It was clearly a chummy reunion of close acting colleagues as acclaimed star Sarah Paulson — the first performer to win all five major TV awards in one year (Emmy, Golden Globe, Critics Choice, People’s Choice and Screen Actors Guild Award) — was the honoree at Steppenwolf Theatre’s ninth annual “Women in the Arts” luncheon.
The Monday event at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel featured Paulson’s onetime fiance Tracy Letts serving as the program host, leading the actress in a jovial Q&A about her highly successful career. Clearly Letts and Paulson (who met when she starred in a New York production of his play “Killer Joe”) have remained dear friends.
The same is true for Letts’ wife, Carrie Coon, a co-star to both actors in “The Post.” (Coon was seen being congratulated by many guests at the luncheon on the recent revelation she is 31 weeks pregnant with her and Letts’ first child.)
Letts noted that while Paulson did find acting work early on, her greatest success has come in more recent years. She credited “American Horror Story” creator Ryan Murphy with a lot of that.
“Thanks to Ryan and the nature of that show, things really changed for me,” said Paulson. “I think because both the audience and the decision makers in the industry got to see me play such a wild, different variety of characters, it opened doors for me to do so much more.”
Paulson also revealed she is not afraid to go after characters that may not be the most appealing — like her deeply racist Mistress Epps in “12 Years a Slave,” a film that went on to win the best picture Oscar. “A couple of my very famous actress friends said they were afraid to go for that role because of what their fans would think of them for playing her. I never think of things like that. If it’s an interesting acting challenge, I’ll go for it,” added Paulson.
Noting that her being a perfectionist has finally gotten the better of her, the actress also revealed she has never watched more than a few clips of her Emmy-winning role on “The People v. O.J. Simpson” on “American Crime Story,” and “I haven’t watched anything I’ve done since then — and likely won’t going forward.”
Among the crowd of 350 seen enjoying the Paulson event were Helen Zell, Cari Sacks, Mary Dempsey, Peg Lombardo, Greg Cameron, Alice Sabl, Christie Hefner, Donna LaPietra, Elizabeth Cole, Jacky Ferro, Christine Dudley, Collette Smithburg, M.J. Witt, Caryn Harris, Judy Rice and Steppenwolf ensemble members Audrey Francis, Caroline Neff and Amy Morton, who introduced a special video of Paulson’s career highlights.
Proceeds from the “Women in Arts” luncheon benefited Steppenwolf’s education and mentorship programs.