Sarah Paulson Makes Some Surprising and Troubling Comments About Her Career

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Sarah Paulson, the fantastic actress you know from five seasons of American Horror Story, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Deadwood, Carol, 12 Years a Slave…she of a thousand personalities on that first series alone, still has to deal with confidence undermining bullhooey. Speaking to THR with a group of her peers (among them, Kerry Washington, Constance Zimmer, Regina King, Julianna Margulies) Paulson made a fairly astonishing (and yet, somehow not) statement:

I’ve never been asked to play the [romantic] leading lady without having to be a blonde.

I don’t mind it, I like the blond — but to be told that in order to be considered a romantic lady opposite some hunky guy, I need to have long blond hair that looked very L.A. Real Housewives? It does do something to your brain. You go, ‘Gosh, so the way I came into the world is not as appealing as it would be if I were altered in some way?’ That’s a funny message to extend to a person. And that’s the other thing: I did it. I put the extensions in, I blonded it up.

Among the conversational reveals about difficulties getting producer credit, what qualifies as “diva”-like or “difficult” behavior, and how Shonda Rhimes is creating a “reparations moment” on her series, changing one’s hair color might seem like a minor issue. But, in that one comment you can read what it’s done to Paulson’s psyche, and that’s the something very different we’re consistently hearing from women in the industry:  You must change yourself to fit some public ideal of a “hot” or “sexy” woman, and that’s probably a person of a certain weight, dressed a certain way, and with a very particular hair-color. When it comes to affecting the self-esteem of an actress of Paulson’s caliber, it just cuts to the bone.

While the roundtable discussion takes several turns, a lengthier bit of the interview focuses on how difficult it can be for women to get producer credit on their projects; specifically, Margulies discusses fighting for the entirety of her time on The Good Wife:

It was the Producers Guild that gave me a hard time. To try to prove my job to them in order for them to accept me as a producer? I still don’t think I’m in the Producers Guild, and it’s been three years.”

Paulson:  “Wow.”

THR notes that Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who’s won numerous awards including five Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actress, has also had to fight for producer credit, and questioned if a male actor would face the same difficulty.

Interestingly, Paulson took a moment to note that in her time — six years — on American Horror Story, she hasn’t had a female director.

I think very little has changed. What’s maybe changed is the fact that there’s more of a conversation happening about it, but I don’t know that there’s been that much forward motion.”

Washington then mentioned Ryan Murphy’s public commitment to do better; the writer/director created a foundation which aims to have at least half of his productions directed by women, persons of color and LGBT members, earlier this year.

All in all, the revealing interview, which also includes Jennifer Lopez and a strangely quiet Kirsten Dunst, is well worth a read. As for Sarah Paulson, we love you in every hair color…as do your boos.

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Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over seven years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

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  • emmalita

    It’s interesting to read the article and see the photos in the article. These professional women are talking about their experiences on set, not being taken seriously as professionals, being asked to change their appearance, feeling unable to voice their opinions, etc. And then there’s the photo. They are all dressed in pink, soft fabrics, mostly draped on furniture.

    • Excellent point.

      • emmalita

        I was going to actually make a point, but I was overcome with exhaustion just thinking about it.

        • But you did! Basically, we’re a world of hypocrites, forcing conformity to a crappy, narrow minded ideal. But there are good rumblings threatening to blast through the asphalt.

          • emmalita

            We can only hope.