Sarah Paulson Interview: ‘Mrs. America’
Sarah Paulson can’t think of enough nice things to say about her “Mrs. America” co-star Cate Blanchett, but she does like to describe a side of “The Great Cate” that many people may not know about her. “She is so much fun! She is so funny. She has this elegance and this real formidable presence, and that’s a part of her too, but she is a goon. She is such a goony-goon,” Paulson tells us in our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above), co-hosted by Gold Derby editor Marcus Dixon. But Paulson, who’s also worked with Blanchett on “Ocean’s 8” and “Carol,” also described her generosity which she brought to “Mrs. America” as a producer: “It was just as important to her that Alice have a full breadth of story than it was to have Phyllis’s story be what it was. She felt very protective of my story line and was incredibly dedicated.”
“Mrs. America” chronicles the years-long battle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution. It examines this through both the Stop E.R.A. organization led by Phyllis Schlafly (Blanchett) as well as the activists leading the crusade to ratify the amendment including Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Rep. Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), Jill Ruckelshaus (Elizabeth Banks) and Rep. Shirely Chisholm (Uzo Aduba). Paulson portrays Alice, a friend of Schlafly’s who becomes one of her loyal foot soldiers in fighting against the E.R.A. Paulson is no stranger to the Emmys, having scored seven nominations over the past eight years including a win for Movie/Mini Actress in 2016 for playing Marcia Clark in “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
In the episode that centers on her character, “Houston,” Paulson also reveals that Alice’s lowest moment, when she gives a disastrous on-camera interview, had to go through several iterations. “Originally that scene was Alice speaking on the floor of the convention, but because we were running out of days they had to compress it,” she says. But after working with showrunner Dahvi Waller, they reworked the scene to be an interview that would be the launching point of Alice questioning her relationship with Schlafly. “I don’t think Alice knew who she was without Phyllis… and it wasn’t until she stepped outside of the cocoon of that relationship that she realized that maybe some of the things that she was being told were not only inaccurate but very skewed.”
Paulson also spoke about how she wished Alice could have had more interactions with the characters from the pro-E.R.A. side due to both the plethora of actors on that side and the fact that they seemed like they were having so much fun. There was one co-star she would have loved to have had some scenes with. “I think it would have been interesting to see Alice interact with Betty Friedan and it’s also that I’m so worshipful of Tracey [Ullman] and she’s such a wonderful person.” She also tells us that there is so much more to Ullman than her comedic talents. “For all those people that mostly know her as an extraordinarily hilarious comedian, she’s also a wonderful actress and she’s a wonderful person. She’s a very deep, thoughtful person who I became lovely friends with,” she explains.