Sarah Paulson on Acting: “I don’t know how to fake it”

Sarah Paulson's characters have undergone serious trauma and she's also gone through that herself since she doesn't know how to "fake it."

“I don’t know how to fake it. So if I’m hyperventilating, I’m hyperventilating.” – Sarah Paulson

Emmy Award-winning actress Sarah Paulson has received critical acclaim for her performances, particularly as the anchor of the FX anthology series American Horror Story. On that series specifically, Paulson’s characters have undergone some serious trauma — and as she tells NPR, she has also gone through that trauma herself since she doesn’t know how to “fake it.”

When asked if her acting comes through “detachment,” Paulson answers, “If I were more talented, I think the answer would be yes.” She continues in more detail:

“But I don’t know how to do it without really – like, I don’t know how to do – I don’t know how to fake it. So if I’m hyperventilating, I’m hyperventilating. And that’s just, you know, the consequence of my – you know, the havoc I’ve wreaked on my health, I’m sure, doing these shows because I think in Season 6 or something, which was the ‘Cult’ season, which was sort of dealing with the inauguration of President Trump and that whole story, my character was supposed to be completely undone by all of this. And, you know, that was sort of easy for me to replicate… Access in myself. But also, I was being chased by clowns, and it was like – but there’s really an actor with a clown head on, you know, with a knife in his hand chasing me, and I don’t know how to not run screaming from that. And I don’t know how to do it in a way where then I stop and go, OK, so when’s second meal? I just – I don’t know how to do it. I’m in the corner like, OK, can you just give me a minute? I just need a second. You know, it’s just like, wow, lady, you’ve got to find a way to do this without torturing yourself. I don’t think acting is supposed to be torturous, but, you know, I don’t know how to – I don’t know how to fake it. That’s the truth about me.”

With that in mind, Paulson poses an important question about an actor’s sanity. She says, “It really does beg the question, like, am I sane? Because why would you put yourself in this, you know, position again and again and again?”

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