Sarah Paulson teases new American Horror Story season 10 role: She 'has some issues'
Sarah Paulson is about to perform a juggling act she knows well: filming two hit shows simultaneously. The Golden Globe winner is currently at work executive producing the upcoming Impeachment season of American Crime Story, in which she also plays Linda Tripp, and she's about to add American Horror Story season 10 to her plate "any day now," she told EW while discussing her latest Golden Globe nomination for Ratched on Wednesday morning. She previously worked on The People v. O.J. Simpson and Hotel seasons of both shows in the same way.
"It's hard," she says over the phone looking at her year ahead. "I remember experiencing this with [Marcia Clark] and Sally [McKenna]. One of them was a junkie and a ghost, and the other one was the most tired prosecutor in the United States, maybe anywhere. And I thought, 'This is the most totally schizophrenic experience I'm having as an actor, but I guess I'm going to lean into the fact that I don't have to worry about looking awake because neither one of these women are very awake.'"
It's a slightly different story this time around. "The character I'm playing this year on Horror Story has some issues, let's just put it that way," she says. While Paulson's role is still under wraps, as is much about the 10th season of the FX anthology series, the actress further teases, "I have a hair color I've never had in life nor in the show. That's what I can tell you. And I have a great name. I have a great name, which I can't tell you." She did promise we will be seeing her in a wig in both Horror Story and Crime Story. "One of them I prefer over the other because one is just cooler and the other one makes me look like Linda Tripp. That's the thing. It's just a different experience."
Paulson is more open to talking about her performance as Tripp, given her character is based on a real person. In the Impeachment season, which tackles the impeachment of President Bill Clinton (Clive Owen) after the Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) scandal, Tripp is Lewinsky's confidante and co-worker in the Defense Department who secretly recorded their phone conversations.
Getting into character is a different experience for Paulson than her process on The People v. O.J. Simpson. "I would say the dominant difference is that Marcia, I think, was truly misperceived and misunderstood and vilified for reasons that were completely absurd," Paulson explains. "Linda actually behaved in ways that were truly questionable. The real challenge of playing her is trying to find a way not to justify her actions, but to understand them enough that I can play that truthfully because standing in judgment of her only complicates my job." This complexity with Tripp, however, is what made the season both "exciting to do and totally terrifying because it's just a lot," she adds.
Adding "executive producer" to her job title also brings a new sense of ownership, Paulson agrees. Ryan Murphy, her frequent collaborator, supported her in becoming an EP on Ratched and afforded her "so much license to express my opinion and to watch edits and give my notes," Paulson reflects. "Some of them were heeded and implemented and others were not agreed upon. I'm getting a sort of boots-on-the-ground experience of producing with a person that I can really rely on to be honest with me and tell me what he agrees with and what he doesn't. I wonder what kind of shape it will put me in for when, and if, I ever step my toe out of the Ryan world into producing."
For now, her EP work continues on Impeachment. "We've been [filming] that since November," she remarks. "Just starting episode 3, I think, on Friday of 10 episodes. So, we are really in it, but everything takes a little bit longer to do with all of the protocols in place."
Speaking of protocols, Paulson confirms they are moving ahead on a second season of Ratched, but she doesn't know when that would possibly start filming, given the ongoing situation with the pandemic. "But it's going to happen," she affirms.
Hearing this morning's reveal of the three Golden Globe nominations for the show — including for Best TV Drama and Cynthia Nixon's supporting role — already makes this "a better day than yesterday," Paulson half-joked, a nod to the year we've all collectively had.
"Here I am on the morning of the Golden Globe nominations being recognized for my work at 46 years old," she says. "It feels like, for the fourth time now from the HFPA, it's an enormous honor. I don't ever want to lose that part of me that thinks this is a very lucky, rarefied air to be breathing and to really just hold onto my gratitude about it because I have so many extraordinarily talented friends who do not get to make a living doing what they love and the fact that I get to, this always has to just be frosting on a very, very delicious cake."