that we’ve discovered that she will go to any length and she’s in that desperation mode where she wants what she wants and will stop at nothing, and that is scary to me. People who have disabilities don’t scare me because people are people, but it’s the intention behind what it is that they want and when somebody wants something like Elsa Mars. She’s prepared to kill her best friend (What!?) because she wants to be a star and that’s the bottom line. She doesn’t care, all she cares about Elsa.
CM: Dandy is such a jackass. He’s such a petulant baby-child-man. That I’m like stop, get over yourself, you can’t keep getting away with this stuff. You’re not going to always get whatever you want, regardless if you thought you were born to kill people because you’re inbred and you’re crazy. So, that would be awesome because he’s terrorizing people. Other than that… There’s no way, well maybe there’s a way that Elsa would be gone. Jessica is the lead of the show, but you never know.
ShareTV: Maybe in the final episode.
CM: Yeah, exactly! But, I would pick Dandy though because he’s hurtful. But I also feel sad for him because he was born that way.
ShareTV: But nobody would care, he has nobody left.
CM: That true, nobody would care. The next choice would probably be…
ShareTV: I think he’s going to kill Regina, but I don’t really know because I also think she will outsmart him.
CM: I know because Regina knows what’s going on, she’s on to him. She’s a smart girl.
ShareTV: I guess we’ll just have to watch and find out.
CM: We will have to wait and see. Dun dun dun!
ShareTV: Can you tell us any anything about your storyline?
CM: You’re going to see very soon who I am smitten with, very smitten with… I wanna give you something, that is so vague!
ShareTV: Well, based on the lased episode it could be Jimmy, but I don’t really think that.
CM: People have theories that I would be a nurturing mother to him.
ShareTV: I think someone is going to be infatuated with Ima.
CM: Well, there are a lot of cute boys on the show… including Dandy, even though he’s crazy. Matt (Pauley) is cute too…
ShareTV: But Penny is there.
CM: It’s true.
ShareTV: Maybe that was a clue in itself! But we’ll just let fans speculate when they read what we talked about. What do you think about all of the seasons being connected?
CM: That is so exciting to me and when I have time I am going to go back and pick up the clues because they are so subtle. There was a line in one of the scripts that I don’t think that anyone picked up except for the writers and maybe Sarah or Jessica (or maybe they already know), but I don’t and I feel like Carmen Sandiego, like I need to figure this out: how in the world and where do these stories correlate. I know someone had the theory of the top hat that’s been on a couple of coffee cups, but I don’t know! Ryan Murphy, John Grey, and all the writers are so brilliant that I don’t even know. I haven’t talked to any of the actors on set and maybe they’re not saying anything because they’re not supposed to know or discuss it, but I think it’s important for them to keep it under wraps because then there’s a big reveal.
ShareTV: I saw another theory about space: Elsa Mars, the town is Jupiter, and Stanley was wearing an alien tie…. All this talk is making me really excited for tonight’s episode!
CM: That’s fascinating, that would be cool! And yeah, tonight’s going to be fun episode for me (and Ima!).