You won’t have to get too far into this new installment of Collider Ladies Night to learn that Sarah Paulson is one of my absolute favorite individuals in the industry. I’m a diehard American Horror Story fan and marvel at her on-screen work across the board, but over the years, I’ve also come to deeply appreciate how her passion, honesty and attention to detail shines through in all of our interviews.
At this point, Paulson has six Emmy nominations to her name and one win for her performance as Marcia Clark in American Crime Story, she’s directed an episode of American Horror Story, is an executive producer on Ratched, just got a long overdue lead role in a studio feature with Run, and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down whatsoever. But, of course, it all had to being somewhere and during our Ladies Night conversation, Paulson credited Law & Order’s Ed Sherin with giving her career the jumpstart it needed:
“The right pair of eyes watching you sort of could determine whether or not you can have a successful career or not. I went to audition for Lynn Kressel who was casting all the things at that time in New York and I went to audition for her for Law & Order. I got a callback. I went then to the producers’ session which was down where Law & Order’s shooting, some other place, and I went in with Ed Sherin and Constantine [Makris], he had been the DP I think or one of the ADs and he was directing this episode. And Ed Sherin is married to Jane Alexander, he’s just this wonderful director-producer, but I did my audition and in the audition I was supposed to cry, because in this episode I was gonna have to cry a lot.”
Paulson stopped and laughed, “There’s something you can find for connectivity for the rest of my working life thus far!” Yes, Paulson has become quite well known for turning on the waterworks, but back then, she wasn’t able to conjure tears at all. She continued:
“I remember doing the audition and I did it and I sort of looked up at him and I’m all of 19 and he went, ‘I think you’re feeling something right now that if you allowed yourself to feel it would be exactly what you would need to do in this scene. Are you feeling embarrassed?’ Because I didn’t cry at all, the whole scene. I couldn’t cry because I was nervous. He 100% knew that I felt humiliated and embarrassed and he just said, ‘Do you feel that way?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And then I started to cry and he said, ‘Go. Read the scene now.’ And I did and I got the part.”
Booking the job was a huge coup for Paulson, marking her very first screen credit, but Sherin’s decision to give her that extra moment meant even more to Paulson than just that. Here’s how she put it:
“But that, much like the Ryan Murphy stories of later, that’s the difference between an actor who gets to work a lot and a person who doesn’t. For whatever reason, Ed Sherin took that extra moment with me, didn’t let me leave the room. I to this day could ask him what made him do that. Maybe it was total luck. Maybe there was something he saw. But he’s why I got that job, which then allowed me to continue to pursue the career because I was able to make a living and getting some communication that it was the right choice. It’s these little tiny moments where you just go, ‘God, what would have happened to me if he hadn’t done that?’”
This right here is only one of many seminal stories Paulson shared about the start of her career on Collider Ladies Night. Check out our full chat at the top of this article to hear more abut her early days in the industry, booking a role on Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, her collaboration with Ryan Murphy, what it was like working with Aneesh Chaganty and Kiera Allen on Run, and so much more!
Run is now streaming on Hulu.
- 01:11 – Paulson revisits some of her favorites shows and films from when she was a kid; watching scary movies with her father when she was young.
- 02:39 – The first person to introduce acting to Paulson as a possible profession.
- 04:59 – Paulson’s first steps after graduating; making her Broadway debut and appearing on Law & Order.
- 06:55 – Why her Law & Order audition made a huge impression on her.
- 09:14 – Paulson weighs in on the industry shifting to taped auditions.
- 11:37 – Why working on Jack & Jill made an indelible impression.
- 13:11 – A female filmmaker Paulson thinks is changing the industry for the better.
- 14:25 – Paulson revisits working on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; the jobs Paulson got because of the wives of the men directing them.
- 18:19 – Was American Horror Story the game changer for Paulson that it appeared to be to viewers?
- 19:32 – Winnie meets Dewey.
- 20:36 – Paulson discusses her collaboration with Ryan Murphy; she offers an update on how things are going on Impeachment: American Crime Story so far.
- 22:49 – On making the transition to directing; why that was an easy leap to make on American Horror Story in particular.
- 25:41 – Paulson talks about her experience working with writer-director Aneesh Chaganty, writer-producer Sev Ohanian and producer Natalie Qasabian as team.
- 27:39 – Working with Kiera Allen on her very first feature film.
- 29:44 – What was it like working with a director who was trying to channel M. Night Shyamalan after she had just worked with Shyamalan herself?
- 32:01 – Spoiler Warning! Paulson discusses Diane’s backstory and how it influences her choices in the movie.
- 33:22 – Random questions begin! Find out what jobs on a film set Paulson would like to learn more about, the weirdest thing she’s ever had to learn for a role, and her biggest fear overcome.