admin • 06 20 2018


As fans of “American Horror Story” eagerly await more spoilers about Season 8, which will be a crossover between “Murder House” (Season 1) and “Coven” (Season 3), Sarah Paulson teased this little nugget of information in our recent interview: “My character is something I’ve never done on the show before.” Hmm, does that mean she’ll be playing a brand new character? Have we truly seen the last of her former roles, “Murder House’s” medium Billie Dean Howard and “Coven’s” supreme witch Cordelia Foxx?

Paulson declares, “I can confirm now that I’ve read it all that Ryan Murphy has said publicly about the hybrid nature of the tone. [It’s] a real combination of sort of earlier days of ‘Horror Story’ in tone mixed with the newer versions of things. I think he’s kind of doing something again where he’s reinventing it, and its exciting. My character is something I’ve never done on the show before.”

“Kathy Bates is back!” Paulson continues. “I missed her so much, I’m very excited about that.” Other confirmed cast members for “American Horror Story” Season 8 include Evan Peters, Emma Roberts, Cheyenne Jackson, Billie Lourd, Billy Eichner, Adina Porter, Leslie Grossman and new addition Joan Collins.

One of the big hurdles for Paulson in Season 8 will be stepping behind the camera for the first time as a director. “I feel as excited and terrified as I’ve ever felt about doing anything,” she admits nervously. “I can imagine myself doing it in terms of from a performance standpoint, in terms of knowing how to help an actor. But in terms of where to put the camera, I don’t know about that!” She gains comfort though in having the “safety and security” of her “AHS” family behind her.

Paulson is on the 2018 Emmy ballot for her “AHS: Cult” role of Ally Mayfair-Richards, a wife and mother whose phobias and anxieties return after Donald Trump wins the electoral college. Ally soon joins a murderous cult that’s led by the devilish Kai Anderson (Peters), and then she eventually claims her power back when she runs for government office.

admin • 06 20 2018

Sarah Paulson: “Ocean’s 8 is a fantasy”


Cape Town – It’s been more than 10 years since an Ocean-led crew has conned their way to millions of dollars.

Now a new gang is banding together to carry out the ultimate heist.

But this time, it’s Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) masterminding the plan, and she’ll only require eight supremely skilled women to pull it off.

Joining Bullock as the title eight are Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter.

Paulson who plays Tammy a former black market traded who has traded the black market for the supermarket. She looks for all the world like a typical wife and mother unless you look in her garage, full of stolen merchandise.

Sarah sat down for a Q&A about her role in the film, the dynamic between the cast and what it was like to film at The Met Gala.



What drew you to Ocean’s 8?  

One day, [screenwriter / actor] Danny Strong, who wrote Game Change and was good friends with [Ocean’s 8 director/co-screenwriter] Gary Ross, texted me, asking if he could give Gary my phone number.  Gary called me about two minutes later, and then within a few days, he sent the Ocean’s 8 script to me.  Gary then asked if I wanted to be a part of it – as if I could say no!


Were you familiar with the three previous Ocean’s films directed by Steven Soderbergh?  

Yes, I had seen every one of them – and I had also seen the original 1960 Ocean’s 11 starring Frank Sinatra.  I found them all to be endlessly entertaining and incredibly fun.  It just seemed like the actors were all having the best time, and so we as an audience were having the best time.  I thought if Ocean’s 8 had that kind of magic, we would be in good shape.


Did you work with Gary Ross and co-screenwriter Olivia Milch to shape the character of Tammy, or was it already on the page for you? 

What Gary and Olivia did with Tammy was really interesting. Tammy has children and other responsibilities. She was once heavily into this game, and then opted out to raise a family. But when Sandy Bullock as Debbie Ocean approaches Tammy and asks if she’d like back in, the adrenaline rush is just too exciting for Tammy to pass up.


What skill set does Tammy bring to the team?

She’s the fence – a go-between for stolen goods. Tammy is running a small side business in her garage, which her family doesn’t know about.  It’s her way of keeping a toe in a world that she found incredibly thrilling, exciting and dangerous. And when Debbie whispers in her ear the amount of money she’d be netting after the heist, it’s just too good an offer to refuse.


Did you do any preparation to develop a fluency with that line of work?

I read a few books about being a fence.  But this isn’t the kind of deep, dark psychological thriller where I’d have to immerse myself in the underbelly of fencing and the world of white collar crime.  I enjoyed myself with my castmates and let the script dictate how this should go.


Did you know any of your castmates before beginning work on Ocean’s 8? 

I did a movie, Carol, with Cate Blanchett, and I knew Annie [Hathaway] socially; we both grew up New York and we’d see each other socially and at auditions.  I didn’t know the others, but I made seven new friends, which was exciting.


What was the dynamic like once you all did come together on set?  

More than one person has asked me if we had any fights, which was shocking to me because I thought, why would that be the first thing people would assume would happen if you put eight women in a room together? Some people were taking bets on who would be the last person out of the trailer and how long everyone was going to take to arrive on set. Actually, we were always ready while they were still lighting on set.  We also had a great time in the morning, getting ready together. It was like a real party, but a party with substantive people with great senses of humour.  It was like being at the greatest dinner gathering of all time.


The film features an epic recreation of the Met Gala. What was that like?

Filming in The Met was incredible because in-between set ups, you’re just going, “Oh, look at that artifact from…” Certain parts of the museum were cordoned off.  We couldn’t go everywhere.  But we did find ourselves in places we probably shouldn’t have been in.

Since the filmmakers were recreating the Met Ball, they had recruited celebrities, including the Kardashians, Katie Holmes, Zach Posen and several celebrated designers, to help authenticate the look of the evening.  There was a glamorous green room/bar, where these notables could relax between camera set-ups.  Meanwhile, we actors were in a dusty green room, which seemed like it hadn’t been vacuumed in a long time.  And we were hungry because you’re not allowed to bring food into The Met.  Then, a friend of Awkwafina, who was upstairs cooking, sent her a text, asking if we wanted some food.  And we were, like, “Food!?”  Awkwafina and I went up to that special green room, and we couldn’t believe it:  people were getting fancy whiskey bottles engraved – and, yes, there was food!   We were all saying, “Now, wait a second.  How come we didn’t know this was here? We’ve spent six hours downstairs in this tiny room, all of us together, not even having a carrot stick, because we didn’t think we could bring any food into the museum (laughs).”


Was it surreal to be at The Met in couture, and did you work closely with costume Sarah Edwards in pulling together Tammy’s wardrobe? 

Every single dress we’re wearing during the heist scenes were designed especially for the movie and specifically for us.  I got to wear the most extraordinary Prada dress that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.  That’s pretty extraordinary.  Sarah and I reviewed several design sketches Prada had in mind, and we picked our favourite, which best suited the Gala’s theme.


As the women plan and execute this incredibly ambitious heist, how does their dynamic evolve?  

Debbie knows all of them but the rest are strangers to one another.  They have a bit of trepidation, wondering how they’re all going to work together. But it becomes clear, very quickly, that each woman is the best in her field, and all they want to do is pull off this heist.  Everyone has the same goal.  They become an extraordinary team, and the heist would have been a disaster without each of their contributions.  There’s an enormous sense of camaraderie and gratitude, mixed with surprise, that they did this together.


What do you think it is about ambitious heist stories that draws us in and makes us root for the people behind it?

I think Ocean’s 8 is a fantasy. Sometimes you just really need an opportunity to kick back and let yourself be taken on this journey, which makes you forget about your troubles for a while and immerses you in another world where people are having a good time and doing something a little bit dangerous and a little bit naughty, but with a great deal of humour and heart. That’s the extraordinary thing about having a movie-going experience like this: you can transport yourself somewhere glamorous and fun, and watch a bunch of people work well together.

The film release in SA cinemas on Friday, 22 June. 


admin • 01 25 2018

Ryan Murphy and Sarah Paulson met in 2004 when the actress made a guest appearance in Murphy’s Nip/Tuck. Since then she’s become a muse for the show runner—the good kind, not the Yoko Ono kind—starring in his three groundbreaking anthology series (seven seasons of American Horror Story; as prosecutor Marcia Clark in American Crime Story, for which she won her first Emmy; and Feud). And while the 43-year-old’s career spans decades, it’s her always surprising roles in Murphy’s creative circus—lesbian journalist, heroin-addicted ghost, conjoined twins—that have thrust her into A-list territory, landing her in films opposite Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) and Cate Blanchett (Carol).

Her cinematic oeuvre grows with The Post (December 22), the Steven Spielberg-directed, star-studded drama about the publication of the Pentagon Papers, and with June’s all-female heist flick, Ocean’s Eight. (She’ll team up with Murphy again for his new Netflix show, Ratched, a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest prequel). But don’t let her diabolical résumé fool you. Deep down Paulson’s just a Julia Roberts fan girl who thinks public bathrooms are gross. She gives us an earful about both—and then some.


You once recorded a fan’s voicemail greeting. Angeleno you’d ask to record yours?
Diane Keaton. It would be like, “Oh, hi! Um, hi. Oh, hey! It’s Sarah, please leave a message!” Something charming and perfect and funny. I wish she could do a virtual one, though, so she could greet people in a bowler hat and glasses and gloves.

You’re a nervous flyer. Costar you’d be happiest to see in the cockpit? Most terrified?
John Travolta could be in the cockpit, and I’d feel OK. He’s an actual pilot, so the man can fly me anywhere he’d like. I wouldn’t be excited to see Emma Roberts up there. I trust her with almost anything else, but neither of us are fans of turbulence. So the idea that she’d be navigating that—nope. She’s one of the smartest girls in town, and that is the truth, but in the cockpit, nope.

Three Julia Roberts characters you’d staff at a newspaper?
Erin Brockovich, obvi. Shelby from Steel Magnolias—she’d be the style editor. And then Vivian from Pretty Woman because she wouldn’t tolerate any injustice in the workplace.

Profession you could fake based on the characters you’ve played?
Legitimately? I don’t think I could get away with any of them, honey. But probably a lawyer, because I spent the most time investigating Marcia Clark. I’d do it by cheating and texting Marcia under the table.

If a newspaper hired you as a critic, what would you critique?
Bathroom hygiene etiquette. Listen, you want to squat? Have at it. But if you spray everywhere and don’t take the time to clean up after yourself, you are a vile person. And I could write about it at length.

Song that’d be playing during a montage of your life?
Shawn Colvin’s cover of “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)”. It’s like a walking-slowly-in-the-rain-and-maybe-you’re-on-a-bench-crying type of song. But I’d like the music of my montage to shift, so when I go into different rooms, it’d be “Beast of Burden” by the Rolling Stones.

Three women you could pull off an L.A. heist with?
Sandra Bullock, because if you’ve been heisting with her once, you’d know she’s someone you have to have with you always. I want her with me all the time when I do everything. Michelle Obama, because I miss her, and everything needs a moral center. And my sister, Elizabeth Paulson, because she’s wily. We’d probably try to get some stuff out of the Getty.

Which fake paper would you work for: The Daily PlanetDaily Prophet, orDaily Bugle?
The Daily Planet. I always imagined that I’d know Clark Kent was Superman—the glasses don’t hide that jawline and that hair. I also like the idea of him scooping me up, one fist in the air, and flying into the sky. What girl would be like, “No, thanks”?

admin • 01 25 2018

Hollywood’s hardest working woman is finally enjoying her view from the top.


It’s difficult to imagine anything that would intimidate Sarah Paulson. She’s an actress who seems to choose roles for their audacity, and she inhabits her characters fearlessly– whether she’s playing Marcia Clark in American Crime Story, a brutal salve owner in Twelve Years a Slave, or conjoined twins in American Horror Story. Yet when Paulson arrived on set for The Post, Steven Spielberg’s film about the late Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and the legal battle around the Pentagon Papers, Paulson admits that she began “totally freaking out.”

“This movie, for all of its historical importance, is so much more than a history lesson,” says Paulson, who plays Tony Bradlee, the wife of Post editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks). Indeed, it’s also the first time Spielberg, Hanks, and Streep have collaborated on a project, making it a film landmark as well. “These are arguably the most respected filmmakers and actors of their generation,” Paulson says. “That made it a very extraordinary place to be. It was a pinch-me moment.”

Paulson is having a lot of those moments lately. Following her Emmy-winning performance as Clark in 2016, accolades and offers have been cascading in. Over the coming year, in addition to The Post, she will appear in the all-female spy comedy Ocean’s Eight, the Netflix series Ratched (as Nurse Ratched, of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest fame), and M. Night Shyamalan’s upcoming thriller Glass. She also recently signed on to the movie adaptation of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch.

I’ve got a window, as a woman of 43. Right now it’s cracked this big and I’m trying to keep it open with both hands, as wide as possible, for as long as possible.

“It’s head-spinning,” she says over tea in West Hollywood. Paulson brings her own tea bags and casually slices a chunk of Beauty Butter, a collagen booster, into her cup. (“It’s amazing stuff,” she swears, adding that the butter, not a needle, is her anti-aging weapon; a character actress, mind you, must move her face.) “But part of me is scared. I’ve got a window, as a woman of 43. Right now it’s cracked this big”—she holds her hands inches apart—“and I’m trying to keep it open with both hands, as wide as possible, for as long as possible.”

No one else seems to be worried that Paulson’s window will close anytime soon. Spielberg had to negotiate with American Horror Story co-creator Ryan Murphy to borrow Paulson for The Post (both were shooting at the same time), and The Post co-producer Amy Pascal calls the actress a “guiding light” both in the film and real life. Her castmates seem to adore her (“I loved every minute of working with her,” Hanks says), and she has inspired something akin to universal admiration in Hollywood—quite a feat in a town often driven by furious ambition and envy.

If anything, Paulson has become the emblem of the Real Deal, the rare breed of actress who masters roles so completely that she can make audiences wholly believe in her. “She just transforms herself into another person,” says American Crime Story co-creator Scott Alexander. “When the director says ‘action,’ she drops herself into an emotional moment instantaneously. It’s like science fiction.”

Katharine Graham was deeply reluctant to enter public life, but Paulson occupies the other end of the ambition spectrum. She jokes that she knew she wanted to become an actress while still in utero, and began seeking the spotlight soon after her worldly debut. In the decades since, she has managed to work almost incessantly, starting with an off-Broadway role at age 12 and a guest spot on Law & Order just after she graduated from New York City’s LaGuardia High School, in 1993, where she studied performing arts, before attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

In the years that followed, she became a ubiquitous but background presence. She scored roles on television shows such as American Gothic, Leap of Faith, The D.A., and David Milch’s acclaimed HBO series Deadwood. There was also film and stage work with such co-stars as Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, and Kathleen Turner, yet Paulson never felt that she was fulfilling her potential.

Five years ago I was a disappointed actress. I was a benched player. I wanted a shot, and I felt I wasn’t getting a shot.

“Five years ago I was a disappointed actress,” she says. “I was a benched player. I wanted a shot, and I felt I wasn’t getting a shot.” How did she break through? “Ryan Murphy,” she says simply. “I got thrown a giant life raft.” Indeed, Murphy—writer, producer, and showrunner (he created or co-created Glee, Feud, and Nip/Tuck, among other successful series)—seems to have found a muse in Paulson. “I have the dream, and then I let her in on the dream, and then we let other people in on the dream,” he said in an interview last year. “But she’s the one I tell first.”

Paulson may have thought of herself as a benched player before her work with Murphy started turning heads in the industry, but the fact is a lot of Hollywood power players had been noticing her performances for years. The American Crime Story co-creators thought that she was the standout of Down with Love back in 2003, and 2012’s Game Change marked what Pascal calls “the first time I became aware of Sarah’s immense talent,” adding that the movie convinced her that Paulson’s range was vast.

For Shyamalan, the recommendations for Paulson were impossible to ignore. “The people in our office are often talking about special things that are rising in the zeitgeist, and Sarah’s name kept coming up,” he says. (Details about the actress’s part in his next film are under wraps.) “So I started watching her more. I think it’s a difficult thing to portray true empathy for the agility of human nature and to truly let yourself be emotionally naked in front of others. Sarah can do that. She’s fierce and comes at things in a way that’s dedicated and intense.”

When Paulson’s 2016 portrayal of prosecutor Marcia Clark in American Crime Story earned her that Emmy, as well as critical acclaim, she knew she had entered a new chapter in her career. So far it has brought her satisfaction—and anxiety, too. “Going to the next level means that you’re at the bottom of the next rung,” she says. She points out that she’s now vying for roles with many top-tier actresses. “Look, many of them have won Academy Awards. I don’t expect to get offered the roles before them, but I still want them.” She smiles. “All it means is that I have to keep working the way I always have, leaving my ego at home and trying to just think about what is true.”

To me, disappearing is everything. I’m not interested in a character’s goodness. I’m interested in what makes them human.

“To me, disappearing is everything,” Paulson says. She couldn’t care less if her characters are likable. “I’m not interested in a character’s goodness. I’m interested in what makes them human.” To portray these personalities, she says that she must put aside her own disdain for them and play the characters unapologetically. The roles she takes may be wildly diverse, but she brings to each a trademark intensity.

“She is ferocious and versatile and deeply real,” says actress Amanda Peet, Paulson’s best friend of 20 years. “But she’s also exquisitely funny. Within seconds of meeting her, I was laughing so hard—the kind of laughing where you’re like, ‘Someone should call an ambulance.’ ” Paulson’s colleagues agree that she can bring humor even to the darkest parts and moments.

Unconventionality is central to Paulson’s allure, both onscreen and off. Her relationship with actress Holland Taylor, who is 30 years older than she, has inspired legions of fans who appear to be seriously invested in the romance. (BuzzFeed recently ran a story on the pair with the headline “Sarah Paulson and Holland Taylor Are Dating and It’s Everything.”) Paulson bristles a little when questioned about public interest in her relationship.

“I do not want to be defined by who I share my bed, my home, my soul with,” she says. “My choices in life have been unconventional, and that’s my business.” Then she pauses. “But I do want to live responsibly and truthfully without hiding. It’s complicated, because there is a lot of hate in this world, and a lot of good can come from quote-unquote normalizing something for people who don’t see it as normal. Our relationship represents a certain amount of hope and risk. Maybe there’s something brave in it. Maybe it encourages others to make brave choices.” She pauses again. “What else can I say? We love each other.”

Our relationship represents a certain amount of hope and risk. Maybe there’s something brave in it. Maybe it encourages others to make brave choices.

An aversion to tradition seems to run in Paulson’s family. Her mother, who gave birth to Paulson in Tampa when she was 21 and to Paulson’s sister when she was 23, decided to uproot the family and move to New York City without Paulson’s father to pursue a writing career alone. “My mother had a cotillion,” Paulson says, “but she wanted to be bohemian.”

The family moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Queens; Paulson’s mother took a job as a waitress at the theater district haunt Sardi’s and finagled tuition for a private middle school for Paulson by working in the school’s office. “She was ballsy and brave and refused to take no for an answer,” Paulson says. “I’m the same way. Molecularly, we have that as part of our DNA.”

Paulson says the move undoubtedly raised her career’s trajectory. (If they hadn’t gone to New York, she says, “I’d be doing dinner theater in Florida.”) Yet at times it was a painful existence in which structure and security felt like alien concepts. “My mom worked late, and I was at home a lot by myself,” she remembers. “It was good for my imagination—and bad for it, too.”

To soothe herself to sleep at night, she sometimes imagined that she was in a giant metal bunker: “Nothing cut through it.” Today, her idea of a safe house has evolved. She recently bought a home in the Hollywood Hills, which she’s renovating. “I bought it a year ago, and I’m still not in it. What does that say about me?”

It’s selfish, but I think the word selfish gets a bad rap. —Paulson, on her decision not to have children

Paulson has wrestled with having children of her own. Motherhood can be tricky for an actress, she says, especially for her, because she becomes hyper-responsible for creatures in her care. At one point she owned two dogs—Italian greyhound–Chihuahua mixes named Alice and Millie; their initials are tattooed on her arm—and even they became a distraction. “I don’t want to be torn,” she says. “I don’t want to look at my child and say, ‘You’re the most extraordinary thing that ever happened to me, but also the death knell.’ It was hard for my mother to be everywhere, to come to the school play and make a living. I’ve always known what I wanted out of my professional life, and I didn’t want to turn around and go, ‘If I had only made the choice to just dedicate this time in my life to me.’ It’s selfish, but I think the word selfish gets a bad rap.” She says her children are the characters she has played. “I’ve devoted more time and energy to creating a soft landing for all of them, as much as possible. So I have been of service in a way.”

The pleasure that she has taken in playing those characters is almost palpable. These days her schedule is full, but she does have a wish list of roles she would love to tackle, including Ibsen heroine Hedda Gabler and Mary, Queen of Scots. One gets the sense that more awards are in her future—after all, she received six Emmy nominations for six different characters in the space of five years—but Paulson insists that the purity of the work is still what drives her.

“It’s extraordinary that critics keep noticing my work,” she says. “But the fact is, I got to play all of those incredible characters. And that has to be the reward. The joy is always in the work.”

admin • 12 10 2017
With a résumé that embraces everything from a heroin-addicted ghost to O.J. Simpson, Sarah Paulson doesn’t exactly toe the Hollywood line. The Emmy Award winner talks to Jane Mulkerrins about her unconventional choice

WhatsApp groups don’t come much more envy-inducing than one particular thread on Sarah Paulson’s phone. Titled ‘O8’ – as in Ocean’s Eight, the film due out next summer – it is a solidly A-list chat between Paulson and her co-stars: Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, rising star Awkwafina, and Rihanna.

“I’m not going to lie, it is a very cool chain to be part of,” Paulson nods, looking a little sheepish, as if barely able to believe her membership. “We can go weeks without a chirp, then someone sends one message, and it’s like – ‘brp, brp, brp’ – your phone just blows up for hours.”

Paulson plays Tammy, one of the seven women recruited by Debbie Ocean (Bullock), to carry out a heist at the Met Gala. It’s an infinitely more mainstream blockbuster than most of 42-year-old Paulson’s previous work.

“I’ve always fancied myself a journeyman actress; a working character actress,” she muses. “Early on in my career, people couldn’t place me. I had long blond hair like every girl in Hollywood. I looked like four different actresses all rolled into one. I wasn’t standing out in any way.”

That is impossible to fathom now. Paulson made her name playing serious, competent women in cerebral dramas – the political journalist Nicolle Wallace in Game Change; Cate Blanchett’s former lover in Carol – alongside a parade of dark, weird characters, including a heroin-addicted ghost, a psychic, and a pair of conjoined twins in the cult anthology series American Horror Story. Then, last year, her star was given a meteoric boost via her role as prosecutor Marcia Clark in smash-hit miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson, for which she won an Emmy Award.

Paulson is candid about the effect that playing the iconic lawyer has had on her life, though is endearingly uncomfortable describing it. “The difference in terms of my recognizability and my…oh, this is a disgusting word…” – she rolls her eyes – “my profile. It definitely all changed.”

We’re in Manhattan, on the first truly frigid day of the season. Paulson has been shooting The EDITs cover story, and is apologetic for having now changed into leisurewear. Not only is it perfectly excusable – she’s flying home to LA shortly, overnight, for just 24 hours to attend an event – but this is mighty stylish leisurewear: sweatpants by Rag & Bone; overcoat by Acne Studios; a scarf by Valentino; Céline sneakers.

The day we meet, new revelations have emerged about sexual abuse and harassment in Hollywood. “I think that’s what happens when you take the top off something that’s been pressurized for a long time,” observes Paulson. “But there is one positive coming out of this, and that is this knitting together of women. There’s this feeling of being really supported by other women, and that’s incredibly powerful. It’s very clear that there’s a new world order.”

Next up, Paulson stars in The Post, playing Tony Bradlee, the wife of former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. While any film examining power and corruption would feel timely and prescient, The Postseems particularly so. Directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as publisher Katharine Graham, it is the story of the Pentagon Papers, leaked government documents about America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, and the newspaper’s battle to publish them. It is also, inadvertently, something of a feminist narrative.

“Katharine Graham was the first woman to hold the position of publisher in our country, and had to make a huge decision that could potentially cost her the family business,” says Paulson. “It was a very bold decision on her part to publish, and absolutely the right one. She had real integrity and conscience and heart.”

In person, though highly articulate, and with so much to say that her words often tumble out, torrent-like, Paulson is a far cry from the serious characters she frequently inhabits. She’s a fizzing bundle of positive energy, prone to mimicking my British accent (mimicry is one of her favorite pastimes, and she’s very skilled).

Which is not to say the actress lacks focus; far from it. “I come from a family of women who want things,” she says, matter-of-fact. “I am ambitious and unsatisfied in general. I’m not often content with anything the way it is; I always want more. I dreamt about holding an Emmy for a long time. As a kid, I dreamt about holding any kind of statue: I would practice holding an Oscar in the bathroom.”

Paulson was born in Tampa, Florida, but moved to New York aged five with her mother, Catharine, and younger sister, Liz, when her parents divorced. They lived in Queens, where her mother worked as a waitress and took writing classes. At first, all three slept on mattresses on the floor.

“I don’t think I would ever have been as brave as my mother was,” Paulson says, with some wonder. “She was born in Alabama, and grew up in Florida, neither of which she felt was home; she just had to get to New York City, because that’s where she felt she belonged. She was 27 and she had five-year-old and a three year-old. My sister and I both benefited enormously from that want in her.”

Paulson’s mother, now based in upstate New York, is currently writing a novel, while her sister is senior vice president of casting at 20th Century Fox in LA.

At 12 years old, a teacher at Paulson’s school, where she was heavily involved in drama, suggested she apply for the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, aka the Fame school. Though she “wasn’t going to class and smoking a lot in Central Park” in her final years, she landed her first role soon after graduating, as an understudy on Broadway.

Her aspirations back then, though, were firmly mainstream: she had posters of Julia Roberts plastered all over her high-school locker. “I found her so charming and witty and winning,” says Paulson, before letting out a hearty laugh. “And, at the time, people told me I looked like her. So, there was a slight narcissistic connection in my brain. I thought maybe I could play her sister or something.”

But she found the glitzy leading lady was not often the role that came her way. “The two times I was ever asked to play a romantic lead on a TV show, I auditioned as a brunette and they wanted me to go blond,” she once said. “One wanted me to put these giant mermaid-like extensions in. And I put up with it then because of my desperation to work.”

But when Ryan Murphy, the man behind Nip/Tuck and Glee, cast Paulson in three episodes in Season 1 of American Horror Story, she quickly became something of a muse; she has been a central part of his cast for all five subsequent seasons. And not once has he asked her to do something that would make her ‘more attractive’.

“Ryan’s not interested in all the things most people are interested in, which means, if you’re a little bit off-center, he’s liable to gravitate towards you,” she says. Does she see herself as off-center? “I think so. My life choices are, um, unconventional. I’m with a much older person [her girlfriend of two years is actress Holland Taylor, 74] and people find that totally fascinating and odd, and, to me, it’s the least interesting thing about me,” she shrugs. “But I do feel a bit unconventional. I am a woman of a certain age who chose not to have children, and who has made my career my priority. I am the captain of my own ship, and I’ve never looked to anyone else to validate that, or tell me it’s okay.”

She has always resisted being pigeonholed or defined by her sexuality. Before Taylor, she was with actress Cherry Jones, 19 years her senior, for five years, and before that, she dated mainly men. “Early on, when people found out I was with Holland, some said: ‘I think you have to be careful, I’m afraid it’s going to affect your career negatively’. I was like, what? It never occurred to me at all.”

But she did have a moment of self-doubt during her acceptance speech at the Emmys. She wondered whether to say, onstage, ‘I love you’ to Taylor. “It occurred to me, should I not do that?” she says, still looking puzzled as to why it crossed her mind. “And then I thought, why would I not? The fact I’m having this thought is wrong. But I had a moment of societal concern; wondering if, maybe, people who didn’t know that about me would be like, wait, what?” She beams, broadly. “But then, you know, I did it anyway.”

admin • 12 09 2017

admin • 11 18 2017

Sarah Paulson is one of the few members of the American Horror Story ensemble to appear in all seven seasons of the FX anthology series, sometimes even playing multiple characters at once. But in the most recent installment, she faced a new sort of challenge: AHS: Cult eschewed supernatural monsters to examine America’s post-Trump political atmosphere and how fearmongering has affected the country.

In Cult, Paulson plays Ally Mayfair-Richards, a lesbian restaurant owner and Jill Stein voter whose phobias come to the forefront alongside her guilt for helping hand the election to Trump. But over the course of the season, she goes from cowering about clowns, blood, and phobias to vengefully killing her wife Ivy (Allison Pill), destroying alt-right cult leader Kai (Evan Peters), and eventually winning a seat in the U.S. Senate in Tuesday night’s season finale. Vulture spoke with Paulson about her interpretation of Cult’s message, unlocking female rage for the good of society, and how a big glass of vodka helped her get through Election Night 2016.

When you first heard the concept for Cult, what did you think?
I thought it sounded terrifying and I worried that it was going to be so close to home that people would be afraid to watch. That it would be beyond the normal fear of watching it — you know, people who are afraid of clowns, or people who don’t like ghosts or vampires or things that go bump in the night. But, you know, this is obviously dealing with a lot of the things that are in our current worldview. I knew for myself, from an acting standpoint, it would be challenging because of that. I worried that it would keep people away, which thankfully it did not.

It was obviously inspired by the frustrations people felt after the election. Going into this season, what state of mind were you in?
The very, very, very first thing we shot of the entire season was the very first scene of the [first] episode, which is Ivy and Ally and their friends waiting for the election returns. It was the very first thing we put on film for the season and it felt very fresh. A lot of people on our set, no matter their political inclination, felt the wild nature of reliving this. They were playing on our character’s television screen the exact moment when Wolf Blitzer or whomever called the election. It was a very wild thing and I think a lot of people were having some post-traumatic stress experiences on the set.

Was Ally’s election-night experience similar to your own?
It was similar to mine in that it was one of shock. I did not wail and fall to my knees. My first thought was not about Merrick Garland or that I was going to be found out for having voted for Jill Stein. I did drink a glass of vodka that night — a straight vodka on ice and it was quite a tall glass.

I had a very early call on the set of Ocean’s 8 the next morning. But thankfully, I was working with a wonderful male director and there were eight fabulous women to process that moment with, so that was good. I didn’t wail and I didn’t fall to my knees. I did cry, but it was much more sort of softly and to myself, then to my family.

How would you describe Ally’s character arc over the season?
I think it’s a very empowering thing to watch someone be pushed to the brink and have them not fall of the edge of the cliff, but rather step back on their own accord and take a different road. I think she was able to do that because of her feelings about her son and the absolute injustice of what had been perpetrated against her by those [cult members], one of whom was the closest person to her.

From an acting standpoint, it was exciting because I had spent many, many, many, months running around and cowering in terror and weeping. As challenging and exciting as those acting moments can be, it’s also hard to sustain that kind of emotion all the time and to not feel that someone was going to get their comeuppance. I wanted to do some knee-breaking. I wanted to take someone out by the knees. That was a very helpful feeling as a performer, because it only could inform how I was gonna try to play this. It was exciting to me and I was grateful that they found a way to come back to that point, where she was stronger than she ever had been in her life.

By the end, she’s almost as diabolical and charismatic as Kai. Do you think that Ally is as dangerous as he is?
I do think so, in just a different way. That’s what so wonderful about the way the season ends. Ally’s ambition, Ally’s need for justice, Ally’s relentless and unstoppable need for revenge — it’s not just for the greater good of her community, but it is to avenge herself, to take her power back. In order to do that, some people had to fall by the wayside and that was a complicated thing, knowing that she’s done those things. But I think she sleeps well at night, given what was done to her. I don’t think it keeps her awake at night too much that she had to say night-night to Ivy.

Ryan Murphy said that the season would critique both the right and the left. Do you think Ally’s behavior is a warning or a rebuke for liberals? 
I don’t know that I see it quite that way. I think any action creates an opposite and equal reaction. There are consequences to all behaviors, positive and negative, and Ally may feel she’s doing the right thing because she had been so wronged, but in doing the right thing, she is doing some deplorable things along the way herself. I don’t think you can align that with a necessary message for liberals to hear or reconcile themselves with.

I personally don’t see it that way. I know what we’re saying, I know what we’re positing, I know why you’re asking it. It’s just for me, personally, I don’t categorize it in political terms. I don’t view it with that particular lens.

I think human behavior runs the gamut. Human desire, human will, consciousness and unconsciousness in terms of how it affects behavior is a terrifying world to live in, but it is the world we live in and everybody is affected by it. There is always opportunity to learn from and redirect your own life when you have information that you didn’t have before. Everything that we do and see and read is an opportunity always to have an adjustment to the way you think. But I certainly didn’t, from an acting standpoint, think I was giving a message to the liberals of America.

One of the interesting things about this season was the story line about Valerie Solanas unleashing female rage to create a better world. Do you see that happening now in real life?
Well, I’d have to be a blind, unfeeling dead person to not see the uprising that we are currently experiencing in our culture and our climate. I think anything that’s been muffled is going to find its way out. A lot of women, and rightfully so, struggle with feeling voiceless and I feel those days are behind us. But the pain, the heartbreak, the bravery, and the courage it takes to have all of this happen is something to behold. It’s something to respect and to honor and to give space to. It’s been unleashed. It’s out now.

I want to ask about the final scene. Ally tells Oz she’s meeting a bunch of powerful women, and then she puts a hood on. Where the hell is she going?
I wonder how many people are going to know what that cloak is. Did you recognize what that cloak was?

Throughout the finale, I was waiting for Lana Winters to interview Ally. I was like, “It’s going to be funny when Sarah Paulson is talking to herself.” But is she actually going to see our old friend Cordelia from AHS: Coven?
None of those things happened and obviously they were missed opportunities. I see that clearly now.

Please explain it to me, because I’m clearly an idiot. 
Well, you’re not an idiot. I love that there’s a mystery to it and that you walk away from this season going, “Where the hell is she going?” I think that’s great and that’s a good question to have. I think it looks an awful lot like the robes Bebe wore, doesn’t it?

That is a very good point. It also looks a lot like Stevie Nicks.
That too, there’s another missed opportunity. No, but there could be a scene on the DVD that should be between Cordelia and Lana Winters with Ally and then Stevie could play a song in the background.

How will it feel next season to go back to playing some sort of crazy creature, rather than just a lady from Michigan?
[Laughs.] Do you really think I haven’t been doing this for so long on this show that I don’t know what you’re doing? You really think I don’t know what you’re doing?

I just assumed you’d like to go back to the supernatural.
Again, I don’t know who you think you’re talking to, but I don’t have the answer to that question. I can tell you that I have heard rumbling of thoughts and plans and ideas. I’ve heard two separate ideas about what could happen next year and one of them I’m particularly in love with. But I could not possibly give you even one shred of information regarding whether or not I play a creature or a cuckoo bird or a regular gal from Des Moines. They usually will call me at some point and say, “Here’s what it is, lady.” Then Ryan breaks it down and I get very excited and I don’t wanna ruin that for myself by jumping in before I fully know what it is. I can just tell you, I’ve heard rumblings and one of them I really like.

admin • 11 02 2017

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the ninth episodeof American Horror Story: Cult, “Drink the Kool-Aid.”]

When it comes to American Horror Story, Sarah Paulson’s role is rarely what it seems.

Starring in every season of the FX horror anthology, Ryan Murphy’s reigning leading lady has now played eight different characters in the franchise, with two of her roles crossing over to make cameos on separate cycles. In American Horror Story: Cult, the seventh season of the Murphy and Brad Falchuk-created horror show, Paulson entered the story as Ally Mayfair-Richards, a fragile yet passionate liberal mother and wife who found herself paralyzed by a range of phobias that resurfaced after Donald Trump’s stunning election as president.

Throughout the timely season, however, Ally experienced a transformation that provided a welcome challenge for Paulson. As the main target of her Michigan town’s post-election sprouted cult, Ally has been framed for murder, thrown into the psych ward and terrorized daily, losing her wife (played by Alison Pill) and the ability to see her young son, Oz, in the process. With nothing to lose in the ninth hour of the 11-episode season, Ally seeks revenge. She murders her wife and seemingly steps over to the dark side with her son in tow, joining up with cult leader Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) to start a new family.

“I don’t know if ever in her life Ally has felt this powerful or capable,” Paulson, who shares some of Ally’s phobias in real life, tells The Hollywood Reporter of her big Cult shift. Though this season began with a much-covered election theme, Cult has come to reveal an underlying current of female empowerment as the episodes progress. Paulson says of Ally taking back her power, “There comes a point when once you realize that your life has forsaken you — you’ve got nothing in the world to live for except your son, and there’s no one you can count on — that basically, all bets are off. You’ve already been to the brink. There is no going back and when you’re pushed to that point, people can summon things in themselves they didn’t know were possible.”

Below in a chat with THR, the actress explains why the episode, titled “Drink the Kool-Aid,” brought about her favorite scene of the season, details what it was like to film an election-themed cycle parallel to Trump’s America, and sheds light on her next roles in Murphy’s creative arsenal with FX’s upcoming American Crime Story: Katrina and Netflix’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest prequel series Ratched.

After a season of being paralyzed by her fears, Ally emerges as a strong and almost entirely new person. You have played multiple roles within AHS seasons before [conjoined twins in Freak Show, an actress playing a role in Roanoke], but what did you most enjoy about this season’s task? 

Well, I had spent many, many episodes and many weeks begging for my life, weeping, and in real peril and terror. In the beginning of the season, we thought that some of this was imagined for Ally. Then the more layers that were peeled back, the more we realized this was being perpetrated against her in a very purposeful and intentional way, which made it so much more horrifying. I just loved having an opportunity to take some of my power back in a way that felt empowering both as an actress and as the character. It had been many, many months of me doing a lot of crying and, as much as I loved the emotional depth of where they were asking me to go, it was an exciting moment to cross that threshold into new world order for Ally — which is a very new world that she hasn’t lived in for quite some time, if ever.

Much of the early strain between Ally and wife Ivy (Pill) was Ally secretly voting for Green Party candidate Jill Stein on Election Day. We eventually learned their backstory and discovered that was just the final straw in a decaying relationship. At this point, how do you reconcile Ally’s actions of killing Ivy and joining up with Kai?

She has nothing to lose and everything to gain, which is her son. That’s all that matters to her. The safety and security and connectivity of her with her son. She’s probably very aware that much of her mothering has been about her panic and fear and worry, about what was going to happen to her and to her child, or to her wife. Now, she’s not afraid of what she can’t handle and she probably wants to get to being present in Oz’s life in a way that she’s never been able to do before. It does make sense to me, but there’s so many more questions that won’t be answered until the final episode. So I can’t answer that question with great clarity and full transparency but, at this point, I feel like I can say it is all about her boy.

I remember having these fights with the writers on set because I didn’t understand how Ivy could go so far because of a Jill Stein vote. But it just ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back. I do get that it’s very trying for people to be around Ally sometimes. Because people who indulge in their most vulnerable moments can sometimes be hard to take. I would posit, though, that given the extreme nature of it — I could recount many things that happened in those first five episodes — can you blame her?

Let’s talk about the scene where Ally seeks revenge and kills Ivy. What was it like to film Pill’s exit scene and do you feel that Ivy deserved it?

It’s my favorite scene of this year. Alison is one of my favorite actresses and I had a wonderful time working with her and being married to her. But she deserves it 1,000 times over. I could have done it much more horrifyingly, I think. We’ve seen worse on the show. I thought it was the tame way to make it happen. As the episodes were coming down the pike and I was reading them, I kept going, “I cannot believe she’s doing this to me because of Jill Stein!” Or because I was overly possessive of our child because I carried him. There are all kinds of things with Ally that are pejorative, but this kind of terrorizing and this kind of torture, all the while knowing the impact that it’s having on our son? I kept thinking, “How in the world could she commit to this knowing that our son would be watching me dissolve into a puddle on the ground?” I know she wanted full custody and her own connection with Oz to be as vibrant as Ally thinks hers is, but it did feel very satisfying to me when I read that I was going to get to do that. That seems like the only damn answer to this story. The only way to resolve this is: You gotta go, and I’ve got to be the one to do it.

Ally now has a larger game plan that will feasibly play out in the final episodes. At this point, is she playing a long con or is she making it up as she goes?

I think she’s just at the beginning of a road that will end somewhere that she’s not even expecting.

What has it been like working with Billie Lourd this season as your characters have evolved, and what’s ahead for Winter (Lourd) and Ally as the season wraps up?

I have known her since she was quite young, so it’s really wild and kind of beautiful and also bittersweet, because I realize I’m so much older now than I was when I first knew her. I just want to be Billie Lourd when I grow up, so that’s sort of the truth. She is a fine actress — and I mean fine in that she’s exquisite. I feel excited to see what she’s going to do next. But, there are plot points with Winter and Ally that I can’t possibly speak to right now, to answer the rest of your question.

When you began filming this season in May, did you find the show’s post-election setting to be therapeutic after the actual election?

No. I did not find it therapeutic at all. It just felt like an aftershock. I remember the day we shot the first episode — where we’re in our living room watching the election results come in — and all of a sudden it was a horrible flashback to that night. By the time we started shooting it was mid-to-end of May of this past year and we had Trump in office for a few months. I wouldn’t say we had gotten used to it by any stretch, because I don’t know that I ever will, but we had a little distance from the November of it all. Even more distance from that then Inauguration Day, so it brought everyone right back there, no matter which way they lean politically, just because it was traumatizing. Everyone looked at each other and just went, “God, this feels too soon.”

Who did you base your Cult character on, where did you draw your diehard liberal inspiration?

She’s not entirely other to me. Funnily enough, those parts are actually harder to do. When you play something extreme or outlandish, you have a lot more freedom in terms of how far you can go and in believability and permissibility. But when you’re playing a character that’s not that far from you, it’s actually a bit more challenging. You end up feeling like you’re not doing enough. Even though I do share some of Ally’s political leanings — not the Jill Stein part, but the more liberal part — and I myself am afraid of flying, I’m afraid of the ocean, I’m afraid of bees. I have some of Ally’s phobias, which is why Ryan was so kind as to put them in the show. (Laughs.) It doesn’t make it easier to act. Because actually, when you go into a state of panic — that has happened to me before where you can become hyper aware or “white out” aware, where you actually don’t know what’s happening around you — it’s hard to figure out what would be going on with a person in a moment of true panic.

You have spoken about the phobias you share with your character. Did filming this season ever become too much?

No. It’s a funny thing to put yourself in this alternate reality. If it were happening in real life, I, Sarah, would be freaking out. But I’m at work and trying to portray it. My thinking brain is so alive, there’s no way I can’t be aware that I’m pretending. If you actually faced some of these fears in a contained environment, like I am on the set because we can always call “cut” if I got too scared, it automatically takes the fear away. So I am actually having to conjure up something because your brain knows you’re pretending. But, it was hard on me, physically. I signed up for this. I love my job and they pay me to do it, so I’m very happy to oblige. It’s just that kind of work can sometimes take its toll on you physically, for sure.

Approaching Ally from an acting standpoint, I’m just trying to be as open as I can possibly be because she is so sensory-overloaded. I thought, if I could just try to open myself up to all the crazy environments around me, it would probably put me in the right place emotionally. I know that those are not real crazy clowns or actual murderers, they are just actors in costumes, but if I kept myself really hyper-aware of my surroundings from a sensory standpoint, I would probably be on-edge like in the extreme circumstances Ally is put in.

So after all the roles you have played on the franchise, Ryan Murphy’s challenge for you this year was to add a real-life layer to it?

(Laughs.) I said to Ryan, “If I do this show again you have to promise me that I don’t have to run around and I don’t have to cry. I’m just begging you.” He just looks at me and is so inscrutable, I can’t tell what his plan is.

You are going to be starring in three of his TV shows, filming them all next year, with American Horror Story season eight, Katrina and Ratched. In what ways does working with Murphy continue to challenge you?

Something I think I said on the Emmy stage when I won that statue is that it was only because of his belief in me I even thought I could dream it. The same thing is true now. There is no one I trust more. I call Ryan and ask his opinion on projects that have nothing to do with him! He’s so involved in my mind in terms of my career choices, because I do think that once in a while you fall into a collaboration with a person who you feel really sees you. I got very lucky with that. We didn’t know how we were going to play those twins in Freak Show, the technology hadn’t been done in the way that we were going to try to do it. And the same thing with Marcia Clark [in The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story]. There were so many things I never thought I could do where Ryan has said, “This is what the job is and what I’m offering you and, do you want to take it?” I’ve always felt that if he thought I could do it, he must be right. I know that he has my back and I know he wants to push me to do things that are a little bit outside of my comfort zone and everyone needs that in life. It’s been an extraordinary relationship for me, not just professionally but personally, the way I can rely on him a great deal.

What excites you about your Katrina and Ratched characters, Dr. Anna Pou and Nurse Ratched, respectively?

I’m excited about the Ratched development also because it’s my first foray into producing and that feels like a natural progression. I feel the most comfortable already in sharing my voice and my opinions and really having a seat at the table without having that title. But now having that kind of credit, where I can actually feel like I belong there in official capacity feels very sweet that it came to me because of my relationship with Ryan. I didn’t come to Ryan a fully formed actor. So much of how I have come to even approach my work was developed with him standing there. So, to have reached a moment in my work life where he wants to develop something with me or produce something with me is a real evolution of work put in, on both our parts. That makes it feel extra rewarding, validating and special so I look forward to doing it.

The characters are all so divergent, even though one of them is a doctor and one of them is a nurse, and we have no idea what next year will be on American Horror Story. He may know, but I don’t and that’s always exciting. My life with Ryan was always the mystery with American Horror Story of what character I was going to get to play. Now, I have this incredible good fortune of having three opportunities to work with him in the next year and two of the characters I know what they are, and I can research and learn. And then I have this mystery that I don’t know what it will be and it just keeps it so exciting and fresh. It makes me one of the luckiest ladies in town.

Katrina was pushed back and THR reported that it was retooled. What can we can expect with these changes?

It’s not the same hush-up thing in the way American Horror Story is, where so much of the fun is that you don’t know what the twists and turns are going to be. I understand why they keep that under wraps. With Katrina, I think there is great care and attention being put into this story and how best to tell it. They’re taking their time with it, and that’s honorable, even though I am incredibly hungry to chomp down on that part. I’m very much looking forward to having an opportunity to do something with a character that some people know. When I was playing Marcia Clark, there was a lot of attachment and expectation with who she was and a story that had been written by individuals about her. This character [Dr. Pou] is obviously far less notorious. So much less has already been decided about her, so she has more mystery around some of her choices and that’s an exciting thing to broach as an actor. To figure out where you end up sitting on the line internally, so you know how to play something, is challenging and scary and I just want to get it right.


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