Yahoo TV Q&A: Sarah Paulson says goodbye to Lana Winters on 'American Horror Story'
Sarah Paulson's "AHS: Asylum" character, Lana Winters, has endured more than almost any other character in the show's second season: forced confinement in a lunatic asylum, a brutal homosexuality "cure," and abduction and impregnation by a serial killer who also slaughtered her girlfriend. Paulson spoke to us before the season finale about how she prepared for her emotionally raw scenes, what she knew about her storylines ahead of time, and how hard it's been to let go of Lana's story.
Lana began the season as something of an innocent, or at least more of an optimist, determined to expose what's going on at Briarcliff -- and now that we're ending the season, she's become a bit more cynical and self-centered. How much did you know about Lana's arc, and about that evolution specifically, at the beginning of the season? Did you have an overview?
At the beginning of the season I did not have an overview, but I did have -- we started shooting on July 17th, and I think in early June, I had the first four scripts. So I knew from the beginning of Lana 'til, through her aversion-conversion with Zach [Quinto], Dr. Thredsen. So I knew nothing about my being taken from Briarcliff by Zach; I knew he was Bloody Face. I knew that at the beginning of the season, because that had been decided long before, but I didn't know that it was gonna involve me in any way, I had no idea about that.
And I certainly didn't know anything about what was gonna happen to Lana past script four ["I Am Anne Frank, Part 1"], which was, you know, obviously a very emotional, horrible episode for her.
He tries to take away her gayness.
Yeah, that was…
Yeah. And I had no idea what was coming. I mean, I thought that was gonna be the darkest thing that happened and the hardest thing I would have to play, and I had no idea what was coming.
And then it's like a four out of 10, and you're like, "Wow."
Exactly, I thought, "That was really hard," and then it's like, "Oh. Wait. I have to eat a grilled-cheese sandwich made for me while I'm tied to a bed." I mean, it's just like, it's -- turning over my lover's body in a frozen state, just -- the whole thing, I could not have even prepared myself for what was coming.
Right. "Just another day at work."
Just another day -- actually, the thing we did on the very first day of shooting was my electroshock treatment. I shot that on the very first day.
Yeah, mm hmm! I think that's the only way to start "American Horror Story," is to just dive right in. Why wait? Why save the hard stuff for later -- just do it.
These stories put the actors in some really dark places, individually and then together. How do you prepare for, for example, a sequence where you're chained up in Bloody Face's basement? With the other actors you're working with, do you guys discuss that first, or do you just sort of put your game faces on?
Well, Zachary Quinto and I are good friends and have been friends for a long time, so there was a tremendous luck that happened in the casting of our two characters, because we have a real big love for each other and a great deal of respect for one another, and trust, and so, all of that stuff that we had to do -- if I had to do that, if I had to do that aversion-conversion scene… I had to put my hand in my pants, you know, I had to, like, really go for something there, and if I had to do that with any other actor, I don't know how that would have been for me, I just don't know, and we were just so, we made it a point to just take good care of each other, because once I was in his lair -- we call it "Thredsen's lair" -- you know, he had to go to kind of dark emotional places, and I was able to kind of be there for [him]. It was just, it was very lucky that, that the bulk of my traumatic stuff was done with Zach. Because we had a very good working relationship as well as a friendship outside, so it was very helpful.
And how, really, do you rehearse something like that? It's like, let's just shoot it.
Some of it we didn't rehearse; some of it we just would go through the motions of like, "Okay, I'm gonna be laying here, you're gonna pull my leg up, you're gonna drag me down the bed," but there were a couple of times where I actually… I think it was episode 7 ["Dark Cousin"]; might have been episode 6 or 7 -- 6 ["The Origins of Monstrosity"] I believe is when he breastfeeds me, on me.