Sarah Paulson: The “Horrible Part” Inherent to Acting in ‘American Horror Story’

If you have yet to fall in love with Sarah Paulson – and every glorious version of her witnessed in American Horror Story (AHS)you must not be watching TV appropriately. Sarah Paulson has been a mainstay in AHS since the beginning. 

From her spellbinding (pun intended) turn as Cordelia Foxx in AHS: Coven to her portrayal of the ambitious, yet sometimes careless, Lana Winters, Paulson escapes into each haunting character she dare try on for size. 

Sarah Paulson
Sarah Paulson | Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Though Sarah Paulson has chosen to sit the upcoming season of AHS out – for reasons largely unknown – she will return for the series finale next year. Given the actress’s newfound stardom and a subsequent busy schedule, she likely doesn’t have the time to take on a lead role in 1984. Though she will be missed, she’s probably not gone for good, as the AHS finale won’t be the same without the two Ps: Paulson and Peters.

During an interview with Collider, Sarah Paulson discussed American Horror Story and why she loves working with Ryan Murphy; however, she also revealed why starring in American Horror Story can present certain difficulties.

Sarah Paulson on American Horror Story: “The blessing of it” and “the horrible part” 

Since American Horror Story is an anthology, viewers watch different characters and different narratives unfold every season. The actors remain the same, but the stories they tell and the lives they encompass change drastically. Speaking on behalf of this facet, Sarah Paulson stated:

“…Every year, you get to try something completely different, and it’s an entirely new story.  Artistically speaking, you just never get that lucky. If you get on a TV show that’s successful, odds are that you’re playing the same character for as many years as the show is running, which can be its own blessing, but it can also be a curse because you’re playing the same thing and that can be tiresome.  With this, you get to do something entirely different. The bad part about it is that you have to say goodbye to a character that you may have come to love like crazy, and you only got to spend 13 episodes with her…So, like all great things, there’s the blessing of it, and there’s the horrible part, too.”


Sarah Paulson explains that flexing her acting muscles across various characters – with diverse backstories and intriguing internal conflicts – is a rare opportunity that she’s grateful for. However, she explains that it can be challenging to let go of certain roles so quickly. She told the interviewer that she could have played Lana Winters for “the rest of [her] life.”

Lana Winters was one of Sarah Paulson’s most iconic turns from season two. Throughout her time on AHS, Paulson has been granted the opportunity to play several incredible women – characters who are complex and unpredictable. She thanks Ryan Murphy for writing his female characters with such prowess.

Sarah Paulson talks Ryan Murphy: He tells “the female story” 

Sarah Paulson explained to Collider one of the conversations she had with her Asylum co-star, Patti LuPone, during which she noted Murphy’s tendency to write incredible female characters. Paulson stated:

“ I was just in the trailer with Patti LuPone and she said, “The thing I love about this is that it’s the season of the vagina.  There are so many amazing women.” And it’s true. There are so many extraordinary women. They’re wonderful actresses. Ryan has always been so interested in telling the female story.  He writes wonderfully for actresses. It’s where he tends to gravitate. And being a woman, I’m very grateful for that, I have to say.” 


Paulson is one of the many women, joining the likes of Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, and more, whose leading role in AHS always packs a punch.