Emmy winner Sarah Paulson took on one of the most iconic roles in movie history this season in “Ratched,” a prequel series to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” that follows Nurse Mildred Ratched. While this marks the latest in Paulson’s collaborations with mega-producer Ryan Murphy, it is also new territory for her, as she will be playing the character over the course of multiple seasons as opposed to just one. The actress is still a little bit surprised at herself for agreeing to the role. “What moron wants to take on a role played by a great actress who won an Oscar for the performance, and you think, ‘Yeah, I’ll take a crack at that?'” quips Paulson in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “That’s just some kind of dope on a rope, but that apparently is me.” Watch the video webchat above.
To prepare for the role, Paulson spent some time rewatching “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” studying Louise Fletcher‘s Oscar-winning performance as the chillingly strict yet calm nurse. Like this new series, Paulson looked at the film from a different perspective, trying to understand the motivations behind Nurse Ratched. “We assign her this evil stepmother role, which I think she’s actually acting from a place of what she believes is the healthy, best care to give them,” explains Paulson. The heart of what makes Fletcher’s performance so memorable is her stillness and her resolve, and Paulson was fascinated by how a younger version of that kind of person might operate. “What if younger Mildred, or Mildred prior to this time in this hospital, wasn’t as good at it and hadn’t yet arrived at that place where she could shut it all down?” she recalls pondering.
“Ratched” explores Mildred’s tragic past, how she was bonded to her foster brother only to be separated. Paulson keyed into “how large her heart was and how blind she would choose to become in order to ameliorate her feelings of guilt about having left him.” While the actress is used to playing with more outward emotions in “American Horror Story” and other projects, “Ratched” almost forced her to take a subtler approach. “I’m much goofier in person,” she admits. “It was an exercise for me to try to rein in some of my natural instinct towards letting it all hang out.”
Paulson was also thrilled by the opportunity to work with a troupe of celebrated actresses on “Ratched,” including Judy Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Amanda Plummer, Sophie Okonedo and Sharon Stone. “It just was a very special thing for me and every single day I thought, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that I get to do this,'” beams Paulson. “That little girl who dreamt about doing these kinds of things for my whole life, every day was kind of a pinch-me moment.”
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