Sarah Paulson is a seriously haunted woman these days -- onstage or on-screen.
She's currently co-starring with Tony Award nominee Danny Burstein ("Follies") in the revival of "Talley's Folly," a Roundabout Theatre Company production at the Laura Pels Theatre that got rave reviews when it opened earlier this month. Burstein plays the endearing, smitten Matt Friedman; Paulson is Sally Talley, the woman who tries to talk sense, full of all sorts of reasons why their unexpected romance just won't work.
It becomes clear she's harboring a deep secret, which is almost as big a mystery as why this Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Lanford Wilson doesn't get revived more often. This is its first major New York revival since its 1980 Broadway debut. Good news -- the limited run has been extended through May 12.
Alas, fans of TV's "American Horror Story," the cult fave on FX co-starring Paulson, Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton and Jessica Lange, must wait until next season to get their creepfest fix. Little is known about the upcoming third season, except for the addition of Kathy Bates to the cast.
Paulson, 38, chatted with Newsday before a recent performance.
I hate to bring up a sore subject . . . but I hear you recently had to fly to L.A. to do publicity for "American Horror Story." And so your understudy went on for you here in New York.
Yes. It's the first performance I've ever missed in my entire theater career.
Yeah . . . so . . . it was hard. I literally flew out Friday morning, was in L.A. for five hours, got on a redeye and was back for my two shows the next day. In L.A., my palms were sweating, I felt sick, I kept looking at the clock, going, 'I can't believe somebody else is about to walk onstage.' I hated it, and hope never to repeat it.
The play seems so charming from the audience's view, but I gather it's tough to perform.
It's essentially a 97-minute scene. There's no blackout. No scene change. No costume change. For the actors, it starts and just doesn't stop.
So there's no chance to take a breath backstage.
And it's just the two of us onstage.
What's the deal with Lanford Wilson not getting revived that often?
I don't know. He's extraordinary. I wish he was revived as much as "Glass Menagerie" or any Tennessee Williams play. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't really know much of his work. I did scene study from his play "Hot L Baltimore" when I was in high school I went to the performing arts high school here in the city. But I was 16. Now, I'm a total Lanford Wilson -- whatever the word would be -- obsessive, I guess. [She chuckles.]
Speaking of obsessive . . . how are the fans of "American Horror Story"?
Well, I'm on Twitter, and I get a lot of . . . very nice marriage proposals. From people from other countries. And, hey, I'm single, so I might just take one of them up on it.
It's so unique -- the way they use mostly the same actors each season but have you playing different characters with totally new story lines.
It's like nothing I could have ever, ever dreamt of. And I have no idea what's coming next season. None of us know. We have the title: "Coven." It's about witches. But I don't know what kind -- am I a good witch or a bad witch? [She laughs.]
It's like you're in a repertory company, but instead of a collection of plays, you're performing spooky TV shows.
It's unprecedented. I can't think of a thing on television like it.
I know. I don't think it's been done before -- except maybe on a comedy variety show like "Saturday Night Live." But that's sketches.
Being on a long-running TV show is great, but it can be a hindrance if you want to pursue other parts. People only see you as this one thing. So, to be on a TV show that's successful, with incredible actors, and you get to change your character every year -- it's just the most extraordinary job in the world.
You're also in the film "Twelve Years a Slave," which may come out later this year. It's generating buzz.
It's Steve McQueen's next movie. He directed "Shame." It tells the story of a free man who is captured and sold as a slave. Michael Fassbender and I are the plantation owners. And next month there's "Mud," with Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon. I play the mother of a 16-year-old boy. It's the first time I've done that. I could technically have a 16-year-old, but I would have to have started reeeeally young.
Sounds like things are really percolating for you right now.
Yeah, it's been wild -- especially getting Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. It's been a very exciting year.