By Chris Kornelis 

In "Run," a new thriller that premieres Friday on Hulu, a teenager begins to suspect that her mother may not be as benevolent as she appears. In short order, Chloe pieces together that she has been living in a kind of mental and physical prison created by her mother, Diane, played by Sarah Paulson.

This is the second time in recent months that Ms. Paulson has played a caretaker with a malicious side. In the Netflix series "Ratched," she plays the title character in an origin story about the sadistic nurse in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Ms. Paulson says that the casting is coincidental, and admits to being a "scaredy-cat" who can't watch most thrillers herself.

"I don't enjoy being terrified," she says.

But she's adept at being terrifying. "Run" director Aneesh Chaganty says Ms. Paulson turned a character who could easily have been seen as a caricature, into a human being.

"What Sarah is so good at is reminding you that there's a human being there," he says. "A lot of the movie kind of rests on that ability."

Ms. Paulson, 45, talked about humanizing monsters, playing mom and choosing not to be a mother. Edited from an interview:

Why is it important to humanize a character if your character is a monster?

I don't think it is my job or anyone's job as an actor to try to humanize a person who does something dubious or something cruel or something with real questionable morality. However, I think if you are playing the person and you're allowing multi-dimensional components to be present, you're going to feel some empathy for the person. Not because you will sanction what they're doing -- empathy doesn't sanction the behavior -- but I think it's more compelling to watch because you find yourself interested in why a person is doing something that on the face of it looks like pure evil. And I don't think anyone perpetrating those things believes that that's what they're doing.

Did you see yourself in this story at all?

Diane has a kind of love and attachment to her child that I don't have because I don't have children. But I certainly can understand a real desire to be needed and to need. That's something that is not a foreign concept or an emotional mystery to me.

Did portraying one half of a mother-daughter relationship appeal to you?

I am at a funny age in my life where I constantly go: "Did I forget to have a child? Did I forget to do it? Was it a really conscious choice? It must've been."

My working life had always been the North Star for me, sort of having some creative life that felt fulfilling. And in the earlier part of my career, it was not really happening for me. One could argue that if I were going to have a child, that might've been the more appropriate time. And I probably do come from a generation of actresses who thought: You can't do that and keep working. I'm right on the cusp of that, the thought that you really needed to be far enough along in your career to take the time off, to not have something really fall off a cliff's edge in terms of interest in you. And that was something that I think was sort of ingrained in my mind.

My work life started to [gel] at the moment when I was about to be 40. The moment this pandemic gripped the world is the first time I have had more than a three-week break in six years, which is an enormous blessing and also wild to me. But I don't see a window in there for the baby-making time. But I imagine if I'd really wanted it, it would have been something I would have made time for.

Did you see parallels between Nurse Ratched and Diane or did you see them as completely different?

I don't think about taking roles in terms of how similar or dissimilar they are, what does this do or not? I am just so happy to be asked, which I think is a holdover from the earlier part of my career where I was like: Hello? Hello?

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 17, 2020 12:13 ET (17:13 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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