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Sarah Paulson: Ryan Murphy Changed My Perception of Women

Sarah Paulson Thanks Ryan Murphy For Teaching Her to Work With Women

Working on Murphy's female-focused American Horror Story series helped Paulson to see women as collaborators, not combatants.

Although she stars in the girl power film of the year -- Ocean's 8 -- it took working with gay super-producer Ryan Murphy to make Sarah Paulson feel truly empowered to work with other women.

"I was raised with this idea that women don't work well together -- not by my parents, but environmentally, societally and culturally, I was conditioned to think that women didn't get along," the actress wrote in a guest column in the Hollywood Reporter.

Paulson expressed that the way society pins women against each other for men, jobs, and beauty led her to believe "the only way to get a seat at the table is by elbowing other women out of the way."

In Paulson's early years as an actress, that perception was further ingrained in her from an experience with a female agent who immediately degraded her for her looks.

"When I was new to Los Angeles, I got a meeting with a powerful female agent whom I was desperate to have represent me," Paulson wrote. "I showed up to meet her wearing something I thought looked nice, something that felt like me. She looked closely and said, 'What's wrong with your hair?'"

She later let the agent represent her for years, believing that "As a woman, I couldn't expect another woman to root for me."

But it all changed when she began working on American Horror Story. "My sense of self is something that I came to later in life, rather recently in fact, because of the kind of people I've been lucky enough to work with -- namely Ryan Murphy," says Paulson, "You've got Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Jessica Lange and Connie Britton, all over 40 and getting opportunities to continue to do work that heretofore had been unavailable to most women past a certain age."

Paulson later went on to work on Murphy's American Crime Story, where her portrayal of Marsha Clark won her the Emmy. But Horror Story had the greatest impact on her life.

"Working on that show, I came up against my own prejudice, that narrative I had been holding without realizing it, about what it was like to work with women," she explained. "If I had known this from the beginning of my career, who knows what might have happened."

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