Elsa Mars is always on the lookout for new talent, especially now that her old attractions keep dropping like flies. On this week's new episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show, Mars and the other still-breathing aberrations will welcome yet another sideshow staple — the Fat Lady.
Chrissy Metz (Entourage, My Name Is Earl), the LA-based actress who portrays Barbara, aka Ima Wiggles, spoke with Yahoo TV about landing this huge — pun intended — opportunity.
"Being a plus-size actress, it is slim pickings, so anytime any role comes up for a plus-size actress, my agents are all over it, and they were like, 'You have to book this job. It's American Horror Story. It's a big deal.' No pressure, right?" she says via phone from her hotel in New Orleans, where the scarefest is shot. "I'm a huge fan of the show and Ryan Murphy, so even auditioning was superexciting like how 'just being nominated' is a big honor. But I wanted it. I had one night to prepare. I stayed up until 4 a.m. practicing with [dialogue] that had almost nothing pertaining to the actual character or episode. They sent four tapes to Ryan, and I was the very, very lucky girl he chose. I was jumping around my house when I heard, and now I find myself sitting across from Jessica Lange and acting with Kathy Bates. I feel like a freshman showing up in the middle of the year, and they are all the cool seniors. I have to pinch myself to believe this is really my life."
Check out Metz's reel (video contains adult language):
She's of course under the same strict orders as the rest of the twisted troupe to remain tight-lipped, but here are five things to know about the extra-curvy character and the gal charged with bringing her to life for at least four episodes.
1. Metz is too scared to watch the show alone, and unfortunately she might be staying in a haunted hotel in the Crescent City.
"I always have people over to watch it with me. I am scared out of my mind during every episode, because it is never so far-fetched that it couldn't happen. Zachary Quinto could find me somewhere, skin me, and use me as a lamp. That could happen," she admitted before adding that she was relieved to find out that filming scary scenes is much less daunting than she imagined. "But New Orleans itself has so much history and a generally eerie vibe. When I went into my hotel room, I felt something creepy, and then when I told people on set where I was staying, they were like, 'Oh, you're staying there. Yikes.' It freaked me out."
2. The Fat Lady just wants to be loved.
"All I was told to begin with was that she was an overweight woman from an affluent home. It wasn't until I booked the job and was given the first script that I realized she had such an interesting backstory. When the character is introduced, [viewers] will see how and why she ended up joining the freak show. Ima is a big ol' adorable innocent girl who just wants to belong and be around people who treat her like she's normal. She develops a really heavy crush on someone. There are some cute boys on the show. Which one will it be?"
The Fat Lady might also sing. Well, based on a production photo, we know she at least plays guitar. Metz, who is a singer in real life, owns a six-string but cannot play more than a three-chord tune… badly. "I've attempted to learn many times, but it doesn't stick. I've taken some more lessons while I was here so that I can look like I'm playing onscreen," she explained. "I was excited to join the band because the musical numbers have been my favorite part since Jessica sang 'Life on Mars' in that German accent. I've downloaded every song."
3. Metz could relate to Ima's size struggles.
"Ima contends with being overweight and rich in the '50s. There were all these beautiful, thin women in her circle, and it was always about what you are wearing and what you look like and whether you have the martini ready for your husband at all times. It is not all that different than how I feel as a plus-size woman in life and in Hollywood, where everyone puts an emphasis on how you look. I definitely have insecurities about it, so I really related to what she was going through. You have to use what you know to make a part real."
Metz was ecstatic to discover that she wasn't fat enough to portray Ima and therefore had to be fitted with a fat suit. "I was thrilled to find out that I wasn't big enough. It was a first in my life. It was liberating. Physically, I am a different person onscreen because the suit is so cumbersome. My bust is something crazy like 109 inches. I can't cross my legs. I walk differently. There are hallways at work I don't fit in. If it is 75 or 80 degrees outside, it is like 100 in the suit, and it makes me sweat. All that helped me get into character."
4. The fat suit provides endless entertainment.
"Everybody loves playing with the suit. It has a pretty nice derrière, and everyone wants to feel what it's made of. I have no shame, so I attempted to twerk in it. I don't know what I'm doing in real life, much less in a fat suit, so I had to get the others to show me, so there were, like, six of us trying to twerk. I hope they got B roll."
"Wearing her couch" also occasionally becomes an unintended comedy routine for her eyes only. "The funniest moment was when I got stuck in my trailer before I realized I couldn't fit through the door when I was in the suit. I'd gone back to get something I'd forgotten and got caught. No one knew I'd left, and I thought, 'If I ruin this suit or rip this dress (made with bed sheets, FYI) or give people the wrong impression by not showing up on time, it is going to be Bad News Bears.' Fight-or-flight took over. I had to suck it in, squish it, knead it, hold the dress, and slowly pull it through until I stumbled down the stairs. I almost wish someone had been there to see, because they would have been laughing their butt off."
5. She's praying for a Dandy death.
Since the cast doesn't get a lot of notice about plot developments, they spend a lot of time coming up with theories about who will live and who will die. "You don't know much until you have a script in your hands, so every week everyone is like, 'What's going to happen next? Who is going to be killed off?' Once Finn [Wittrock, the Dandy character] said, 'I think I am going to kill all of you, every last freak.' That would be amazing. I freaking love Finn so much. In real life, he's sweet and kind and funny, but the character he has created with Dandy is just not right. He is so much more scary than poor little Twisty ever was. His intentions come from a way more evil place. Not that it's his fault. You know, the inbreeding made him do it."
Click the photo below to launch the gallery of Freak Show deaths... if you dare.
American Horror Story: Freak Show airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.