Sarah Paulson on Coven's Big Supreme Reveal, Keeping Jessica Lange on American Horror Story and More
All hail the new Supreme, Sarah Paulson. The American Horror Story mainstay's character, Cordelia, rose to power on the season finale of American Horror Story: Coven, putting months of speculation to rest.
Paulson, who played headmistress to a school of young witches and daughter to the outgoing Supreme, Fiona (Jessica Lange), said the reveal took her by surprise.
"I found out when Ryan Murphy called me on the telephone and we were just chatting one day, it was around my birthday. He said, ‘I just want to tell you what the last episode is.' He told me, and then he said, ‘Until everything's firmed up, don't tell anyone, but you are the Supreme,'" Paulson told E! News. "I was just completely shocked because I didn't see that coming, even though a lot of people around me thought that it was going to happen. I just thought, ‘There's no way that I'd be the Supreme!'"
The call came in late December, just a few weeks before shooting the finale commenced. Talk about a birthday present!
The character of Cordelia continuously put the needs of others in front of her, proving she was perhaps the most selfless of the bunch of some wicked witches. Still, Paulson said she wasn't expecting the twist.
"Yeah, I almost was expecting—because the show was lighter a little bit in tone this year—they might go super dark with the ending just as an American Horror Story style twist," she said. "But they didn't, which I think in and of itself is another twist on twist."
Was it hard to keep it a secret?
It was! Because people want to know and people have theories. People look at you and they're like, "I think you might be the Supreme," and I'm like, "I don't know." People are such fans you kind of want to tell them because you think they're going to be so excited for me. Everyone in all walks of life who watches this show I think all wish they were the Supreme, I kind of wanted to give them that moment of being like, "No, it's me. I'm the Supreme." But no, I really bit my tongue on more occasions than I'm usually capable of doing that.
Were you happy with the ending?
I was. I mean, I was most pleased with how it ended up between me and Fiona. That's why when you were talking about how Cordelia didn't seem to care, I was like, "No I really do think she does." It's just very complicated. Of all the scenes done this season to be proud of – I'm proud of course for being on the show at all—of my work, the thing I'm most proud of is my scene with Jessica in the finale.
And the next question was, "What was it like to shoot that last scene with Jessica?"
It was very emotional. We did it pretty quickly. Jessica had been gone since Christmas break. It was her first day back at work and we shot that scene. It was hard. I've known Jessica—we did The Glass Menagerie on Broadway together in 2005—so I've known her for a long time and worked with her now more than anyone, maybe save for Amanda Peet who I've done a movie with and two TV series with. Jessica is a good friend of mine and to see her in that makeup was actually very upsetting for me. I obviously care about her very much and to see her looking that ill and that at the brink of death, and then to have her die in my arms, it wasn't hard to be emotional about it. It was very helpful in the acting of it to be looking at her like that. I didn't have to imagine what it would be like for her to be gone and all the complicated feelings—it was all right there. There she was with that bald cap and those little sprigs of chicken hair popping out.
In interviews Jessica has said next season would probably be her last. Can you imagine doing American Horror Story without her?
I can't imagine doing American Horror Story without her. And at the same time, I feel like the greatest thing about American Horror Story is it's the queen bee of reinvention. Every single season is an entirely new thing, so who's to say it can't be anything with anyone on it. I do think Jessica Lange and American Horror Story are synonymous with one another and I do think she makes it something really extraordinary, no question. I can't imagine her not doing it. But at the same time, if they feel the show must go on, the show must go on. Who knows what will happen if she leaves? Maybe everyone will just have so much fun next year that she won't be able to say goodbye. Yeah, I'll tie her to a chair and just be like, "This is what's happening. You're just doing the show until they're not making the show anymore. OK, deal? Deal." [Laughs.]
Last week we talked about Myrtle Snow a little bit. How was that final scene?
That was just the most upsetting thing in the history of upsetting things to me. As I said in last week's interview, Frances Conroy, to me, is one of the great actresses of all time and this character of Myrtle Snow I felt very connected to...There's this beautiful moment where Myrtle sacrifices herself so I don't have anything sully my name as I enter my Supremehood. It's a very heroic, beautiful, selfless thing to do. Cordelia spent much of the season doing selfless things and being on the sidelines through much of it, and having very little power because she refuses to let her own power out. She was just trying to do everything for other people and the sake of the coven and not in her own name. And then Myrtle Snow, who guided and taught her whole life, does the ultimate act of sacrifice. It's just very moving and the opposite of Fiona.
The ending kind of left things open ended and there was talk of a Coven spinoff, would you want to play Cordelia again?
I think I'm done with Cordelia. I'm ready to see what's next. I've gotten really spoiled because we get to play these great parts on this show and then not knowing what next year is going to be—I'd rather roll the dice and see what's going to come for me next year than play a character I've played. Although I didn't feel that after I played Lana Winters, I will say that. I would've loved to play Lana Winters for the rest of my life, but with Cordelia I felt like it came to a very beautiful, full circle place. I was ready to say goodbye when it was time to say goodbye.
You've worked with so many great people on this show. Is there anybody you'd like to see come on?
Emma Thompson. I'd like to see Emma Thompson on the show
On IMDB, for some reason, Glenn Close was listed for the finale.
I saw that! I thought, "What is that about? That's so bizarre." Nobody is more obsessed with the Damages TV show than I. And nobody thinks Glenn Close is more brilliant than I. If she were to come on the show, it would please me greatly.
We got a lot of the general Coven questions out of the way last week, but is there anything you want to add?
I feel very proud to be associated with something I think celebrates women so much and celebrates the underdog and the lost and the forgotten. It's something I do feel, thematically, that has been part of the show from the beginning. I think it's this beautiful, very powerful thing about this show that it can be both scary and entertaining and have this incredible empowering theme running through the whole thing. Mothers and daughters, what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a forgotten person and how you can find your home in the most unlikely places. I just think it's a kind of beautiful sentiment and powerful thing to be putting out on television.
As the HuffingtonPost points out, some intrepid fans on Reddit noticed a possible revealing clue in Coven's opening credits.
During Sarah Paulson's (Cordelia) name credit the accompanying image is of Santa Muerte, which is a folk saint known as 'Lady of the Seven Powers' aka Supreme.
In the past, creator Ryan Murphy has teased that each season's opening credits contain clues for figuring out key plot points.
And with Cordelia recently asserting her power after mother Fiona's (Jessica Lange) death (via an ax to the back) and receiving the power of divination, the odds seem to be ever in her favor.
This gif + this song tbh