When it debuted in January, M. Night Shyamalan's Glass earned big box office returns and sparked major debate over its divisive ending. We can resume the discussion as the film makes its Blu-ray/DVD debut from Universal Home Entertainment on April 16. If you haven't seen the film, beware: spoilers abound in the following interview.
(And don't forget to check out the cool deleted scene featuring Dr. Staple from the Blu-ray/DVD at the bottom of the page)
Whatever side you land on in the back-and-forth about film's big reveal and what it means to the Unbreakable universe, we can all agree that the most compelling character in a character study about people with super powers was... the psychologist.
She may not have any actual powers of her own, but thanks to Sarah Paulson's performance, Dr. Ellie Staple turned out to be a superb super-villain. Her scenes with the three central figures in Glass — David Dunn (Bruce Willis), Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson) and The Horde (James McAvoy) — highlight her world-class gaslighting skills, as she carefully undermines their belief that they actually have super-abilities.
Paulson, herself, views the character a bit differently.
"I don't see her as a gaslighter," the actress told SYFY WIRE during a recent phone conversation. "I see her as the person who knows that these three individuals will not be able to take in anything she's saying unless she approaches it from a particular vantage point. I think she finds this particularly true of everyone with this, as she would refer to, disorder:. That they are incapable of seeing it directly and have to be approached from a different angle."
Of course, by the end of the film, we learn Staple's real angle. She's part of a long-running secret society that suppresses or eliminates people with superhuman abilities. The group's mission statement is to prevent these meta humans from rising up and eliminating those not blessed with extraordinary gifts, by any means necessary.
"I truly believe that she thinks she's doing something with real...that has a greater good attached to it," Paulson says in analyzing the purpose of her, and the clandestine society's, motives. "She is trying to, I think, prevent any one individual from having too much power in the world. I think she thinks it's dangerous. I even have that line in the movie where I say, 'It wouldn't be right. No one should have that much power, Elijah.'"
"I think, for her, she's doing something that she thinks is only there to help," she adds. "Not only help them, but to help the world. And if they have to lose in the process, I think she's willing to take that arrangement, even though I do think the outcome of the movie is very upsetting to her. I don't think that's what she had hoped would happen to any of them."
The climax in Glass — in which Dunn, Kevin and Elijah all die and video evidence proving the existence of meta humans is released to the public — has been widely analyzed and in many cases, criticized. But it's hard to argue that it was an incredibly bold move by Shyamalan to kill off the three main characters of your trilogy. Count Paulson as an M. Night fan. She says she said committed to the role before even seeing the script.
"I said yes before I read it because I was so desperate and hungry to work with Night," she says, pointing out that she was the only person in the main cast who hadn't worked with Shyamalan before. "That was both daunting and thrilling and a real vote of confidence from Night that he trusted me to enter this world and not stick out like a sore thumb."
She almost didn't get the chance to star in the film, because her character was originally written as a man. "I don't know what prompted Night to change the gender of the character, but I'm very grateful that he did," she says. "And I think it was a really smart idea of his, like many of his ideas."
We're in a time of shifting casting dynamics, when female-fronted blockbusters like Captain Marvel are redefining the super hero genre. When we asked her about the significance of playing the female adversary in a film about super powers, even one as street-level as Glass, Paulson responded that it's simply about giving actresses good roles.
"I think, at the end of the day, all anyone's ever looking for is a part that's got some real meat on the bone and that you aren't just there to pretty up a picture," Paulson explains. "That your presence in the story is of value and you're not just there to support the male characters. Any time that's present, you're always gonna pique the interest of an actress who's looking to have something more to do."
Ever busy, Paulson is now moving on to new gigs, including Ratched, a Netflix project that will be the origin story of the wicked Nurse Ratched from the Oscar-winning classic One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. If that project gets you thinking of American Horror Story: Asylum, well... maybe it's because it's being produced by AHS mastermind Ryan Murphy.
We now know Season 9's official title, American Horror Story: 1984, and that it will be a callback of sorts to that decade's scary movies. So, is Paulson, who Murphy has called his 'muse' and who has appeared in every AHS season, returning? She didn't say yes, but she most definitely did not say no.
"I don't really know the answer to that. I think... all I can say is I know the least about this season upcoming that I've known about any season. I don't even know...yeah, that's all I can say," Paulson says. "I think that's all I can say. Usually, I have more information at this point, and I'm bugging Ryan with questions. Right now, I don't have a lot and yeah, I'm so busy with Ratched, it's hard for me to think about anything beyond that."
It's a fairly safe bet she'll be back, given that Paulson credits Murphy and AHS for boosting her career into hyperdrive. "It's not that I didn't work before, but that gave me an opportunity to really flex my muscles," she says.
The actress stepped behind the camera on last season's AHS to direct an episode, her first time in the chair. It's an experience she'd like to repeat, but not right away. "I might like to do another American Horror Story. I definitely won't be directing any time soon, though. I was supposed to direct Episode 8, and then I got a call from Ryan saying, 'I want you to do the 'Return to Murder House' episode.' And it was starting in two weeks. So I had very, very little time to prepare. So, the next time I do it, I would like to have that prep time. Just to give myself a fair shot at actually getting some sleep while I'm doing it."