It must be great, as an actor, to have the opportunity to play on an anthology series like American Horror Story. Each new season has a new story, and so a new character. While many actors come and go from AHS, Sarah Paulson has been a long time player on the series. She’s even been in other productions by the same writer, proving that she enjoys the material. After proving herself, she signed a multi-season deal, as many television actors do. It provides some job security, something actors are in short supply of. But then, on an anthology series, what happens if you don’t like the character you’re assigned? What if you outright hate it, even?
In a recent interview on the Awards Chatter podcast from The Hollywood Reporter, actress Sarah Paulson revealed that she felt trapped by her commitment to American Horror Story when she came in to do the 2016 season. American Horror Story: Roanoke isn’t considered the worst season by most, and often ranks somewhere in the middle on lists, but for Paulson, the role that season was just not something she wanted to do. Considering her position as a long standing actor on the series, and someone who greatly respects the work of showcreator Ryan Murphy, it’s surprising to hear her be so honest on the podcast episode.
Sarah Paulson openly said that she felt inspired by her work on The People v. O.J. Simpson, which she had just completed before American Horror Story: Roanoke began filming. Her role in The People v. O.J. Simpson won her awards. She won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the part. The work was challenging, interesting, and also from the mind of American Horror Story’s Ryan Murphy. She was at a place where she was thinking that yes, she was an actress who could handle a challenging story like that. She was excited about her work. And then she got Roanoke and felt flat.
Sarah Paulson said: “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. You know, let me out.’”
Ultimately, Sarah Paulson did the season. It rates better with critics than it does with audiences. It’s not a favorite season for most, but again, often rates somewhere in the middle with American Horror Story fans. The sixth season tried a lot of new things. For one thing, Ryan Murphy and the team usually tell audiences the theme of the season ahead of time. The series also typically starts close to Halloween in October. The Roanoke season started airing mid-September and without revealing the season’s theme or title ahead of time. It also did things like use found footage, and the story was broken into two different parts. Ultimately, Sarah Paulson was playing Shelby Miller, Audrey Tindall, and, Lana Winters.
While she may not have enjoyed the storyline or her main character that season, bringing back Lana Winters was a neat touch for Sarah Paulson fans. She played Lana Winters in American Horror Story: Asylum, one of the earlier and more interesting and controversial seasons of the show. That season was particularly dark. It also had one of Paulson’s most interesting characters. Lana Winters was a reporter, and in Asylum, we see her sneak in and then become trapped.
While the Roanoke season was not a high point for Sarah Paulson, she remains on the show and ready for season 10 of the series, Double Feature, which premieres on August 25, 2021.