For the first time ever, FX’s anthology series “American Horror Story” will be in the drama races at the Emmys for its “Murder House”-“Coven” crossover season, titled “Apocalypse.” Of course, this also means that leading lady Sarah Paulson will find herself in a different environment, now that she’s competing in Best Drama Actress. At the moment, she’s down in 13th place in our combined Emmy odds, but could she surprise and sneak into the lineup?
With seven previous Emmy nominations and one win for playing Marcia Clark on “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” in 2016, Paulson is practically Emmy royalty. Since five of her seven bids are for “Horror Story,” we already know that voters are familiar with her work on that show, albeit for different characters. But that could actually work in her favor this year, since, in addition to slipping into the shoes of her newest character Wilhemina Venable, she also reprised her “Murder House” (Billie Dean Howard) and “Coven” (Cordelia Foxx) roles. And if that weren’t already challenging as is, she actually played Wilhemina in two different timelines: before and after the apocalypse.
But despite having to play all three, sometimes even two characters in the same episode, Paulson managed to keep each performance distinct from the others. While Wilhemina is probably the most visible physical transformation for her, it’s Cordelia that allows her to display the widest range of emotions. Not only is she arguably the emotional center of the season, but of the three, she probably has the most screen time. That’s not to say that her turn as Wilhemina, the mysterious leader of the underground base Outpost 3, and reprisal of Billie Dean aren’t equally impressive.
Playing multiple characters on the same show certainly helped Tatiana Maslany nab three bids (2015-16, 2018) and one win (2016) for “Orphan Black.” Yes, she played more characters on that show than Paulson did in “Apocalypse,” but that doesn’t attenuate the latter’s achievement. With all three of Paulson’s characters names next to her name on the ballot, even voters who didn’t watch this installment of “Horror Story” might have checked her off – either for the triple whammy of performances or because they liked and remembered her work on “Murder House” and/or “Coven.”
This season, she also stepped behind the camera to direct “Return to Murder House,” the climatic sixth episode of the season. As its title already indicates, it featured the much-anticipated return of many “Murder House” characters, including Jessica Lange’s Constance Langdon. Voters love it when actors wear multiple hats, especially when they’re also in front of the camera in their directed episode, which Paulson was as Billie Dean.
Overall, it’s difficult to predict how “Horror Story” will fare overall this year since it’s entering uncharted territory. Last year in limited, it saw a slight uptick in nominations, from four for “Roanoke” (2017) to seven for “Cult,” including acting ones for Paulson and Adina Porter. Now with much of last year’s drama competition not in the running this year, the drama categories are wide open, especially Best Drama Actress, where Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve”) is the only possible returnee from last year’s lineup. As for the five slots that are technically open, Robin Wright, who was nominated for the first five seasons of “House of Cards” and is now eligible for the final one, could be another returnee, but it’s been two years since her last bid since “House of Cards” sat out last year’s cycle. A field as such could benefit someone like Paulson who already has a good track record with the TV academy and has been nominated multiple times for this particular show in the past.
As of now, Oh is leading our odds, followed by Laura Linney (“Ozark”), Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve”), Julia Roberts (“Homecoming”), Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”), and Christine Baranski (“The Good Fight”).
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