A Conversation with Actor: Sarah Paulson


Before starting rehearsals for Talley's Folly, Sarah Paulson spoke with Education Dramaturg Ted Sod about preparing to play Sally Talley.

Ted Sod: Can you give us some background information on yourself?

Sarah Paulson: I was born in Tampa, Florida, but my mother moved us to New York City when I was five years old. I lived in Queens, Gramercy Park, on West 11th St, and we ended up settling in Park Slope, Brooklyn, for many years. I went to Performing Arts High School, right behind Lincoln Center. I feel like I wanted to be an actress in the womb-I just came out that way. I don't understand how or why we have these impulses. Being able to make a living doing it is such a gift.

TS: Was your mom supportive?

SP: Absolutely. I remember she hooked me up with some friend of hers whose son went to Performing Arts High School. He walked me around the school when I had to audition there. I was all of 14 years old. My mom was very supportive. Although, I will say, when I got my first job and I told my mother I got the job, her reaction was, "Oh no, you're actually going to do this?"

TS: So, you went right to work after high school?

SP: Yes, right out of high school I did Talking Pictures, a Horton Foote play at the Signature Theatre. I did a "Law & Order" episode, and then a movie of the week for Hallmark with Kathleen Turner playing my mother. I went to North Carolina for a TV series entitled "American Gothic", which was cancelled rather quickly. But then I was flown to LA to audition for a pilot for CBS, and I remember testing against Hilary Swank. I got the job, but things worked out well for her so I don't feel too bad.

TS: Why did you want to play Sally in Talley's Folly? I know you're still quite busy working on TV.

SP: Well, that's precisely why. I've been playing an incredibly dark and brutalized character on "American Horror Story" for the last five or six months of my life. I've always been a huge Lanford Wilson fan and have worked at Roundabout before, so when Talley's Folly came along, I wanted to do it. I haven't been onstage for about two years, which is about as long as I like to go without doing a play because I start to fear that my muscles will atrophy and I'll become a person who can't be onstage-I would never want that to happen! I think you end up taking on each job that comes your way because of where you are in your own life. There's just something about Talley's Folly that spoke to me. I'm a little older than Sally, obviously, but I have no children-not because I can't have them, I just haven't yet and I don't know if I will-but there's something about this woman, the time period, and this love story-her commitment to believing that there was something wrong enough with her that she would never be able to find anyone. I think there's something very moving and poignant about her story. It struck a chord in me. Sally is someone I wanted to explore for a few months. And, of course, it was appealing to work with Danny Burstein and Michael Wilson. So, there is a myriad of reasons for choosing to do Talley's Folly, all of which are equally important to me.