The Big Break: Sarah Paulson Made Film Debut in Levitation 25 Years Ago

Happy Anniversary — well, sort of “happy” — to Sarah Paulson, since it’s exactly 25 years since Variety ran a review of her feature film debut, “Levitation.” In the indie, she plays a pregnant teenager. Critic Leonard Klady on April 14, 1997, said it was a grim saga with “a strong cast” who were “not ably supported by the script.”

It’s not the most promising debut and the film was quickly forgotten, but Paulson continued to work.

Like many New York actors, she worked on stage and made her TV debut in a 1994 “Law & Order” episode, about a year after her high school graduation.

She continued to do theater, including Broadway’s 2005 “The Glass Menagerie” with Jessica Lange, and films, such as the Oscar winner “12 Years a Slave,” where she proved herself a team player by working hard to promote the movie, even though she had a relatively small role.

Her career was marked by a series of breakthroughs, including the second season of “American Horror Story,” created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, in which she was promoted to a leading character after a smaller role in the first season. She appeared in nine of the show’s 10 seasons and will take part in its upcoming 11th.

She was Emmy-nominated as supporting actress for HBO’s 2012 “Game Change,” written by Danny Strong and directed by Jay Roach. She played newswoman Nicolle Wallace in the story about Sarah Palin.

She was also Emmy-nominated for “AHS’s” second season, titled “Asylum.” As she told Variety, “It changed my life completely.” On Aug. 13, 2013, she added, “I feel like some extraordinary stuff can happen to supporting and character actors. You get to go along, do your thing, and then all of a sudden, you get up to bat and hopefully hit it out of the park.”

She also hit it out of the park with her Emmy-winning work as prosecutor Marcia Clark in “American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson,” written and developed by Scott Alexander and Larry Kraszewski. In the Jan. 26, 2016, Variety, she told Debra Birnbaum, “If I could, it would be the part I would play for the rest of my life.”

Murphy said some major stars wanted the role, but she was the only one he wanted.

Paulson has been in a relationship with actor Holland Taylor since 2015. They’re one of Hollywood’s power couples, but Paulson says, “I don’t really understand the fascination with it.”

First film: “Levitation” 1997

First TV appearance: “Law & Order”: “Family Values” episode, 1994

Breakthrough: “American Horror Story: Asylum,” 2012

Accomplishments: One Emmy win; six other nominations; one Golden Globe (three other noms); one SAG Award

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