Evan Peters Came to Hollywood Because He Wanted to Meet the Olsen Twins
The Ryan Murphy troupe player on his beginnings in the industry, and what he’s still dying to do next.
You’ve probably seen Evan Peters any number of different ways. The actor has grown from a tween appearing in PlayStation commercials and guest starring on the Disney Channel shows to becoming one of Ryan Murphy‘s go-to troupe members, featuring in some form in practically every new series the super-producer creates, including his latest, Pose, the acclaimed show whose first season finale aired on Sunday night. Audiences might be hard-pressed to think up a role Peters has yet to occupy—he has shape-shifted himself from dorky adolescent to Frankenstein frat boy to superhero to cult leader. The only genre Peters has yet to tackle is comedy, but the 31-year-old actor is chomping at the bit for a chance to do that, too.
When did you start thinking about acting?
I was 15. I’m from St. Louis, Missouri, and I looked in the Yellow Pages. I found a local agency in Grand Blanc, Michigan, of all places. There was a Flint Youth Theatre that I was involved in a little bit, but I stayed out of it in high school because I was new, and I never did it in grade school. I mean, we did grade school plays and stuff, but I wanted to separate the two, you know? I just didn’t want to get beat up, I guess.
What was the first thing you auditioned for?
I don’t remember. But the second thing I auditioned for was this independent film called Clipping Adam, about a boy who loses his mother and sister in a car accident and then grows his hair out. I had this incredible Whitesnake mullet for the whole movie, which was hilarious. And then, at the end I cut my hair and let it all go. I had to wear extensions, which was kind of intense and a little weird.
What commercials did you do?
I did a Sour Patch Kids commercial. First they’re sour, then they’re sweet. The Sour Patch Kid throws eggs at me, at my front door, and then comes over and gives me a hug at the end. I also did a Sony PlayStation commercial. They don’t give you anything. I thought I was gonna get Sour Patch Kids, I thought I was gonna get a PlayStation. I didn’t get anything, but I did like it. I thought they were fun.
And was your goal to do films, or were you interested in TV, or you just wanted to work?
I think I wanted to do everything. I was a big fan of Shia LaBeouf and Even Stevens, and was like, “Oh, man. I would love to be on Disney Channel and have a show,” because it was what I watched. Obviously, movies would be incredible, but that seemed further down the line.
How did your role as Quicksilver in X‐Men: Days of Future Past come about?
Well, [the film’s director] Bryan Singer was a fan of American Horror Story. It was 2013, he called me and was like, “Yeah, I got a cool part for you. He kind of has caffeine or whatever, he kind of goes crazy, and he’s in his mom’s basement, and kind of comes in and saves the day. And then kind of gets out. So it’s kind of, like, a quick role, and it should be really fun, with cool special effects.” And I was like, “Dude. Yes. I’m in.” I was so excited and jumped on the couch.
Were you a comic book fan?
Yeah. Well, I’m more of a comic book movie fan. And the X‐Men movies I grew up watching, so I was obsessed with them. And I love special effects movies. So, yeah, I was over the moon.
How long did it take to shoot?
The first one didn’t take too long, a couple of weeks. A lot of green screen with the two treadmills, which is a lot of fun. But it’s such a fun superpower. And, obviously, the way that they decided to shoot it was pretty genius on Singer’s part. I think he originally wanted to do it for a music video, and then brought it to the X‐Men films as Quicksilver, as a kind of genius way to shoot that superspeed.
Tell me all the different characters you’ve played in the Ryan Murphy universe.
In the Ryan Murphy world of American Horror Story, I played Tate Langdon. Crazy. He was just crazy. A teenager, kind of love‐obsessed with Violet and wanted to be in this relationship with her, but also was seriously chemically imbalanced and had a horrible childhood, and just was kind of a monster. So, yeah, he was crazy. I played Kit Walker, who was kind of your every man, who was in an interracial relationship and then got abducted by aliens. He came back seemingly insane to everybody else, but he was just sort of living his truth. He was put in an insane asylum—kind of a horrific thing to have happen to you.
Then it was Kyle, who we called Frankenkyle, because he’s this college frat guy who gets in an accident and then gets sewn back together and brought back to life, sort of as this kind of Frankenstein monster who has to relearn how to talk and walk. That was probably the hardest one that I had to do.
And then it was Jimmy Darling, who had the lobster hands, for Freak Show. That was crazy. Then Mr. March for Hotel. He was also insane, and a mass murderer. He was kind of based off of H.G. Wells, which was pretty cool. I love the book Devil in the White City. I listened to a lot of 1930s music, and that stuff is so creepy and so weird. Then I did Edward Mott, and he died. And then I played Rory [Monahan]. I don’t know his last name. He was the actor who was playing Edward Mott.
So you played an actor who was playing a person who had died, whom you had played?
Yes. That’s absolutely right. I was playing a person who played a person who had died.
But you played that person.
I played that person, and then I also died as that person. Both of them died.
And then you played yourself, essentially.
Essentially, I played myself, yeah, and got married to a British version of Sarah Paulson.
When Ryan Murphy calls you and says, “Okay, you’re in the next season,” do you just go along with whatever it is he presents to you? Is there any hope that maybe one character won’t be crazy?
He basically just calls you and tells you what the role is. You go into it like, “I’m not going to play anybody crazy again. I don’t want to do that. That’s too much.” Then he’s like, “You’re playing this kind of Charles Manson–esque crazy guy.” And you’re like, “Okay, sure.” But he just makes it so, I don’t know, so appealing, and makes it sound so fun and interesting to do—and always, always a challenge. Then you can’t resist, and you’re like, “Well, maybe I could do it. Maybe I should definitely try to do that. That’ll be good.”
Do you find people are now afraid of you at parties?
Sometimes you’ll get the person who’ll be like, “Oh, man, you scare me. You freak me out.” I’m like, “I guess that’s good.” It’s a scary show. We’re trying to do that, so that’s good.
Do you like scary movies?
My older sister showed me Hellraiser when I was like 4, and Friday the 13th. She kind of scarred me, but I like watching scary movies with people because you’re together in this scary situation. It makes all that more fun. Working on a scary show, I’ve actually grown to really appreciate them, and the blood gags and how hard it is to make a scare work. Some of it can be really cheesy and hokey, so you kind of have to fight against that somehow.
And now you’re starring in the television series Pose.
It’s a really fun show. It’s great for the transgender community. We need it now more than ever, and it’s going to shed a lot of compassion and a lot of light on their plight. It’s set in 1987. If you’ve seen Paris Is Burning, it’s based off of those balls and that culture and that world. I play Stanley, who’s a yuppie, essentially, from New Jersey, and is trying to climb the ladder of New York City success and rise to the top. He’s actually got a job at the Trump office. James Van Der Beek plays my boss, and Kate Mara plays my wife. I sort of get bit by the bug of the transgender underworld, and chaos ensues. It’s more of a love story for me. Tragic, but like I said, it’s a really fun show.
You’re also starring in the film American Animals right now. What’s that about?
I have a lot of unrest in that one. It’s not the first time I’ve played a real person, but this juxtaposition to the real person, definitely. My character’s name is Warren C. Lipka. He’s just doing the whole going-to-college, on-the-soccer-team, got-the-scholarship thing. He’s having an existential crisis and doesn’t really know why he’s doing this or what it’s all about. It’s hard, but choosing to do something before you know what it is that you want to do can kind of lead to you blowing up your world. He didn’t want to do soccer. He didn’t know what he wanted to do. He wanted to do something that would make his life special and important. He obviously made the wrong decision, but he got a movie out of it.
Did you meet the real people the film is based on before or after filming?
[The director] Bart Layton firmly didn’t want us to talk to them or meet them. He showed us some video footage of them, basically what you see in the film, but I was not having that. I was like, “There’s no way I’m playing this guy without talking to him. That’s crazy.” I went through Twitter and found him and e-mailed him and asked him all these questions. Then Bart intervened again. Damn it. Then I lost all the juice that I wanted from that. I knew what Bart wanted—he wanted to separate. These guys are 10 years older, and they’ve been through a lot. They were different people, so [Layton] was worried that they would color what we decided was their reason for doing it. It’s Warren’s story. Also, I would hope that they would’ve had a little more faith in me to be like, “Oh, he’s fabricating that to make himself look better,” you know what I mean? I’d be like, “You know, I can probably see through that.”
Katherine Langford, Aubrey Plaza, Evan Peters and More Stars Who Prove Television Is Better Than Ever
I was born in Oakland, California. Since I was a kid, I have been acting in plays. The only musical I’ve ever done is Hamilton. Even the early versions were really great, but I’ve made a lot of stuff I think is great and nobody cared, so the success of Hamilton was definitely a surprise.
You won the Tony for best actor in a featured role in a musical. You wore a Comme des Garçons Homme Plus suit to accept it.
That whole night was out of body. For a month, I had been campaigning for something I didn’t know I wanted. And I loved that suit. I’ve gotten to wear a lot of Comme des Garçons’ art pieces, and they’re pretty wonderful.
Had you already been cast in Black-ish?
Yes. The Black-ish creator, Kenya Barris, pitched me the idea of playing Rainbow’s brother. Rainbow is liberal, freethinking, a doctor, and a mom. I told him, when I watched the show, I’ve always been Team Rainbow! I’m from the Bay Area. I really get that hippie shit for real.
What movie makes you cry?
Wonder made me cry. Yeah, I was in the movie! Sitting there, in the premiere of my first film, and I’m weeping. That wasn’t a good look.
What was your first pet’s name?
Kasha. He was a sheltie. When I was born, my parents had six German shepherds and one sheltie. They all had Hebrew names: Shlomo, L’Chaim, Mezuzah, Delilah, etc. So, Kasha.
And what street did you grow up on?
So your porn name is Kasha 44?
Not bad. It’s good for futuristic Internet porn.
Diggs wears a Bottega Veneta suit, shirt, and tie.
13 Reasons Why was the first thing I’d ever done. Living in Perth, Australia, I didn’t have a big social media presence. Then the show aired, and overnight it blew up. I spoke to Selena Gomez, a producer of 13 Reasons Why, and she said, “The message of the show is really important.” So I went through a wave of being like, “Social media is really cool.” But when I read what some people were saying on it, I took a step back. I’ve not stopped posting, but I am careful about my output into the universe. What is your favorite karaoke song? I don’t do karaoke much because I end up screaming. But on my birthday, they just baited me with Gaga the whole night. “Yoü and I” killed me. I love an anthem: something that will rally the troops.
Langford wears a Valentino cape and blouse.
I’m named Aubrey after a song from the group Bread in the ’70s. My mom was really young and she just liked the song. I looked it up in a baby book: My name means “ruler of the elves,” so I’m a queen elf. I was always interested in being an actress. The week I left the East Coast for Los Angeles, I was cast in two films and in Parks and Recreation. My whole life changed overnight. In all those projects, I was the dream girl of all the nerds, so when I read the script for Legion, I thought I was going to play the female lead. But they offered me the part of Lenny Busker, which was originally written as a middle-aged man. Lenny becomes the psychic mutant villain of the show. I was interested in showing I can do unexpected things.
Is it fun to have superpowers?
Yes! I can kill people just like snapping my fingers! That’s a good feeling: minimal movement for maximum destructive effect.
Plaza wears a Paco Rabanne dress.
I always watched a lot of TV. As a kid, I’d gorge on Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. When I was 12, I was offered a part on One Life to Live and turned it down. I was nervous about developing bad acting habits as a child. Even at 13, when I did the pilot for My So-Called Life, I knew it was unusually excellent material. It’s so rare to be on an immediate and exact parallel with the character you’re playing. It was a relief to blast all of my teenage grievances out into the world. When Homeland came around, I was scared. My character, Carrie Mathison, is very troubled. To play somebody wrestling with a bipolar condition in very high-stakes circumstances seemed rather fatiguing. But, ultimately, it was too good to ignore. It’s that classic thing: If it scares you, you don’t really have a choice.
Growing up, did you have any TV crushes?
Yes. I had a crush on the kid from the show Mr. Belvedere. And Ricky Schroder. And the Coreys: Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. There was a hotline, something like 1-900-Corey. I was in a crummy mood one day after school and I kept calling it. A month later, my dad got the bill. He was like, “Claire, did you call this weird hotline number?”
You were in Romeo + Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio. At that time, he was everyone’s biggest crush.
Yes. That was problematic. I couldn’t really have a crush on the guy I was professionally having a crush on! Quite a few gay men have talked to me about the fact that when they were kids watching Romeo + Juliet, they were confused about who they wanted to kiss. It was all about Leo! And I completely understand.
Danes wears a Proenza Schouler dress.
The shaved head was a big deal. On the one hand, it was cool. When you’re bald, rain feels like a head massage. I’d walk in the rain, and people would look at me like I was crazy. I’d be smiling—so, so happy to have the water hit my naked head. But on the other hand, people stared at me, wondering whether I was sick. Some would even laugh at me, without knowing whether I was or wasn’t sick. It was hurtful, but their attitude taught me something about compassion. In the end, being bald was the best thing I ever did—being different changed my life. I wanted to embrace my baldness and, hopefully, inspire people. And, now, that’s become my message to the world.
Millie Bobby Brown wears a Calvin Klein 205W39NYC dress; Calvin Klein Jeans turtleneck.
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In the Ryan Murphy world of American Horror Story, I have been Tate Langdon, who was crazy; Kit Walker, who was abducted by aliens, which made him crazy; Frankenkyle, a college fraternity guy who gets in an accident, dies, and is sewn together and brought back to life as a monster; Jimmy Darling, who had lobster hands and was part of the freak show; Mr. March, who was a serial murderer; and, in the latest installment, Kai Anderson, a totally insane, megalomaniacal cult leader. Now, in Pose, I play a yuppie in 1987 New York. I get bit by the wonderful bug of the transgender underworld. Pose is more of a love story, but, at this moment, we still don’t know how it ends. I may still go crazy.
Did you ask Ryan Murphy to finally give you a non-insane part?
I go into each job saying, “I don’t want to play anybody crazy again.” But then Ryan calls and tells me, “You’re playing this Charles Manson–esque person who sucks people into a cult and controls them with ‘pinky power,’ ” and I say, “Okay! Sure!”
Peters wears a Bottega Veneta sweater.
Is it hard to act when you’re naked?
Here’s the trick: You have to look at a sex scene as an opportunity to express things that can be expressed best when people are making love. Or fucking. Or whatever. But, in fact, I’m a sex worker in The Deuce, so I have to pretend to fuck someone I’ve just met. And then another guy. And another. So what’s expressed in those scenes is somebody who’s doing a transaction. Then it’s fine to act naked, because all these other things are going on in your mind.
Did you watch any ’70s porn films to prepare for the role?
Yes, I watched some Lasse Braun movies. He was a very playful Italian porn director. But I haven’t seen Deep Throat. I did read the autobiography of Tina Russell, a pretty famous porn star in the early ’70s, when the mood was “we are all fucking and free and we love it.” I do believe in showing that kind of sexual freedom. On the other hand, she wrote that book when she was in her early 20s and was dead less than a decade later of alcoholism. So, for The Deuce, I’m into that combination of things: They’re both true.
Gyllenhaal wears a Marc Jacobs trenchcoat.
I had been offered a lot of parts where I would play the villain, and that was not interesting to me. When my agent called and told me that The Looming Tower was about 9/11, I immediately said I didn’t want to do it. I assumed they wanted me to play a terrorist. But, in fact, I play a real American FBI agent who was fighting against al Qaeda, against evil. I was like, Whoa. Yeah. Finally!
Where were you when the planes hit the World Trade Center?
I was in Belfort, France, my hometown. I was shopping when the first plane crashed into the first tower. We didn’t know whether it was an attack or an accident. I ran into a huge store, and it had a wall of TVs. And then the second plane crashed in front of my eyes. I thought that it would be World War III. And it has changed the face of the world.
Rahim wears an AMI Alexandre Mattiussi jacket and sweater; his own ring.
When I auditioned for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I wore this yellow shirt that I thought was adorable, but they asked me to change my clothes for my second audition, so I guess it wasn’t as adorable as I thought! The costumes are a huge part of Midge, my character. Her outer appearance is something she takes an enormous amount of pride in. Between the corset, the petticoats, the tights and the beautiful dresses, hair and makeup, I feel completely transformed when I walk out of my trailer. That’s my favorite part about being an actor. It always has been.
Mrs. Maisel does stand-up comedy. Were you nervous about being funny in front of an audience?
Comedy is terrifying. It’s probably the worst thing i could imagine anyone doing to themselves–and also the most exhilarating. But I would absolutely not attempt stand-up as myself. Nope. No. No. No. Never. Even as Midge, I do a lot of power posing in my dressing room to gain confidence.
Brosnahan wears a Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello dress and boots.
For as long as I can remember, I knew something about my life was meant to be meaningful, that I’ve got something to do here,” she says. “I don’t know how I knew, but I was sure I’d make an impact.
Letitia Wright wears a Calvin Klein 205W39NYC shirt, turtleneck, and pants; her own shoes. Beauty: Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup in Color 11.0, Brow Tamer in Dark, Sin Afterglow Palette, Hi-Fi Shine Lip Gloss in Midnight Cowgirl.
A long time ago, I was in a miniseries called Taken that Steven Spielberg produced for the Sci Fi channel. I hadn’t really done anything else on TV until The Alienist. We shot the show for almost seven months in Budapest, Hungary, which became my home. I sobbed hysterically when I had to leave my life there.
Were you also attached to your character’s corset?
I didn’t get quite as attached to the corset. But one of the most important things about The Alienist was the costumes. I fainted during my first fitting. I had just gotten off the plane and was swollen and jet-lagged. They put the corset on, and I said, “I’m going down!” I had to sit. But I got used to it. My body completely changed. For better or worse, the corset puts you into the character. It affects everything you do: breathing, walking, sitting, standing, and definitely eating.
Do you watch television?
Yes! I’m obsessed with The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Some of the best TV I’ve ever seen was the breakup of Arie and Becca on last season’s Bachelor. That’s what I’m trying to figure out: With reality television, if it’s all set up and fake, then they’ve got the greatest actors in the world.
Fanning wears a Gucci dress, headpiece, and body chain.
Preacher is based on a very dark comic book, with a lot of humor to break up the darkness. I wasn’t a comic book kid, but I know someone who had a brother who wore black leather jackets, had a lot of piercings, and would never come out of his bedroom. We once broke into that boy’s room, and he had Preacher.
When I heard about the script, I looked at the comic again. On one of the covers, I saw this drawing of a head. I saw a demonic, demented, psychotic person staring back at my face, and I thought, That’s sort of me.
Seth Rogen is one of the producers of Preacher. When I went to meet him, he had huge hair and a massive beard. He was in a haze of marijuana smoke. He was trying to explain to me that the show would have people with assholes as faces and other people would sort of have sex with meat. I thought, No—this isn’t for me, thanks. But, obviously, I had inhaled so much of what they were having that I was mesmerized. I signed up straightaway.
Cooper wears a Giorgio Armani shirt.
Before I was an actress, I wanted to be a basketball player. Growing up in Boston, I practiced all the time. I wouldn’t leave the court unless I made 100 free throws and 100 lefty layups. My friend Phoebe and I would hustle men—we would act like we didn’t know how to play, and then we’d play two-on-two with guys and bet money. We would often win.
I went to college in New York, at Barnard, and that’s where I discovered acting. My first job was playing a waitress from Staten Island on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Eventually, I moved to L.A. I was sick of being a broke, struggling auditioner, so I wrote SMILF.
The optics of SMILF are very autobiographical. Like my character on the show, I play basketball, and I, too, have a baby daddy who’s married to a beautiful blonde actress from Australia. But then the show veers off in a million crazy directions.
Your toddler son on the show is so cute.
Those are twin girls playing my son. They’re the most beautiful humans who have ever lived and will ever live.
Won’t it be awkward when you’re in year 20 of the show and your son looks like your daughter?
It’ll be GILF then. Grandmothers! Actually, we may want to say he was really two girls. That would be a great story to tell!
Shaw wears a Michael Kors Collection coat; her own jewelry.
When they sent me Yellowstone, I freaked out because the show’s writer-director, Taylor Sheridan, is my favorite living writer. I went to the store, got a cowboy hat, and gave it my best. I made a tape at home, mostly because I didn’t want to go in and screw it up in front of a casting director. Taylor called me two days later, and I was so nervous, all I could do was giggle.
You grew up in Dayton, Ohio. That is nothing like Darby, Montana, where you film the show.
Well, growing up in Ohio, I hunted and did stuff like that. In Montana, there are hardly any people. Just land. You’ve got to figure out your outdoor activities real quick or you’re going to be in trouble.
Where was your first date?
I met my first girlfriend at church camp. My dad’s a pastor. I went to Christian schools and Christian everything until I moved to New York. My first girlfriend’s dad was also a pastor. We weren’t really allowed to date, but we were a little sneaky. We found a way.
Grimes wears a Simon Miller jacket; Everest Isles shirt; AG T-shirt; his own necklace.
What was the first album you ever bought?
I think it was either an MC Hammer cassette or a Vanilla Ice cassette. Parachute pants was where it was at with me.
You wore parachute pants?
Oh, yeah. We had those net mesh shirts that were cut off and that we’d wear outside with our parachute pants. We were also into Kris Kross, and we did the backward pants for a little while, too.
What’s your karaoke song, as long as we’re on this particular subject?
The last one I did was Enrique Iglesias “I Just Wanna Be With You.” That’s a fun one. I mean, you can do all the hits, but it’s kind of a weird one that’s really fun to sing. And hilarious.
What was your first date?
A movie? A roller rink? I don’t know. I guess it was just driving around in my Pontiac Vibe. A sexy silver hatchback. You’re just like, “Let’s hang out. You want to hang out? Alright, cool. Let’s hang out.” And then you’re like, “I don’t know. What do you want to do? Let’s drive around, go get some food or a Slurpee or something.”
Where was your first kiss? In that same car, I’m sure.
No, that was probably spin the bottle, back in St. Louis.
How’d that go?
Good. Really good. Well, you know, it’s always weird. You have a crush on the one girl, and then you end up getting the other girl. Or she gets your friend, and you’re like, “Oh, damn.” It’s hard to match up with the girl you really want to kiss, but then, when you finally do, it’s like, “Oh, my God.” Your chest is pounding. It’s a little too wet and weird, and people are watching.
What were your favorite movies growing up?
Forrest Gump, Tommy Boy, and Ace Ventura. Forrest Gump was just the best. I mean, it makes you cry every time. It makes you laugh. It’s like this big, epic tale. Tom Hanks is incredible. Everybody’s incredible. The music’s great.
Were you a big Chris Farley fan?
Huge Farley fan. Huge. Yeah, he was the funniest person in the world to me. He’s so endearing in Tommy Boy as well.
Have you ever done a full-out comedy?
No, I’m dying to! It’s where my heart really lies, I think. I love physical comedy.
Get Ryan Murphy to write a comedy!
He said next season is going to be be more of a comedic role. And Mr. March was more in my ballpark, too, with comedy. But it was still a very kind of over‐the‐top character, so it was fun.
Who was your cinematic crush growing up?
Well, first it was the Olsen twins. For sure. Yeah, they kind of got me out to L.A. in a way, because I was like, “I gotta meet ’em!”
Could you tell them apart?
Definitely. Well, they’re fraternal, you know. They’re not identical. You know who I loved for a long time was Carey Mulligan. She’s such a great actress. I had this huge actor crush on her. She’s awesome.
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