American Horror Story conjures up three images: Ryan Murphy, scary stuff, and Sarah Paulson. The actress has been a key part of the FX series since the beginning, appearing in nearly every season and playing roles ranging from a powerful witch to conjoined twins. But not all the stories are winners.
“[With] Roanoke I kinda went kicking and screaming,” Paulson said, adding. “I’m gonna get a call from Ryan, like, ‘Why are you saying that?’”
Speaking on the Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, Paulson shared her thoughts on the eight seasons she’s appeared on American Horror Story so far (she skipped season nine’s AHS: 1984, but is set to return in season 10's AHS: Double Feature). She noted how the only reason she got onto AHS in the first place was co-star and friend Jessica Lange, who invited her out to dinner with Murphy and, according to Paulson, asked him: “Can’t you find something for her to do on the show?” After that, she was in.
She praised several of her roles on American Horror Story, noting how “connected” she was to AHS: Asylum’s Lana Winters, how much she loved directing the “Murder House” episode of AHS: Apocalypse, and joking that “nobody liked working with me” on AHS: Freak Show because it meant they had to do their scenes twice. She said AHS took a backseat for her when it came to AHS: Hotel, because she was busy playing Marcia Clark on Murphy’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story—a role that garnered her a Golden Globe win. And by the time AHS: Roanoke came around, Paulson was exhausted, didn’t care about the story, and wanted nothing to do with it.
“I just don’t care about this season at all,” she said. “I know people will get mad at me for saying it. To me, this was post-having played Marcia [Clark]. It was what I went to do right after finishing Marcia and I was so underwhelmed by the whole experience. Because I felt like I had entered into a new place inside of myself in terms of what I thought possible, in terms of what I might be willing to see if I can do. I felt really kind of trapped by my responsibility and my contractual obligation to do American Horror Story. As much as it’s my home, and I’ve loved it always, it was the first time I felt like I wish I could have gone to Ryan and said, ‘Please let me sit this one out.’”
AHS: Roanoke, which might be the most-meta season so far, was about a film crew making a documentary about the legendary disappearances on Roanoke Island. Paulson played an actress in the reenactment scenes—along with Lana Winters, who returned from Asylum in a surprise role. Even though she got burned out while filming that season, Paulson came back for AHS: Cult, because post-2016 election she felt it was culturally relevant to “what we all went through as a country.”
American Horror Story returns to FX on August 25 with Double Feature, a split season with “one [story] by the sea, one by the sand.”
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