evan peters is the villain we love

Photographed by Felisha Tolentino / Styled by Christine Baker

on the eve of the fifth season of the show that’s defined his career, the 28-year-old prepares to go even badder

Evan Peters is terrified of hotels. It’s unclear whether this has been a lifelong phobia for the actor, or if it’s something new. After all, he and his co-stars did just receive some of the scripts for American Horror Story: Hotel, the latest season of Ryan Murphy’s chilling hit anthology series, and Peters has already torn through the first three episodes. But now, a couple of days later, he’s standing in a stairwell at Harvard House, a particularly creepy, crumbling old motel in Hollywood, which is leaving him a little unsettled. 

“There are so many spirits and demons,” he says ominously. “So many people have been through those halls, those rooms. You don’t know.” 

He pauses and looks around. It’s a weekend in late June at the decrepit Hollywood Boulevard boarding house; the place is stone silent save the sound of a few passing cars. The doors to a couple of rooms upstairs stand ajar, revealing piles of remodeling supplies that look untouched since 1975. 

“We’re in a crazy motel right now—we don’t know what’s happened here.”

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After spending seasons two through four of the series as a falsely accused serial killer, a pitiful Franken-boyfriend, and an unlucky freak-show performer with daddy issues, Peters is excited to finally return to where he started in season one: as the villain.

“It’s really hard to play the guy on the receiving end,” he explains. “You’re constantly battling yourself doing these things that the character chooses—you’re like, ‘No, don’t do that, man! Don’t go down that hallway, come on!’ It’s much more fun to be the guy who’s terrorizing everybody.”

In truth, the actor is a recent and perhaps reluctant convert to the horror genre, preferring instead hard sci-fi, so his part in AHS has required ongoing research. Filming for Hotel only just started this month, but as he talks, it’s clear Peters is already thinking about his character’s entire arc. 

“It’s hard as a hero to react, but it’s hard as a villain to justify what you’re doing,” he explains. “To humanize it. I think it was Javier Bardem, while he was doing No Country for Old Men, who said, ‘You don’t have to do that for a villain...’. And he was fantastic in that movie.”

But press Peters for details about his character, and all you’ll get are roadblocks. “I can’t really say anything, but I’m very excited about it,” he says, more than once. 

Like its preceding seasons, American Horror Story: Hotel is being kept tightly under wraps until it debuts in October. At publication time, all we know are a handful of new cast members (Cheyenne Jackson, Max Greenfield, and Lady Gaga—no singing, though), a few character names (Peters will play someone called Mr. March), and a promise that personalities from previous seasons will be checking in. According to Murphy, Hotel will be “straight horror...a little bloodier and grislier than anything we’ve done before.”

“It’s my favorite season so far, and I haven’t said that,” says Peters. “It’ll be very different, different than anything I’ve ever played, in my career and on the show.”

Photographed by Felisha Tolentino

It’s been a long time coming, as most of Peters’s roles leading up to AHS ranged from angsty suburban teen (SleepoverPhil of the Future) to…well, angsty suburban teen (One Tree HillKick-Ass). Since being cast in 2011 as Tate Langdon—admittedly also an angsty suburban teen, but this time a murderous psychopathic one who’s also a ghost—he’s started nabbing bigger, better, and more complicated jobs. Tomorrow, for example, he flies to Montreal to begin filming 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, in which he’ll reprise his X-Men: Days of Future Past character as the speedy kleptomaniac Quicksilver. On top of that he’ll be playing Dwight Chapin, the deputy assistant to President Nixon during Watergate, in Elvis & Nixon, a movie about the president’s infamous meeting with the King in 1970.

Horror Story is allowing me to do different roles, not get pigeonholed into one thing,” says Peters. “I want to do it all…see if I can do it.”

Over the past 20 minutes, the air around the stairwell has been slowly filling with music, first soft, then louder and louder until Peters has to repeat himself to be heard. Now it’s finally clear what’s going on: the Hollywood Carnival parade is making its way down the street with multiple bands, PA systems, and massive feather headdresses in tow, which means it’s time to wrap things up. 

“I’m a character actor,” he says. “I never wanted to do just myself. I don’t like to be me—in fact, that’s one of my pitfalls now, when directors say, ‘Just be yourself.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t want to fuckin’ be myself! That’s why I’m acting! That’s why I’m an actor!’ I want to lose myself in a role. That’s the goal, for me.”

Photographed by Felisha Tolentino

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds



Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.