Next month out actress Sarah Paulson will attend the Emmys in hopes of winning Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries for Movie for her role as Lana Winters in American Horror Story: Asylum. She’s got some stiff competition (Imelda Staunton, Ellen Burstyn, Charlotte Rampling and Alfre Woodard) but Sarah’s work on the second season of Ryan Murphy‘s FX series is some of the best on television in the last year, if not decade. As a reporter interested in uncovering the unconventional methods of the Briarcliff Mental Institution, Lana has a target on her back and ends up a patient herself after Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) finds out she’s a lesbian, reason enough to be committed in 1964.
“I think the thing I liked about it the most it wasn’t made a—I didn’t feel that feeling of ‘Oh I gotta figure out how to play a gay lady.’ It was just sort of like ‘Why don’t you just play the person?’” Sarah said during an interview after FX’s panel for American Horror Story: Coven, of which she’s also a star. “It was a combination of it was very much defined who she was and it also was not what her story was. But it was, but it wasn’t.”
Despite living in a time where sexism and homophobia were very much a part of the societal norm, Lana wasn’t as concerned about being outed herself. Sarah points out it was Lana’s partner Wendy (played by Clea DuVall) who was a school teacher and felt the most threatened by Sister Jude’s menacing attempts.
“It was Wendy who was much more afraid than Lana was in the world,” Sarah said. “I just didn’t really think about her gayness about something I needed to figure out how I was playing. I wanted to play the person and this was a part of who she was and it didn’t define her. It did, but it didn’t. You know what I mean.”