In three seasons on FX’s American Horror Story, Sarah Paulson has had to telepathically commune with the dead, breast-feed an adult sociopathic killer, and have sex while surrounded by dozens of snakes, to pick just a few discomfiting scenes from a series that has become a hit thanks its gothic blend of the camp and the demonic. Yet it was filming a seemingly mundane sequence for the first episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show, as the new season is titled, that caused Paulson to melt down, worried she might not be up to the task of playing Bette and Dot, conjoined twins who are recruited to help revive an embattled freak show in 1950s Florida.
The trouble? While eating a roll of bread (as Bette), Paulson had to simultaneously write in her diary (as Dot), a disorienting feat of mind-body multitasking. “They have two heads and two brains in one body, but, of course, I only have one of each,” explains the actress, 39, over a boozy dinner in New Orleans, where the show is currently shooting. “So I was doing my part as Bette”—here Paulson begins buttering a roll with her left hand—“but as Dot I’m writing with my dominant side” — she pantomimes the movement with the fork in her right — “and my voice kept wanting to come out as Dot. I freaked out. Before I knew it, I was crying on set.” Ryan Murphy, the show’s co-creator, stopped shooting to take Paulson for a reassuring walk. “He was like, ‘Lady, you’re doing something that no one has ever done before,’” Paulson says. “Which was nice, but I was just so scared.” She pauses, then adds, “I am so scared.”
Awesome news – Sarah and the ladies of American Horror Story are guest on Watch What Happens Live Thursday!
New event photos up in the Stunning Sarah Paulson Gallery – thanks to Holly for the donations.
Stunning Sarah Paulson Gallery > Events > 2014 > 10-21: ELLE’s 21st Annual Women In Hollywood
Stunning Sarah Paulson Gallery > American Horror Story > 402 “Massacres and Matinees”
Set the DVR – Sarah is set to be a guest on Craig Ferguson tomorrow night!
What did you learn from working with Kathleen Turner?
Kathleen is incredibly focused and dedicated, and she’s not a complainer. She has rheumatoid arthritis, but I never heard her complain. She was never late for work. She was never short with anyone because of the pain she must have been in. It was a very early lesson for me to be aware of people around you, to keep whatever’s going on with you privately private, and show up and do your work.
Did you always want to be an actress?
I feel like when I was a zygote I wanted to be an actress. I feel like I came out of the womb wanting to act. No one in my family was an actor, so it’s not like I even know that you could do that for a living. Once it became clear to me that I could do it as a profession, I never wanted to do anything else.
Stunning Sarah Paulson Gallery > American Horror Story > 401 “Monsters Among Us”
“Most people who do conjoined twins do something where they connect them at the chest and you historically have two actors playing those different parts,” Murphy told The Hollywood Reporter during a conference call this week. “I really wanted Sarah to be both roles because I thought that would be more challenging. We did a test early on that was good, but I didn’t love it. I thought if we kept working on it, it would get better — and it did.”
To create the very different Tattler sisters, the production took a mold of Paulson’s head and had two prosthetic heads built — one for Dot and another for Bette.
“So when Sarah is doing her coverage where she’s Dot, she has on a fake head to her left, which is Bette, and it moves,” Murphy said. “She will record her dialogue that the other one has and she’ll have an ear wig, so she literally has to do scenes with herself, which is insane. It’s absolutely crazy.”