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Sonoma native’s ‘American Horror’ success story

Alexander Ward is terrifying, grotesque and macabre.

And in his world that means he’s shooting ahead on a path to stardom.

The Sonoma native is currently a featured creature on two hit TV shows, “American Horror Story” on FX and Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow.”

As the Addiction Demon on “American Horror Story” he plays a wax-like creature with melted facial features, and recently appeared in a segment the show’s creator Ryan Murphy calls “the most disturbing scene we’ve ever done.” Ward’s been the Addiction Demon on five episodes and counting. The original monster he played on the show, Mattress Man, seems for now to be permanently buried.

In his Addiction Demon make-up, Ward can’t see a thing and only has a small slit to breath out of, and sip smoothies. “I’m in that thing all day,” he laments.

And while the audience is meant to be revolted by his character’s violent actions, Ward says that he and fellow actors Sarah Paulson and Max Greenfield (also of “New Girl”) were laughing through the whole take – which involved a mix of S&M leather, violence and over-the-top evil-maniacal-ness.

“It was a lot of fun. We kept saying to each other, “I can’t believe we are doing this.’”

Ward is blown away about being on the same set with “American Horror Story” guest stars like Lady Gaga and Kathy Bates.

“I grew up watching (Bates) in ‘Misery,’ and unlike the characters she sometimes plays, “is so, so nice. A really kind, warm woman.”

Ward went to Sonoma Charter School, Adele Harrison and graduated from Sonoma Valley High School in 2007 – and by then he’d already gotten his start scaring people as part of the now-defunct Dragon’s Head Haunted House during the Halloween season.

He then studied theater at Santa Rosa Junior College and, after graduating, was accepted to the American Academy of Theatre Arts in Los Angeles. There he honed his acting skills and pursued his interest in makeup. He even considered becoming a makeup artist – that is, if he couldn’t find parts playing zombies.

Ward has trained in martial arts and as a stunt man, too, and those skills – combined with his 6-foot-4-inch, 150 pound frame – make him particularly adaptable to monsterhood. “They like tall and lean,” he said, “And I don’t care if I don’t look pretty on screen.”

As in so many other careers, Ward credits good advice from teachers and networking as steps in breaking into a very difficult industry. While studying theater he was mentored by makeup aficionado Scott Ramp, who recommended he attend Monsterpalooza, a monster and horror convention where Ward met like-minded people making a living in fake blood and gore. “Everybody in the industry goes there,” he said.

He met a make-up artist at Monsterpalooza in 2011 who told Ward he would love to use him as a “creature” on Sleepy Hollow. Time passed and Ward was working in a clothing store on Melrose Avenue when he got a call from the show’s stunt coordinator, telling him, “We are flying you out tomorrow.” Ward spent the next four weeks in North Carolina where the show was being filmed, playing assorted creatures, a few times even working 24-hour days.

“It was so exciting and there was so much to learn,” he said. “I had to pretend like I knew what was going on.”

When he returned to Los Angeles, the clothing store was closed and he went through seven months of auditions and no work, living off his “Sleepy Hollow” earnings.

But then a pair of makeup-artist associates who work on “American Horror Story” helped get him an audition on the show. He landed the role of Tall Man, but the scene ended up being cut and Ward was literally on the cutting room floor.

The next season he got another request from “American Horror Story” asking him to send in headshots. “And then I didn’t hear anything, which is 90 percent of what happens in L.A.,” Ward laughs now, because he did eventually get the call that led to Mattress Man and now Addiction Demon. And he his also occasionally still doing small parts for “Sleepy Hollow.” “Last week it was me who ‘whispers in the dark’,” he says cryptically.

Ward has loved monsters since he was a little boy and saw “Poltergeist” when he was 7. His mother, Georgette Darcy, who works for the Sonoma Valley Fire & Rescue Authority, loves scary movies; he has shared her passion since his earliest days.

His father, Robert Ward, has also been very supportive of his career choice. “I would run around the backyard pretending I was a monster,” he said, “and now I get to be a professional 5-year-old.”

Ward now has enough hours working in television to become a member of the Screen Actors Guild and, at 26, seems to have a solid career ahead.

“Growing up in Sonoma I was a little bit the weird one,” concedes the one-day Mattress Man. “I was always wearing black and strange outfits and I don’t think a lot of people got where I was coming from.”

Now he’s gone from being a barista at the Coffee Bean on Hollywood Boulevard to earning a living as a bogeyman on primetime TV.

“It’s what I love doing,” Ward said.

And here’s hoping he’s doing it for many more scary scenes ahead.