The Untold Truth Of Leslie Grossman

Leslie Grossman came to the acting game relatively late. She only started displaying any thespian tendencies in her senior year at New York's Sarah Lawrence College, having initially pursued an interest in directing. And the star was about 27 years old when she landed her first screen credit as "Girl Student" in the 1998 dark comedy. "The Opposite of Sex."

However, Grossman has since made up for lost time, appearing in pretty much every other hit sitcom of the last 20 years and becoming a regular of the Ryan Murphy universe, with roles in "Popular," "Nip/Tuck," and the ever-expanding "American Horror Story" franchise. In fact, she's now giving Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe a run for their money as the anthology's MVP.

But what about the person behind all those snarky, shady, and sociopathic characters? From long-lasting celebrity friendships to a love of one particular reality TV franchise, here's a look at Leslie Grossman's untold truth.

Leslie Grossman's breakthrough role was written specially for her

Leslie Grossman often stole the show in the turn-of-the-century teen drama "Popular" as Mary Cherry, a spoiled, airheaded, and borderline sociopathic cheerleader voted by her fellow students as most likely to become a serial killer. Remarkably, this was the actor's first notable role — and it was written specially for her, too!

Indeed, Grossman had unsuccessfully tried out for another part in The WB's two-season wonder. But showrunner Ryan Murphy was so impressed with her audition that he decided to create a brand-new character better suited to her skills. And the Californian remains eternally grateful for this leap of faith in such an unknown talent.

In 2018, Grossman told Nylon, "[Murphy] really has been such an unbelievable gift to my career. There's no way I can ever repay him or thank him enough, and he continues to do that for me. Not just simply by giving me work, but giving me challenging, fun, meaty things for me to really sink my teeth into." So what does the actor believe her "guardian angel" sees in her? Well, even after two decades of working with the showrunner, she remains none the wiser, adding, "I don't know why he's been so good to me, but I just hope to make him proud and do the best that I can with the gift he's given me."

This actor doesn't scare easily

Unlike her fellow "American Horror Story" regular Lily Rabe, Leslie Grossman doesn't scare easily. When asked in 2017 by Entertainment Weekly what it was like to be buried alive during her first appearance in Ryan Murphy's anthology, "Cult," the star essentially shrugged the whole ordeal off.

Grossman, who played sun-fearing cult member Meadow Wilton in the seventh installment of the hit FX show, explained that although she didn't exactly enjoy having co-star Billy Eichner shovel dirt on top of her, she wasn't frightened in the slightest: "When I first read the script, I was like, 'Oh, this is going to be on stage, right?' Nope. They dug a pit at the house that we shot at on location in the backyard. I don't have phobias. I'm not claustrophobic. I'm not afraid of clowns. It frankly didn't faze me at all."

However, Grossman — who pulled double duty in the season by portraying real-life Manson family member Patricia Krenwinkel — was fazed by the damage caused to her footwear during the scene: "I had these adorable Chloe flats on and I was just so upset. I was like, 'These Chloe flats! I'm worried about the flats!'"

Leslie Grossman has knowingly taken on subpar roles

When asked by Vulture in 2018 whether she'd knowingly accepted roles she felt were beneath her talents, Leslie Grossman didn't shy away from the question. She replied, "Let me tell you something: I would never take a job that morally compromised what I believed in. I would never ever do that. Have I taken jobs that I'm like, 'This writing is terrible.' Yes! Of course."

No doubt you're scouring her IMDb page to guess what projects Grossman could be referring to. Perhaps the Jason Bateman-starring sitcom "The Jake Effect," seven episodes of which were filmed but never made it to air? Maybe the comedies that did get screened but audiences wish hadn't (see "Whitney" or "Sean Saves the World"). Brother Richard Grossman will be hoping she wasn't referring to his biopic of cult punk rocker Darby Crash, "What We Do Is Secret," in which his sister had an uncredited role.

Either way, Grossman has no shame in admitting that the size of the paycheck has often come into the equation during her career: "You think that I'm in some position to pick and choose everything that comes my way? Absolutely not. I have health insurance I need to get for my family. I want to keep working. I need to make money. I wanna be able to pay my dues. I don't mean pay my dues in the business, I mean literally pay my SAG dues."

She's a political junkie

"I was raised in a family that if you didn't have an opinion to contribute at dinner about what was going on in the world, you just weren't part of the conversation," Leslie Grossman told Nylon in 2018. That perhaps explains why the "American Horror Story" regular's Twitter feed features far more political discourse than behind-the-scenes gossip. In fact, she "literally beg[s]" her followers to register to vote if they haven't already done so in her byline.

Grossman, who describes herself as both a news and political junkie, has sometimes gotten into trouble over her views on the social media platform. Earlier that year, she came under fire from conservatives (via Meaww) for expressing regret that she "didn't throw a drink in [the] face" of U.S. Senator Rand Paul when just 10 feet away from his supposedly "drunk obnoxious family" at a Los Angeles restaurant. The actor reportedly made her Twitter profile private following the furor, but soon went public again to further stake her claim as a "liberal coastal elite." 

Grossman told Nylon that talking to like-minded folk about her political leanings helps to keep her sane: "Twitter for me, for the most part, has been kind of nice to see that there are so many other people who feel the same way that I do, to know that we're not alone."

Leslie Grossman refuses to get competitive

Don't expect Leslie Grossman to get into a celebrity catfight any time soon. The "Love, Victor" star told Vulture in 2018 that she has no interest in pitting herself against any of her fellow actors. In fact, the only person she's competitive with is herself.

Grossman acknowledges that her lack of dog-eat-dog spirit has been detrimental to her career, but that she's proud to have rejected the usual Hollywood rules, particularly when it comes to her image: "For me to look skinny on camera would require me to have a really violent eating disorder, and I refuse to do that. I also refuse to knock other women down to make myself feel better."

The Sarah Lawrence College graduate might not call out any stars in public (well, not unless your name is Rand Paul). But it appears to be a different story behind closed doors. Grossman revealed that there's one particular (unnamed) actor that she and her friends will use as an example of what not to do: "We'll say like, 'No, not going in on that. That's the Blank role.' I'm telling you, I can see it my mind's eye. Her arms are crossed, she's shaking her head, and she's rolling her eyes while she's cooking in the kitchen. Then she looks at the kids, and she's like, 'Dad's crazy!' It just makes my skin crawl, but I think that now that is absolutely changing."

Her marriage fell apart after 21 years

Leslie Grossman and Jon Bronson looked to have bucked the trend for Hollywood marriages in 2019 when they celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. Sadly, within the space of just 12 months, the seemingly happy couple had decided to go their separate ways. According to The Blast, Bronson was the party responsible for filing the divorce suit at Los Angeles County Courts 21 years after getting hitched at a ceremony attended by many of Grossman's "Popular" castmates. However, no further news about the divorce, or the custody arrangement involving their adopted daughter, Goldie, has emerged since.

The "American Horror Story" regular had previously gushed about Bronson while discussing her various commitments in a 2017 interview with Pursuitist. She said, "When I am working the hours can be very long, so thank god for FaceTime so I can see my kid. But it's not a typical job. I can have periods off where I get to full time mom it every day for weeks, so that makes up for the really hard weeks where I feel like I haven't seen her enough. I am lucky to have an awesome husband who is totally supportive of my work and has my back." 

But Grossman also admitted that she and Bronson didn't spend as much time together in a romantic sense as they used to, adding, "I have a million things I want to do but the day always seems to get away from me."

Leslie Grossman loves playing 'complete sociopaths'

In 2021, Leslie Grossman was asked by Newsweek what her favorite "American Horror Story" role was. The actor sure had a lot to choose from, having played both an assassin and real-life Manson family member in "Cult," resurrected witch Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt in "Apocalypse," and portrayed murderous camp owner Margaret Booth in "1984."

But the Ryan Murphy regular opted for her most recent part, as of this writing, the manipulative literary agent Ursula in "Double Feature." And Grossman was able to draw upon her own experiences to play the "complete sociopath." She explained, "There was just a lot in Ursula that I recognized in the characters that I have come across professional. Just that absolute disregard for anything involving a soul, and the only goal is money, power, and success, and that there are certain people that are not burdened by a conscience."

Grossman was keen to clarify that these individuals weren't killers per se, but that they still had similar tendencies: "In their own special way, they've been metaphorical murderers in their desire to destroy anyone they feel is standing in their way, to use people for all their worth for their own gain and then drop them when they're no longer useful to them, that's a murder in and of itself."

This star is proud to be a gay icon

Leslie Grossman has played more than her fair share of camp OTT characters over the years. But the one that has resonated most with fans is her very first, mean girl cheerleader Mary Cherry in Ryan Murphy's turn-of-the-century high school dramedy, "Popular." And the actor couldn't be prouder of the impact that her breakthrough role made.

In 2018, Grossman told Vulture that she's often approached in public by "Popular" viewers who had something of an epiphany thanks to her performance: "People come up and tell me, 'I realized I was gay because of Mary Cherry.' And that maybe they were young at the time, so maybe they didn't even know what that meant. But it was because they were drawn to the character. And learning later, 'Why was I drawn to that? What was it about that character that drew me? Oh! It was my inherent gayness.' Nothing could make me happier than that. Nothing."

The Californian had been drawn to such characters herself from a young age, too. She was particularly fascinated by the world of John Waters as a teen, and his regular drag queen collaborator Divine, in particular. Grossman explained, "I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I was not a blonde, skinny surfer girl, so I really connected to that feeling of otherness and I absolutely brought that and continue to bring that into my work."

Leslie Grossman really is obsessed with the Real Housewives

Alongside all the clown costume-designing, fondness for parasols, and willingness to assassinate a political candidate in the name of angry white guyism, one of the defining traits of Meadow Wilton in "American Horror Story: Cult" was her obsession with "The Real Housewives." And it turns out that the star who played her shares a similar obsession with the Bravo franchise.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2017, Leslie Grossman revealed that while attending her co-star Colton Haynes' wedding to Jeff Leatham, she came face to face with one of the most famous housewives, Lisa Rinna. And she could hardly contain her excitement: "[Rinna] actually approached me and could not have been more lovely. I really didn't even let her get a sentence out before shouting out, 'No! No! I love you!' That was very rewarding for me."

Grossman even drew inspiration from another star of the catfight-friendly series for her role of Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt in the eighth installment of Ryan Murphy's anthology, "Apocalypse." In 2018, she told Nylon, "There are shades of Tinsley [Mortimer] in my character this season, and there were moments where I thought of Tinsley when I was doing things. I think Tinsley is misunderstood; I think she is incredibly sweet."

She nearly took a main role in Modern Family

It's hard to imagine anyone other than Julie Bowen playing the neurotic wife, mother, and closet company heiress Claire Pritchett in the long-running sitcom, "Modern Family." But an "American Horror Story" regular very nearly ended up getting the role instead.

During a 2017 Facebook Live chat with ET, Leslie Grossman revealed that she got to the final audition part of the casting process for the character, but ultimately lost out to the future Emmy Award winner. Grossman admitted (via Yahoo!) that she didn't take the rejection well: "That was one of those times where I may have gotten in bed and pulled the covers over my head for just a few minutes. And then I rallied and moved on with my life."

However, Grossman soon acknowledged that producers got it right. "Once you see it you go, 'Well, that makes perfect sense,'" the star said of Bowen's casting, going on to describe the actor as "phenomenal and fantastic." And Grossman did get to grace the crazy world of the Pritchett clan, albeit only for one episode, with a guest spot in the fifth season episode, "Three Dinners."

Leslie Grossman is in awe of Michelle Obama

Leslie Grossman appears to have two famous faces she can't stop gushing about. One is the prolific showrunner who gave the actor her big break, her "fairy godfather" Ryan Murphy. And the other is someone else with a golden Netflix deal, although it's fair to say she's a little more well-known for her time in the White House.

Yes, in an interview with Coveteur, Grossman revealed that she's obsessed with Michelle Obama, and that she sees the former first lady as the ideal role model for her daughter, Goldie: "She's somebody who I kinda wish could be more involved in our future politics, but I can also understand — why on Earth would she ever want to go near that? Why would she want to put herself up to be exposed to the ugliest, most disgusting, base instincts of some of the underbelly of our country that we've seen? So, it's too bad, because I just think she's incredible."

But it's not just Obama's political leanings that the "American Horror Story" regular admires. She's also a big fan of her style, adding, "You know when they ask those questions like, 'If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?' Totally Michelle Obama's my first choice."

This actor is still friends with Amanda Bynes

Following the untimely cancelation of "Popular," Leslie Grossman bagged her second major recurring role as Jennie Garth's bossy business partner and BFF Lauren in "What I Like About You." The WB sitcom, which ran from 2002 to 2006, also starred Amanda Bynes as leading lady Holly.

Bynes, of course, has since become more renowned for her troubled private life than her acting talent. But Grossman had nothing but positive things to say about her former co-star during an appearance on talk show "Busy Tonight" (via TooFab) in 2018: "I met her when she was 16 years old, and you don't know what you're going to get when you meet a young star of a show; it could be a nightmare. From the get-go, [she was] the sweetest, the funniest, the most hard-working and just a wonderful person."

Much to viewers' surprise, Grossman also revealed that she's still in touch with the one-time Nickelodeon favorite. In fact, she'd seen her just the week previously, and luckily, Bynes was in a much better place: "She's doing wonderfully. I think all of us have had tough times in our lives, and we haven't had to do it under the glare of a camera. I'm very, very proud of her."

She's surprised she became an American Horror Story regular

Leslie Grossman had always hoped to become a regular on another Ryan Murphy show, having previously made her name on his short-lived The WB dramedy, "Popular." She just didn't anticipate it being a horror anthology in which she'd join a deadly cult, be buried alive, and play the real-life perpetrator of one of the most shocking murders in Hollywood history.

In a 2017 interview with TV Line, Grossman admitted that "American Horror Story: Cult" was at the "bottom of the list of shows" she thought Murphy would offer her a part in. However, the actor is also glad that he did, adding, "But I'm so happy. I've also never been part of a genre show, which is its own special animal."

Grossman, who'd later go on to appear in "Apocalypse," "1984," and "Double Feature," revealed that she had been daunted by signing up to such an established franchise: "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." However, she largely appears to have avoided incurring the wrath of the Murphy faithful, adding, "I've been lucky, because they've been so wonderful and kind to me — thank God!"

Leslie Grossman has an impressive net worth

Leslie Grossman has freely admitted that she's taken jobs on in the past entirely for monetary reasons. So how exactly has that approach paid off? Well, according to various sources, the "American Horror Story" regular reportedly has a cool $1 million to $1.5 million to her name. An impressive figure for sure, but perhaps one that's not quite big enough for her to turn down "terrible writing" just yet.

This reportedly makes Grossman the least financially secure regular cast member of Ryan Murphy's scary anthology. That's perhaps little surprise considering she's only appeared in four installments compared to near ever-presents, such as Lily Rabe and Sarah Paulson. However, the richest returnee is someone who, like Grossman, also had to wait until 2017's "Cult" to make her "AHS" debut. Billie Lourd reportedly has $20 million in the bank having received a significant inheritance from her mother, "Star Wars" legend Carrie Fisher, who died in 2016.