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Paulson in 2015
|Born||Sarah Catharine Paulson
December 17, 1974
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
|Alma mater||American Academy of Dramatic Arts|
Sarah Catharine Paulson (born December 17, 1974) is an American actress. After beginning her acting career on stage, she starred in the 1990s television series American Gothic (1995–96) and Jack & Jill (1999–2001). Paulson later appeared in comedy films such as What Women Want (2000) and Down with Love (2003), and had dramatic roles in films such as Path to War (2002) and The Notorious Bettie Page (2005). From 2006 to 2007, Paulson played the role of Harriet Hayes in the NBC comedy-drama series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, for which she received her first Golden Globe Award nomination. In 2008, she starred as Ellen Dolan in the superhero noir film The Spirit.
Paulson has appeared on Broadway in the plays The Glass Menagerie in 2005 and Collected Stories in 2010. She also starred in a number of independent films, and had a leading role on the ABC comedy series Cupid in 2009. She later starred in the independent drama film Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), and received Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for her performance as Nicolle Wallace in the HBO film Game Change (2012). She starred as Mary Epps in the 2013 historical drama film 12 Years a Slave and as Abby Gerhard in the 2015 drama film Carol. Both films received widespread critical acclaim and were nominated for multiple Academy Awards.
In 2011, Paulson began starring in the FX anthology series American Horror Story, playing different characters in each of the show's seven seasons. For her work throughout the series, she has been nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards between 2013 and 2016 and won two Critics' Choice Television Awards for Best Supporting Actress in a Movie/Miniseries in 2013 and 2015. In 2016, Paulson portrayed real life prosecutor Marcia Clark in the first season of the anthology series American Crime Story, subtitled The People v. O. J. Simpson. For her work in the series, she won the Emmy Award, Critics' Choice Television Award, TCA Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe Award for Outstanding Lead Actress. In 2017, Time named Paulson one of the 100 most influential people of the year.
Paulson was born on December 17, 1974 in Tampa, Florida, the daughter of Catharine Gordon (née Dolcater) and Douglas Lyle Paulson II. She lived in South Tampa until she was 5, when her parents divorced. She then spent time in Maine, before moving to New York City at the age of 5 with her mother. She lived in Queens and Gramercy Park, before settling in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She spent her summers in Florida visiting her father. Paulson attended Manhattan's Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Paulson began working as an actress right out of high school. She appeared in the Horton Foote play Talking Pictures at the Signature Theatre, and in an episode of Law & Order in 1994. The next year Paulson appeared in the Hallmark film Friends at Last (1995) opposite Kathleen Turner. She starred in the short-lived television series American Gothic. Paulson played Elisa Cronkite in The WB comedy-drama series Jack & Jill (1999).
Paulson had a minor role in the HBO series Deadwood and was a focal character in an episode of the critically acclaimed FX series Nip/Tuck. She starred as the main character in the short-lived NBC series Leap of Faith. In 2004, she had a supporting role in the ABC series The D.A., which ended after a few episodes. In theater productions, Paulson starred in a revival of The Glass Menagerie on Broadway and appeared Off-Broadway in Killer Joe, and Colder Than Here.
In the 2006–07 television season, Paulson co-starred in NBC's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, playing Harriet Hayes, one of the stars of the show-within-a-show. This role earned her a nomination for Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film. In December 2008, Paulson appeared in the screen adaptation of Will Eisner's comic book The Spirit, playing an updated version of the character Ellen Dolan.
On August 25, 2008, ABC ordered her pilot Cupid to series. It was a remake of the 1998 series starring Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall. In the new version, Paulson starred opposite Bobby Cannavale. It debuted in late March 2009 on ABC but was cancelled on May 19, 2009, after six episodes. In February 2010, Paulson portrayed the circa 1982 mother of main character Meredith Grey, on the ABC drama Grey's Anatomy. She played Nicolle Wallace in the HBO film Game Change (2012), based on events of the 2008 U.S. presidential election campaign.
In 2011, Paulson guest starred in three episodes of the FX anthology series American Horror Story, playing medium Billie Dean Howard. Paulson returned for season two, American Horror Story: Asylum, in which she played a new character, Lana Winters, a writer who is committed to an asylum for being gay. She appeared in the third season of the series, titled American Horror Story: Coven as Cordelia Foxx, a witch who runs an academy for other young witches. She appeared in the fourth season of the show, titled American Horror Story: Freak Show, portraying conjoined twin sisters Bette and Dot Tattler. She returned for the fifth season, subtitled Hotel, portraying the role of Hypodermic Sally. She also portrayed Billie Dean Howard again for the last episode of the season. Paulson went on to star in the sixth iteration of the series, subtitled Roanoke. She portrayed British actress Audrey Tindall, who appeared in the My Roanoke Nightmare documentary as tortured wife and yoga instructor Shelby Miller.
Paulson has starred in numerous critically acclaimed films. She played the role of Mary Lee in the 2012 film Mud. In 2013, she starred as Mary Epps in the historical drama film 12 Years a Slave. She then portrayed Abby Gerhard in the 2015 romantic drama film Carol.
Paulson has also had a successful theatre career. In 2005, she starred as Laura Wingfield in a revival of Tennessee Williams' play The Glass Menagerie alongside Jessica Lange, Josh Lucas, and Christian Slater. In 2010, Paulson starred in Donald Margulies's Collected Stories alongside Linda Lavin. Paulson starred in a revival of Lanford Wilson's Talley's Folly alongside Danny Burstein in 2013.
In June 2016, the Human Rights Campaign released a video in tribute to the victims of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting; in the video, Paulson and others told the stories of the people killed there.
In 2016, Paulson starred in the true crime anthology series American Crime Story. She portrayed prosecutor Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson. She received widespread praise for her performance and won various awards, including the TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Drama and her first Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her role in the series. In 2016, it was announced that Paulson would be part of the ensemble cast of the upcoming heist film Ocean's 8. She starred as actress Geraldine Page in one episode of the first season of drama anthology series Feud.
In October 2016, Ryan Murphy announced that Paulson will direct an episode of one of his television shows, as part of his Half project. Murphy's initiative involves at least half of one of his four projects being directed by women, people of LGBT status, and different ethnicities.
Paulson dated actress Cherry Jones from 2004 to 2009. In an interview with Broadway.com in 2013, referring to her sexuality, she said "the situation is fluid for me." Before her relationship with Jones, she had only dated men, including playwright Tracy Letts, to whom she was engaged.