Sarah Paulson has been known to go to great lengths to get into character.
“It’s very hard for me to talk about this without feeling like I’m making excuses,” she prefaced to The Los Angeles Times in an interview this week.
“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,” Paulson continued. “And it is a very important conversation to be had.”
She looked unrecognizable in her prosthetic makeup, teased blonde wig, and chunky round glasses, when she revealed a first glimpse at her portrayal of Tripp in November. Paulson stars in the third installment of Ryan Murphy‘s true crime anthology series as the former U.S. civil servant whose secret recordings of her phone calls with Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) exposed the then-intern’s affair with President Bill Clinton (Clive Owen).
Paulson has since faced backlash for her physical portrayal of Tripp. “Dear Hollywood, Can You Please Just Hire Actual Fat People to Play Fat Characters?” read the title of an op-ed that ran on Refinery29 in April, using the ACS role to point at Hollywood’s larger issue of fat phobia.
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“But that entire responsibility I don’t think falls on the actor for choosing to do something that is arguably — and I’m talking about from the inside out — the challenge of a lifetime,” Paulson added. “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. I would like to believe that there is something in my being that makes me right to play this part. And that the magic of hair and makeup departments and costumers and cinematographers that has been part of moviemaking, and suspension of belief, since the invention of cinema. Was I supposed to say no [to the part]? This is the question.”
The Ratched star admitted that she has “regret” about donning the fat suit, adding that she won’t make the same mistake twice. “I think the thing I think about the most is that I regret not thinking about it more fully,” she shared.
“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,” Paulson said. “Should I have known? Abso-f—ing-lutely. But I do now. And I wouldn’t make the same choice going forward.”
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She previously intended to forego the fat suit altogether to play Tripp, who died at age 70 of pancreatic cancer in April 2020. “I’m going to gain some weight to play her, and I don’t want to wear a suit because I think it will feel very strange,” Paulson said at the New Yorker Festival in October 2019.
“I don’t feel like it would be a great idea for me to come to work putting on some kind of faux suit and just all mucked up and not being able to move my face nor feel the feelings that she [Tripp] might have been feeling,” Paulson explained.
See Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp in Impeachment: American Crime Story, premiering September 7 at 10 p.m. on FX.