Sarah Paulson On Filming American Horror Story and 12 Years A Slave

5.21.2014

By Stacy Lambe

The actress opens up about her biggest roles in The Hollywood Reporter's roundtable

Photo: THR

In the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter, Sarah Paulson joins Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) Claire Danes (Homeland), Jessica Pare (Mad Men), Keri Russell (The Americans), and Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) in a roundtable discussion about working on some of TV's most popular series. Additionally, Paulson — who has had pivotal roles on FX's American Horror Story and 12 Years a Slave — opens up about some of her most challenging scenes to film.

On her most challenging moment so far on AHS:

"I would say in season two, it was twofold: One, when I had to simulate performing an abortion on myself, and two, playing a 75-year-old woman. That was very hard. And it was very important to me to kind of hold on to who the character of Lana Winters was as an older person, not just go into a kind of caricature. Also, I had the crazy makeup on that was terrifying, and I sent the photograph to my mother, and I was like: 'I guess you'll never see this. This is me at 75!'"

On reservations about playing Mistress Epps in 12 Years a Slave:

"I think I found a way for me to be able to stand there and do it that was just about who the woman was inside. Her actions are deplorable, but she's doing it because she feels she's being usurped by another woman in her home. She's a small, tiny creature inside who just is panicked. Also, I don't think she was capable of having a deeper thought or a self-reflective kind of way of functioning, and she was taught to be racist. She was in love with this man who was clearly smitten with another. I never saw it from an outside perspective of, 'How do you find a way into playing someone so cruel?' Someone asked, 'Aren't you worried that people are going to ask you to play villains now?' That never occurred to me … but yeah, bring it on!"

On the most difficult phase in her career:

"It was after [NBC's] Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip [was canceled]. Everyone on the show thought it was going to be this thing, and it didn't become anything. I didn't work for two years, and then I moved back to New York … It was not only my expectations I was dealing with; I was dealing with everybody else's expectations about something that was disappointing for them, too. So I went back to New York and did some plays that nobody saw, and that was fine. Then some casting director came to see a play, and then I did a movie called Martha Marcy May Marlene, which kind of put things back on track."

Paulson also revealed that she's a big fan of Blue Is the Warmest Color star Adèle Exarchopoulos ("That performance is so extraordinary") and even shared a bonding moment with Farmiga when she revealed she wanted Paulson's role in 12 Years ("Oh my God. That's so extraordinary").

Read the full roundtable here.

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