Sarah Paulson Won’t Be Typecast, On Screen or Off

After a very big year in American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson, the actress reveals what she learned about herself by playing Marcia Clark.

Sarah Paulson

Actress Sarah Paulson has had a very big year, both on screen and off. After five seasons starring in Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology American Horror Story and a small part in last year’s Oscar nominated Carol, she was cast as prosecutor Marcia Clark in this year’s television juggernaut American Crime Story: The People Vs. OJ Simpson another Murphy production.

She said in an interview with W that she signed on to play Clark in American Crime Story due to a sense of “responsibility to get it right for her.” The prosecutor was vilified — and very publicly criticized for a questionable perm, the subject of one episode midway through the series — during the O.J. Simpson trial of 1994. “I didn’t want this to be another opportunity to pile shit onto her and continue the sexism that went on during the trial.”

Paulson knows a thing or two about life in the headlines. Over the years, she’s enjoyed an eclectic romantic life, once becoming engaged to the playwright Tracy Letts, who was at the time nine years her senior, then later dating actress Cherry Jones, who at 59 was then 18 years older. Late last year, Paulson started dating actress Holland Taylor, who, at 73, is 32 years her senior. (The younger actress is 41.)

Paulson hasn’t been shy about showing off this latest relationship — they started exchanging flirtatious tweets even before they went public, and on occasion Taylor’s Twitter feed turns into a retweeted celebration of all things Paulson — her looks, her acting chops, her adoring fans. Plus, they take a lot of selfies.

“I am in love, and that person happens to be Holland Taylor,” she told the New York Times. (It was a bit of PDA during the 2015 Tony Awards that gave away her relationship with Jones, too.) But Paulson also refused to categorize herself, adding in the same interview that she feared being “straightjacketed” were she to label her sexuality.

“Guys don’t ask me out because they think I like women,” she told New York Magazine in 2014, and on the other side, women “don’t ask me out because they don’t know what I am. Do I have to write a sign that says ‘Equal Opportunity Employer?’”

Her on-screen characters have also refused to be cast in a convenient mold. In American Horror Story, the roles have been united by little more than Murphy’s inventive eye, playing everything from a pair of conjoined twins, the leader of a coven of witches, and an undead junkie. And that’s in addition to her portrayal of Marcia Clark, which she tells W totally changed her perspective on both the prosecutor and the trial.

“I feel a great deal of embarrassment now about my inability to question those perceptions,” she said of the pervading view that Clark was a “total monster.”

Tellingly, she added, “Now if someone tells me something about another person, I dig a little deeper before I cement an opinion. It was really transformational to realize, ‘God, I had it all wrong.’ Most people did. It’s still a great thrill to me that we succeeded in communicating something more real about her.”

Watch a video interview with Krysten Ritter here:

Photos: Sarah Paulson Won’t Be Typecast, On Screen or Off

Sarah Paulson wears an Alexander McQueen bra.

Photo by Mona Kuhn, styled by Patrick Mackie. Hair by Dennis Gots for Kerastase at The Wall Group; Makeup by Jo StrettelL for Lancome at Tracey Mattingly.

Sarah Paulson. Photo by Mona Kuhn, styled by Patrick Mackie.

Mona Kuhn

Sarah Paulson wears an Alexander McQueen dress and bra.

Photo by Mona Kuhn, styled by Patrick Mackie.

Sarah Paulson in Altuzarra at the 2016 CFDA Fashion Awards in New York, New York, June 2016. Photo by Getty Images.

Sarah Paulson with Holland Taylor in New York, New York, December 2015. Photo by Getty Images.

Sarah Paulson with Holland Taylor in New York, New York, October 2015. Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic.

Sarah Paulson and Cherry Jones during Cherry Jones Reception Hosted by Paula Wagner at CAMPANILE restaurant in Los Angeles, CA, United States. (Photo by E. Charbonneau/WireImage for CW Productions)

Cherry Jones, Christian Slater, Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange


Additional reporting by Jenny Comita.