Exclusive: Sarah Paulson (‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’) goes supporting at Emmys

Are two heads better than one? FX sure hopes so, as they’ve just confirmed exclusively to Gold Derby that Sarah Paulson will enter the Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actress race at the Emmys for her role as a two-headed woman on “American Horror Story: Freak Show.”

This savvy move takes Paulson directly out of the line of sight of her leading lady Jessica Lange at the Emmys, as well as recent Golden Globe victor Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Honorable Woman“), Oscar winner Frances McDormand (“Olive Kitteridge“) and Brit sensation Frances O’Connor (“The Missing“). Now, Paulson will be facing off against co-star and reigning Emmy champ Kathy Bates and … who else? That’s still to be determined, but the competition seems less fierce down in the supporting race this year, making FX’s decision an easy one to rally behind.

Emmys Poll: Should Sarah Paulson go Supporting or Lead for ‘AHS: Freak Show’?

Earlier this week, we ran a poll at Gold Derby asking what category YOU thought would be best for Paulson at the Emmys. 74% of our responders thought she should enter the supporting race, while 22% voted for the lead category and 4% couldn’t make up their minds.

On “Freak Show,” Paulson played conjoined sisters Bette and Dot Tattler, giving her a massive edge on her competition thanks to the Emmys’ penchant for rewarding performers with dual roles or who play characters with multiple personalities. That’s how “Bionic Woman” star Lindsay Wagner pulled off her upset victory for Best Drama Actress in 1977. She submitted an episode in which she played good and evil characters, which helped her overcome her show’s genre stigma.

Multiple roles are an advantage at the Emmys because they allow actors to show off their range and versatility. In addition to Wagner, that strategy also worked for Sally Field, who won for playing a woman with multiple personalities in “Sybil,” and Erika Slezak, who set the record for most Best Actress wins at the Daytime Emmys (6) thanks in large part to storylines where she played split personalities on “One Life to Live.”

6 best deaths so far on ‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’: Who’s next?

More recently, Toni Collette won Best Comedy Actress for her role as a wife and mother battling her alters on “United States of Tara,” while Alec Baldwin earned both of his Best Comedy Actor Emmys for “30 Rock” thanks to this scenario. For his first win, Baldwin channeled multiple personalities during a stand-out therapy scene, and his second victory was attributed to an episode in which he played a Spanish soap opera star alongside his normal character of Jack Donaghy.

For “Asylum” (2013) Paulson entered the supporting race at the Emmys and was heavily favored to win, but wound up playing second fiddle to Ellen Burstyn (“Political Animals“) instead. And last year, her increased role on “Coven” (2014) prompted FX to try their luck submitting Paulson as a lead actress. While she did secure a nomination, she lost out to co-star Lange.

While the awards are still months away, you can visit Gold Derby’s TV Forum right now where the Emmys discussion never ends. And be sure to sound off on FX’s decision in the comments section below our 2014 Q&A with Paulson.

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