Call it American Horror Story: Mom.
The first trailer for Run, which stars Sarah Paulson as unhinged, overprotective mother Diane, has arrived. The intense video — which EW can exclusively unveil above — showcases the film’s eerie, nerve-fraying filmmaking (courtesy of Searching director Aneesh Chaganty) and the tense relationship between Paulson’s Diane and her daughter Chloe (played by newcomer Kiera Allen). Run, set mostly in the pair’s house, follows Chloe as she uncovers her mother’s sinister secrets and the fallout that follows.
“Making the movie was one of the more exciting, invigorating times I’ve ever had on a set,” Paulson tells EW. “And that’s partly due to the absolute fearlessness of Aneesh and Kiera, and how incredibly game they were, and the creativity that was shot through everybody’s choices. It was a very exciting place to be.”
With Run heading to theaters May 8 (that’s Mother’s Day weekend, by the way), Paulson spoke to EW about working with up-and-coming collaborators, her approach to the role of Diane, and the benefits of a small cast.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve played your share of morally murky or evil characters, on American Horror Story and in 12 Years a Slave, for instance. What makes Diane unique in your filmography?
SARAH PAULSON: I don’t know that I ever look for uniqueness in a character in terms of my wanting to do something or not. I was really interested in working with Aneesh, because I really loved Searching, and thought it was an incredibly inventive way to tell a story we’ve seen before. So I was really drawn to the project because of that, mostly. But I always also like exploring things that I myself have not really experienced in my life. I’m not a mother, and I think from an acting standpoint it’s always challenging to try to find some way to root yourself in a reality you know nothing about.
[Diane and Chloe] live a very isolated life, and they really only have each other. But Chloe’s at that point in her life now where she’s starting to want to explore beyond the confines of her very isolated life, which is very normal. But I think Diane finds that very scary in the way that most parents do, the minute their children are interested in flying the coop. Diane just may have particular feelings that go a little bit more to the extreme, is all.
There’s a rich history of these sort of difficult mother characters on screen. Was there anything or anyone in particular that you drew on for inspiration?
I drew mostly on my experience watching Piper Laurie in Carrie. Although it’s a different dynamic, it’s still a dynamic that is a very tense one. There’s an element of control, there’s obviously an extreme codependent situation at work there, where you have a young person who is slowly coming into their own and what that causes the parent to feel. I did watch that movie more than once in preparation for this one.
How did you work with Kiera to develop your characters’ dynamic?
I always think it’s a very exciting thing when you work with an actor who’s been an actor their whole life in their soul, and has never really had an opportunity to do something at this level. It would be very daunting for me to imagine beginning that journey, and she was so fearless and so game. It was a little unnerving and intimidating, in a way, because I thought, like, “God, I don’t have that kind of confidence right now.” And also, there was an innocence to her. Everyone who’s been on a set for many years, you know, there’s all kinds of cynicisms, and things that we come to expect that are irritating or frustrating about making movies. And for Kiera, it was all like Christmas morning. Anything that happened was so exciting, and it was a very refreshing point of view to find myself living inside of.
On that note, there is a lot of rising talent involved with this project; this is only Aneesh’s second feature film. How does working with up-and-comers compare to working with more experienced collaborators?
Sometimes I think people who are up-and-coming are less straitjacketed by the rules of the road. Meaning, you know, you can be in this business for a long time and you get told time and time again how something has to be. People who are still kind of flying from an instinctual place, I think they tend to be bolder. And I find that extraordinarily exciting, and it encourages the same kind of boldness in myself. That was a very refreshing, exciting, stimulating place to be, because nobody has been beaten down by any elements of this industry. Aneesh has launched himself into the scene with a movie that was very successful, not only critically but financially. Those two things don’t often go hand in hand. So he had both the bolstering of feeling that people were on his side and rooting for him, but also not enough experience to feel cynical about what the reality could be.
I really applaud him for doing what I think most people in this industry should find a way to do more of, which is about inclusivity in our world. People with disabilities are the most underrepresented population across entertainment and media, and the majority of those people are being played by actors without disabilities. Aneesh was just absolutely insistent that [Chloe] needed to be [played by a performer with a disability]. That in and of itself is an act of courage, because a lot of people are afraid to even fight for that, for fear of being told that that’s just never gonna happen. And that’s what he wanted, and I think the movie is all the better for it. I hope it encourages more inclusivity going forward.
What are some of the challenges of a project like this, which is so intimate and intensely focused on one relationship?
When you’ve got a big cast and there’s just a really sprawling story, a lot of times you feel very separate from the actors who are doing separate things at separate locations, separate times. It’s hard to feel like you’re part of the whole story, and somehow with this, it was just the two of us, me and Kiera, in a house in Winnipeg. It helped give a nice grounding element to to our relationship because it was just Diane and Chloe, and it was just Diane and Chloe for years. So there was a kind of intrinsic bonding that happened because of it. We would really just see each other for days and days. And it was very thrilling to watch a performer come into themselves for the very first time. It was really kind of a remarkable thing to know that I got to see Kiera Allen when Kiera Allen became Kiera Allen, the actress.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.