Sarah Paulson has that rare, charismatic presence that makes you want to watch any television or movie project she is in. Winner of an Emmy, SAG Award and Golden Globe for her riveting performance in the FX miniseries, “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” she was recently given the lead role in the upcoming Netflix series, “Ratched.” Both series are executive produced by her gay long time collaborator, screenwriter Ryan Murphy.
Next year, Paulson will start work on “American Crime Story: Katrina,” the third series in Murphy’s anthology for FX, as well as star in the series that catapulted her to being a household name, “American Horror Story,” which is currently in its seventh season.
At the Television Critics Press Tour, the veteran lesbian actress, talked about the mega success of shows. ”I don’t know what the magic bullet is about why people love watching this show. I think it’s great, and I’m so happy to be a part of it. I don’t know what that ineffable thing is that makes it still here seven years later and other things laying by the wayside.”
In this season, “American Horror Story: Cult,” Paulson and actress Alison Pill are playing a married couple.
“We’ve known each other for a long time and have never had the chance to work together,” said Pill. “So it was really most exciting to have all of these scenes with a person that I couldn’t respect more and who is so good at acting.”
This is the second LGBT relationship that the veteran lesbian actress (who offscreen, is in a relationship with actress Holland Taylor) has played on “American Horror Story.” In the second season, Paulson played reporter Lana Winters, who was committed to Briarcliff for being in a secret lesbian relationship.
For all of “AHS”‘s intensity, Paulson still finds time to have laughs. “When Jessica (Lange) was on the show, we would have to stop shooting, we would be laughing so hard, in the most insane, fully charged moments. And I think that’s just what happens when you are asked to bring that part of your internal being forward. Sometimes you have to have a moment.”
While Paulson doesn’t get scared on set, she does get frightened watching the show. “Part of the thing this year for me, is that I have to be ratcheted into a place of terror. You have to manufacture that in a way that’s believable.”
She continued: “I had a couple of moments this season; my character is pitched very, very, far emotionally. I actually had to stop for a moment and collect myself. Because I got very upset…when you are asking your body to be in a state of panic or terror, your mind knows that you are pretending but your body doesn’t know. If you have gotten yourself into a hyperventilated state, you are running out of oxygen.”
Off set, she is terrified by bees, snakes and sharks. “All the normal things! Who likes any of those things!” she quipped.
Paulson prefers playing real human beings. “I love playing real people more than anything. For me as an actor, I like having a very steadfast blueprint of what the boundaries are with the character, because then I feel like you can do so much with it. If you know exactly the core of the person, it gives you a kind of confidence to make really bold choices within that framework.”
Paulson also has a slew of movies she has starred in, like M. Night Shymalan’s “Glass,” and Steven Spielberg’s drama, “The Post.”
and recently worked on “Ocean’s Eight,” the all female spinoff to the “Ocean’s Trilogy.”
“It was extraordinary to look around the room and see Cate Blanchett, who i worked with twice now, Sandra Bullock, Rihanna, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Awkwafina. It felt like a very empowering place to be. Really fun; we have a text chain going that’s one of the most epic things!”
With all her seemingly overnight success, Paulson remains modest. “It’s a bit of an out of body experience. I don’t think I have really taken in what happened.”