January 11, 2019 at 02:04 PM EST

For his new film Glass (out Jan. 18), writer-director M. Night Shyamalan cast Sarah Paulson in the pivotal role of psychologist Dr. Ellie Staple, who believes the characters played by James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, and Samuel L. Jackson are delusional. But Shyamalan considered casting a male actor in the role, before realizing what the American Horror Story star could bring to the project, which is a sequel to both 2000’s Unbreakable and 2017’s Split.

“I originally was sketching [the character] and I was like, Gosh, should this be a man or a woman?” Shyamalan tells EW. “I had two different actors in mind and one was male and one was female, and obviously Sarah was the female choice. It just suddenly felt right, that, wow, it should be a female character challenging these guys in a therapy session. I really enjoyed that dynamic between Betty Buckley and James in Split, [and wanted a] very, very intelligent woman challenging the precepts of these men, and what they believe in, and trying to help them in some way. Sarah just had all those colors. When I met her I’m like, ‘This is it, this is it.'”

Watch the trailer for Glass, above.

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