Sorry, Holland Taylor! Sarah Paulson brought a different date to the Emmy Awards — former California deputy district attorney Marcia Clark, whom Paulson portrayed in the widely lauded miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story — and won an Outstanding Lead Actress Emmy for her performance. In order to play the lead prosecutor in the trial of the century, Paulson rocked four different wigs showcasing Clark’s infamous corkscrew curls.
During a panel discussion about her role, Paulson, 41, explained how she found common ground with Clark by way of their hair. After explaining that she’d never been allowed to play a leading lady without dyeing her naturally brown locks blond, she added, “That’s sometimes some of what comes with my job. I don’t like that part of it, but when I signed up for it, I sort of knew it.” In comparison, however, Clark didn’t. “Marcia was a private citizen, a civil servant, and, unlike the defense team, was not very well versed in the language of intense media scrutiny and pressure.” In other words, leave the lady — and her hair — alone!
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For the Emmy Awards, Paulson wore her short (now blond!) hair slicked down and sported a stunning emerald green Prada gown encrusted with variegated crystals, stones, and plexi paillettes (i.e. it was sparkly). The nominee completed her look with dramatic chandelier earrings and a sweep of smoky eye makeup. Paulson’s stylist, Karla Welch, shared a gorgeous Instagram shot of the look, writing, “Sarah x Prada.” (For what it’s worth, however, Sarah’s blond locks featured dramatic dark roots.)
Meanwhile, Clark tweeted: “On the way to the Emmys with @MsSarahpaulson. It’s 120 degrees lol! #soefffinhot.”
By the time she arrived on the red carpet, however, Clark looked every bit the Hollywood A-lister. The 63-year-old opted for a shimmering gown with a plunging neckline and an elegant diamond necklace for the occasion.
Related: Emmys 2016 — Red Carpet Arrivals
It seemed these two had come a long way as they stepped onto the red carpet. Earlier this summer, Paulson admitted that at the time of the trial, she had not been a fan of the attorney. “I was one of those women who didn’t like Marcia Clark. And that was based on believing what I was told by the media — that she was this total monster and a bulldog and so aggressive,” she explained. “It was really transformational to realize, ‘God, I had it all wrong.’ Most people did.”
Paulson concurred with Clark’s complaint about the heat. “I’m sweating in unmentionable places,” she told E!’s Giuliana Rancic, who praised her “brilliant performance” in the series. Paulson said she hoped it would be a big night for the show and noted that Clark was accompanying her. “She’s right there, with a fan on her, like a normal person,” Paulson laughed as she pointed to Clark, a few feet away. (Rancic tried, unsuccessfully, to wrangle Clark for a few questions, too.)
While chatting with Rancic, Paulson also revealed that she hadn’t actually watched the series, because she didn’t “want to see [Clark] lose” (another testament to her friendship with the former lawyer). Because she is a true class act, however, the actress wrapped up her interview with a shout-out to her girlfriend at home. “Hi, Holland, if you’re watching, Holland Taylor, I love you!” she said, just before Amy Schumer passed by and told her she hoped she had won.
But the fun didn’t end there — during his opening remarks, Jimmy Kimmel noted that Paulson had brought Clark along for the ride. “I’d also like to announce the winner of tonight’s ‘plus one’ contest: Sarah Paulson, who played Marcia Clark and actually brought Marcia Clark with her tonight,” he began. “Everyone in L.A. knows, if you want to win, sit next to Marcia Clark.” (Paulson booed that one, but she was laughing just the same.)
Kimmel then turned his attention directly to Clark. “This must be very strange for you,” he speculated. “Are you rooting for O.J. to win this time?” Survey says: #yaass!
And The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (which received 22 Emmy nominations) did clean up.
Paulson won, and took her few minutes of screen time to apologize to Clark. “The more I learned about the real Marcia Clark — not the two-dimensional cardboard cutout I saw on the news, but the complicated, whip smart, complicated mother of two who woke up every day, put both feet on the floor, and dedicated herself to righting an unconscionable wrong — the loss of two innocents, Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown — the more I had to recognize that I, along with the rest of the world, had been superficial and careless in my judgment and I am glad to be able to stand here today in front of everyone and tell you I am sorry,” the actress said as tears welled in her eyes. (The camera cut to Clark, who had a beaming smile on her face.)
In addition to Paulson’s victory, both Courtney B. Vance (who played Johnnie Cochran) and Sterling K. Brown (who played Christopher Darden) nabbed Emmys for their performances. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story also received the Emmy for Outstanding Limited Series.