Sarah Paulson Looks Back at Her Early Career in a Hallmark TV Movie

Sarah Paulson First time in variety
Caroline Andrieu

With the fourth incarnation of “American Horror Story” now underway — this time out she’ll be playing Siamese twins — Sarah Paulson (who co-starred in last year’s Oscar winner, “12 Years a Slave”) channeled her 19-year-old self to recall one of her very first roles, in Hallmark TV movie “Friends at Last,” opposite Kathleen Turner. “Getting to work with her was mind-blowing to me,” Paulson says.

What did you learn from working with Kathleen Turner?

Kathleen is incredibly focused and dedicated, and she’s not a complainer. She has rheumatoid arthritis, but I never heard her complain. She was never late for work. She was never short with anyone because of the pain she must have been in. It was a very early lesson for me to be aware of people around you, to keep whatever’s going on with you privately private, and show up and do your work.

Did you always want to be an actress?

I feel like when I was a zygote I wanted to be an actress. I feel like I came out of the womb wanting to act. No one in my family was an actor, so it’s not like I even know that you could do that for a living. Once it became clear to me that I could do it as a profession, I never wanted to do anything else.

Who were your idols?

Jessica Lange was the one I most wanted to emulate, and the one whose career I found the most inspiring. Little did I know! The first time I worked with her was in 2005, when we did a production of “The Glass Menagerie” on Broadway. It was and always will be one of the great acting experiences of my life, because I was literally acting with one of my idols. If I could have told my 19-year-old self that that was in my future, I would have calmed down about a lot of things.

What was the best thing about that time in your life?

I was living at home with my mom in Brooklyn, so I didn’t have any expenses — my mother didn’t make me pay rent, but I was making a weekly salary that was substantial to me. It was great to shop at the Gap and Banana Republic and treat my friends to dinner. I had money, but I didn’t even know how to write a check!

What have you learned about show business?

Slow and steady wins the race. There’s nothing definable about me, so I don’t ever feel like I’ve gotten locked into one type of person that I play. I think you have a better shot at longevity if you can immerse yourself into different parts without anyone getting used to seeing you in a particular way. I hope that means I’ll get a chance to (be in acting) longer.

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