'I felt so exposed,' Paulson tells EW

By Dana Getz
April 05, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Byron Cohen/FX

Expertly reflecting the social climate at the time, The People v. O.J. Simpson has not been kind to Marcia Clark. The headstrong prosecuting attorney, played by Sarah Paulson, has been subject to meticulous scrutiny and ridicule throughout the series’ run, most notably on the titular episode “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” in which she unsuccessfully attempts to charm the public eye with a new haircut.

The response, of course, is dismal. Clark’s confident, post-makeover march into the courtroom elicits a patronizing response from her peers. John Travolta’s pompous Shapiro offers a derisive thumbs-up, and Judge Ito (Kenneth Choi) utters a condescending, “Good morning, Miss Clark … I think.”

The real Marcia Clark has said the series is so spot-on that it’s painful to watch, and Paulson admits that particular scene was especially harrowing. “I walk in, and it was not only the comment, but the people behind me started laughing. There was like a tittering of laughter, and my throat just went completely closed. My cheeks got pink. Travolta gave me that big thumbs up. I was like, ‘This is the most humiliating [thing],’ ” she tells EW senior writer Tim Stack during an interview on SiriusXM. “I felt so exposed. I felt like someone had just come into the room and pulled all my clothes off.”

MORE ON THE PEOPLE VS. O.J. SIMPSON: AMERICAN CRIME STORY: Where Are They Now? | Cast Vs. Reality | EW Review | Exclusive Sneak Peek |

Paulson also elaborates on how director Ryan Murphy nudged her into the right mindset. It was his guidance that helped her see how Clark might be feeling in the moment, and the way her peers’ reactions might dismantle her newfound poise. “He [said], ‘I think you think you look good. You’re ready to take this day on, and you’re not thinking about this. You’re ready to kill it in here,” Paulson explains. “I felt like I was standing on [a] razor’s edge [throughout the scene], and it was one of either, ‘I’m going to throttle someone and my blood is going to boil and I’m going to lose my s—‘, or, ‘I’m going to cry.’ It was that dance that I think she was sort of doing … I absolutely felt right in the middle of that.”

To hear more from Paulson on the scene, watch the video above.

Below, Paulson talks about filming The People vs. O.J. Simpson and American Horror Story: Hotel at the same time.