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Sarah Paulson will be haunting the American Horror Story spin-off in a different way: as director

By Tara Bennett
Sarah Paulson in Ratched

Sarah Paulson will continue to add "director" to her already mighty resume as she confirms she'll direct an episode of the upcoming FX anthology spin-off series American Horror Stories.

At the virtual CTAM (Cable Telecommunications Association for Marketing) summer press event today, Paulson provided details about her ever-expanding nine-year collaboration with creator/executive producer Ryan Murphy. In particular, she shared that while she wasn’t sure if she would be acting in any capacity in FX’s upcoming spin-off anthology that will tell a different horror tale every week, she definitely will be directing an episode. 

Sarah Paulson in Ratched

Paulson’s been synonymous with the American Horror Story franchise since its inaugural season in 2011. And her first directing job came in Season 8 for the episode “Return to Murder House.” That ended up being a well-reviewed installment of the series, so it’s intriguing to see what story she gets to tackle for Season 1 of this aptly titled spin-off series American Horror Stories.

When exactly that will happen is another story as the COVID-19 crisis remains dire in the United States, and especially in Southern California, which is where both American Horror Stories and Impeachment: American Crime Story (in which Paulson is also attached to star, as Linda Tripp) intend to go into production. The production industry has yet to get operational in the United States due to hot spots of infection across the nation.

“I don’t know more than you all do,” Paulson said to reporters. “California is not having its finest moment right now dealing with this pandemic. We were less than two weeks from starting Impeachment before everything shut down. Right now, it’s lots of rumors of going back in October or maybe 2021. Lots of rumors, not facts.”

In the meantime, Paulson fans can get their fix of her talent as the latest Paulson/Murphy joint, Ratched, which premieres on Netflix on Sept. 18. The actress takes on the iconic role of Nurse Mildred Ratched, originally made indelible via Louise Fletcher’s Academy Award-winning performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). The series is a prequel that provides insight into what shaped the recalcitrant nurse into the terrifying figure she’s come to be known as in pop culture.

Paulson is also an executive producer on Ratched, and she told reporters that while she didn’t originate the idea for the series, she was both intrigued and terrified to step into the shoes of Fletcher, and into the role. “I did not reach out to any of the [film] actors,” she shared. “But I thought about Louise Fletcher every day we were shooting it and she is present in what we did.”

She also shared that she’s taken an active role in her EP position for Ratched and the upcoming Impeachment: American Crime Story. It’s created a unique shift in her normal flow of collaboration with Murphy, as she says she’s typically only given input from an actor’s perspective on their prior shows.

“I felt legitimized and recognized,” she said of how Murphy has encouraged her and read all of her detailed notes on the early Ratched episode cuts. “I try never to watch anything that I do, because I hate looking at my face. But for this, I had to watch in a clinical, detached way, because it was more about story and the over-arching story."