Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story anthology series made its bones in uncanny wigs and makeup. In the first season of the show, The People V. O.J. Simpson, Murphy drove right to the edge of camp, parked his car, and screamed, “Sarah Paulson shall wear this obvious wig and it will be glorious.” And it was. But this technique has its drawbacks, and Paulson, who again stars in the series, is feeling the heat.
In Impeachment: American Crime Story, Paulson plays a key figure, Linda Tripp, who blew the whistle on President Bill Clinton’s affair with 22-year-old intern Monica Lewinsky. However, since Tripp is heavier than Paulson, the actor gained 30 pounds and wore a “fat suit” for the role. Not everyone was happy with her casting. Some on social media criticized her for taking the part, which could have gone to a plus-sized actor, and for wearing the bodysuit.
Speaking to The Los Angeles Times, Paulson admits that she regrets not thinking more carefully about what wearing the costume means and admits that she would not do it again. “It’s very hard for me to talk about this without feeling like I’m making excuses,” Paulson told The Times. “There’s a lot of controversy around actors and fat suits, and I think that controversy is a legitimate one. I think fat phobia is real. I think to pretend otherwise causes further harm. And it is a very important conversation to be had.”
She doesn’t have that conversation, though, at least not here. Paulson says that the “entire responsibility” does not fall on the actor for taking on “the challenge of a lifetime.” Instead, she wants to believe that her frequent collaborator Ryan Murphy saw something in her that exuded Linda Tripp-iness, making her the only possible choice for the role. “I do think to imagine that the only thing any actor called upon to play this part would have to offer is their physical self is a real reduction of the offering the actor has to make,” she said. “I would like to believe that there is something in my being that makes me right to play this part.” The magic of the cinema, she says, takes care of the rest.
Overall, Paulson said that she mostly regrets “not thinking abut it more fully.” Had she done that, she says, Paulson would not have made the same choice.
“I think the thing I think about the most is that I regret not thinking about it more fully. And that is an important thing for me to think about and reflect on. I also know it’s a privileged place to be sitting and thinking about it and reflecting on it, having already gotten to do it, and having had an opportunity that someone else didn’t have. You can only learn what you learn when you learn it. Should I have known? Abso-f—ing-lutely. But I do now. And I wouldn’t make the same choice going forward.”
Impeachment: American Crime Story premiers on FX on September 7.