Sarah Paulson is reflecting on the backlash regarding her recent television role.
In a new interview with The Wrap, the Impeachment: American Crime Story star, 46, acknowledged that people were upset over her being cast as White House whistleblower Linda Tripp in the FX series, a role for which she gained 30 pounds and wore a suit to make her appear heavier. Paulson defended taking the role, and called the criticism, which centered on the fact that Paulson is a thin woman, “particularly gender-specific.”
“It did hurt my feelings, partly because it felt, as often happens when you’re criticized for your work, or when you’re celebrated too … it’s very hard not to personalize. It’s very hard to not want to say, ‘Don’t you know I just spent two years of my life and then I gained 30 pounds to play this part?’ And that I like, slept, breathed, wept, bled Linda Tripp for two years?” Paulson explained during the site’s 2021 Power Women’s Summit, which also featured Cynthia Erivo. “So for you to sit down at your computer and decide that maybe this endeavor was not worthwhile, and that maybe I shouldn’t have been the one to play it, is so hurtful and also wrong.”
Calling it “the acting challenge of my life,” Paulson said the response “has been all over the map, and I welcome it, honestly, because it means I did my job … It meant the world to me to get to do it.”
While Paulson was quick to advocate for herself, she has also expressed “regret” in the past about wearing a fat suit in the show.
“It’s very hard for me to talk about this without feeling like I’m making excuses,” Paulson told The Los Angeles Times back in August. “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.”
While Paulson felt some “regret not thinking about it more fully,” she wasn’t willing to turn down such an amazing role. “Was I supposed to say no [to the part]? This is the question.”
Still, she said the issue 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.”
In recent years, there has been increasing criticism of thin actors wearing fat suits to appear heavier onscreen. In response, some stars have said they regretted ever wearing one. In a recent video for Netflix, Gwyneth Paltrow — who famously wore a fat suit in the controversial romantic comedy Shallow Hal — called the film a “disaster.” When her best friend and assistant Kevin Keating joked that the rom-com was a bad idea, Paltrow replied “exactly.”
Not all stars are quick to denounce the use of fat suits, however. Debby Ryan defended the use of one in Netflix’s Insatiable, in which she plays a girl who lost 70 pounds.
“We knew that this conversation needed to be had. We knew that this societal brokenness needed to be addressed, but we didn’t know how badly it needed to be addressed,” she told Teen Vogue.
That said, she explained that she understands the criticism too. “My friend, a few days before the trailer hit, in reference to something else, said, ‘The size of the reaction is the size of the wound,’ and it stayed with me.”