Ryan Murphy and Sarah Paulson met in 2004 when the actress made a guest appearance in Murphy’s Nip/Tuck. Since then she’s become a muse for the show runner—the good kind, not the Yoko Ono kind—starring in his three groundbreaking anthology series (seven seasons of American Horror Story; as prosecutor Marcia Clark in American Crime Story, for which she won her first Emmy; and Feud). And while the 43-year-old’s career spans decades, it’s her always surprising roles in Murphy’s creative circus—lesbian journalist, heroin-addicted ghost, conjoined twins—that have thrust her into A-list territory, landing her in films opposite Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) and Cate Blanchett (Carol).
Her cinematic oeuvre grows with The Post (December 22), the Steven Spielberg-directed, star-studded drama about the publication of the Pentagon Papers, and with June’s all-female heist flick, Ocean’s Eight. (She’ll team up with Murphy again for his new Netflix show, Ratched, a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest prequel). But don’t let her diabolical résumé fool you. Deep down Paulson’s just a Julia Roberts fan girl who thinks public bathrooms are gross. She gives us an earful about both—and then some.
You once recorded a fan’s voicemail greeting. Angeleno you’d ask to record yours?
Diane Keaton. It would be like, “Oh, hi! Um, hi. Oh, hey! It’s Sarah, please leave a message!” Something charming and perfect and funny. I wish she could do a virtual one, though, so she could greet people in a bowler hat and glasses and gloves.
You’re a nervous flyer. Costar you’d be happiest to see in the cockpit? Most terrified?
John Travolta could be in the cockpit, and I’d feel OK. He’s an actual pilot, so the man can fly me anywhere he’d like. I wouldn’t be excited to see Emma Roberts up there. I trust her with almost anything else, but neither of us are fans of turbulence. So the idea that she’d be navigating that—nope. She’s one of the smartest girls in town, and that is the truth, but in the cockpit, nope.
Three Julia Roberts characters you’d staff at a newspaper?
Erin Brockovich, obvi. Shelby from Steel Magnolias—she’d be the style editor. And then Vivian from Pretty Woman because she wouldn’t tolerate any injustice in the workplace.
Profession you could fake based on the characters you’ve played?
Legitimately? I don’t think I could get away with any of them, honey. But probably a lawyer, because I spent the most time investigating Marcia Clark. I’d do it by cheating and texting Marcia under the table.
If a newspaper hired you as a critic, what would you critique?
Bathroom hygiene etiquette. Listen, you want to squat? Have at it. But if you spray everywhere and don’t take the time to clean up after yourself, you are a vile person. And I could write about it at length.
Song that’d be playing during a montage of your life?
Shawn Colvin’s cover of “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)”. It’s like a walking-slowly-in-the-rain-and-maybe-you’re-on-a-bench-crying type of song. But I’d like the music of my montage to shift, so when I go into different rooms, it’d be “Beast of Burden” by the Rolling Stones.
Three women you could pull off an L.A. heist with?
Sandra Bullock, because if you’ve been heisting with her once, you’d know she’s someone you have to have with you always. I want her with me all the time when I do everything. Michelle Obama, because I miss her, and everything needs a moral center. And my sister, Elizabeth Paulson, because she’s wily. We’d probably try to get some stuff out of the Getty.
Which fake paper would you work for: The Daily Planet, Daily Prophet, or Daily Bugle?
The Daily Planet. I always imagined that I’d know Clark Kent was Superman—the glasses don’t hide that jawline and that hair. I also like the idea of him scooping me up, one fist in the air, and flying into the sky. What girl would be like, “No, thanks”?
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