For someone who’s become the go-to actor for outsized, mesmerizingly intense TV villainy, Sarah Paulson is one big goof. “No!!,” she boomed into her computer camera in mock dudgeon when Late Show host Stephen Colbert asked if Paulson was Emmy-nominated for her role as fictional conservative woman (who hates the thought of equal rights for women) Alice Macray in Mrs. America. Followed by a burst of giggles, the moment was pretty Emmy-worthy itself, as was much of the rest of the pair’s interview, with the two audience-starved inveterate performers slipping in and out of bits, showing off some old acting class movement work, and popping on a random accent or two.
Sure, they did get around to promoting Ratched, the One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest-spinoff series purporting to reveal how Paulson’s WWII-era Nurse Mildred Ratched became the starched-white, steely-eyed, lobotomizing, AFI list-certified monster of Miloš Forman’s adaptation of the Ken Kesey novel. Paulson tried to sum up the thinking that went into Ryan Murphy’s decision to cast TV horror muse Paulson in a questionably necessary expansion of the OFOTCN cinematic universe, telling Colbert, “It’s an origin story more than a prequel,” before breaking off to ask him, “You bored already?” And while our own Monica Castillo was noncommittal about that whole “necessary” element of Ratched, nobody’s questioning Paulson’s onscreen magnetism. Especially after she finally gets back on a TV screen after being stuck social distancing at home without an audience for months.
“It’s been so long since I’ve acted!,” complained Paulson to Colbert, happily reminiscing about all the fun ways her various American Horror Story characters have gorily died. (Fun fact: Sugary fake blood makes a good energy booster on long shooting days.) “I’m just narcissistic, and desperate, and sad enough to need a little bit of direct contact,” Paulson exclaimed, finding an eager scene partner in Colbert, who waved off his skeleton crew staff’s wrap-up signal at one point to keep the fun rolling with some impromptu scene work. (Colbert centering himself theatrically to get back to his “character want” with the help of his “animal spine.” Acting!)
Recalling the first of her three times now working with Cate Blanchett, Paulson irrepressibly and inevitably popped on a solid Aussie accent (she claims it’s lousy, but that’s actors for you) to recreate the Carol two-hander where she and Blanchett got looped for real after the prop guy asked them surreptitiously, “You guys wanna go hot?” (Sounds creepy, but that’s set lingo for having actual booze during your take.) Taking up the kind offer, the pair proceeded to get sozzled throughout the extensive coverage a movie scene invariably needs, with Paulson getting the worst of it, since they did her reaction shots first. Blanchett, ever the pro, got her dialogue scenes out first, lending her subsequent drunken close-ups an air of verisimilitude, while the tipsy Paulson wobbled through her many pages. Just to tease Blanchett superfan Colbert, Paulson also expertly and repeatedly pretended that her Oscar-winning co-star was just off camera but didn’t want to talk. Acting!
Ratched premieres on Netflix today.