Sarah Paulson has made a very convincing closing argument.
In an Emmy category that's filled with some of the most acclaimed performances across the television landscape, the actress is still currently the odds-on favorite to take home the trophy for Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actress In a Limited Series or Movie for her nuanced and incisive portrayal of real-life prosecutor Marcia Clark in the FX series "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story."
Having recently claimed the Television Critic Association's TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Drama -- in a field comprised of both men and woman across a spectrum of series formats -- Paulson joined the press to discuss her landmark performance, as well as offer a hint at what's ahead in her long and very fruitful collaboration with producer/writer/director Ryan Murphy.
Why was it gratifying for you to get the Emmy nomination for this particular performance?
Sarah Paulson: God, probably because of the enormous burden of the responsibility of trying to get something right. I'm not playing a historical figure that has passed on. This woman is walking around the planet. She has grown children. She potentially would be watching this show, or at the very least, be very aware of what was being said about it and what I was putting forth by playing her.
So the fact that people thought I did that well and right means the world to me, of course, because there was an enormous margin for error here. When you're playing a person for which there is an immediate visual image, the sound of her voice, the way she put her head to the side all the time, whatever negative adjective you could ascribe to her was ascribed to her.
So to sort of come up against that and try to still tell it as truthfully, honestly as possible, and have people respond to it and think that it was done well, is obviously incredibly humbling and makes me feel good.
How did this project change you as an actress, once you were done with it?
Well, I learned something fundamentally true about myself as an actress that I never knew before, which is that I like structure. I like facts. I like a blueprint from which to build from. The freeform thing when you're just using your imagination, coupled with a writer and a director, and you're creating something out of nothing, there's a lot of freedom there, but I think I prefer for myself to have a great structure and facts and figures to pull from, sort of metaphorically speaking.
And I had so much footage and things to read about her so that I wasn't flying blind at all. Any question I ever had about any of it, I could just go back to my research and go back to my notes. So I could make choices competently and committedly and without question, and that is I think a very, for me personally, a very powerful place for me to work. I did learn that that's what I prefer, so all the real people parts that want to come to me, I'm really into playing.
Have you since had conversations with Marcia?
Yes. Oh yes!
What was fun about digging into it with her, once she got to see what was happening on screen? Because she's a fun person to converse with.
She's fun, but she's very private, and I feel very ... I don't want her to feel that because I played her I feel like I have some kind of extra special access to her mind or anything, or her heart, or anything she would possibly want to share.
I think I've said publicly that the first time I had dinner with her when we were shooting, which was the only time I saw her when we were actually shooting, it was very late into production, she got emotional just talking in a very cursory way about the trial. And I just knew then that I never was going to want to push her to say more than she wanted to say.
Anything she wanted to say on her own was fine, but I was never going to push. I didn't want to be one of those people that was digging for that with her. I just had too much respect for her to do that.
Are you open to joining Ryan Murphy's next "American Crime Story" series, about Hurricane Katrina?
I'm begging them to let me do that. Begging! Begging on my hands and knees.
Is there anything you can say about the next "American Horror Story"?
I can tell you I'm doing it, that's all I can say. Yeah, I am doing it, but I can't say anything else.
And you would have time to do both projects?
We would be done, I think, with ... this year I wouldn't have to do double duty if I were to do them both. But nothing you've read on the Internet about it is correct, though, I can tell you that. It's not true.
What kind of anticipation do you have when the material for the next "American Horror Story" is coming your way? What's that experience?
If I get really lucky, sometimes Ryan sends them to me a little bit early, and then I get an idea and get really, really excited. Just, like, one. He'll send me pages.
"American Horror Story" Season 6 premieres September 14th on FX, while the second season of "American Crime Story" is slated for sometime in 2017, also on FX.