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Playing Each Side Of Bette And Dot In AHS Was An 'Actual Nightmare' For Sarah Paulson

Spanning the several seasons of "American Horror Story," Sarah Paulson has played her share of characters. In fact, it would be quite fair to say that she's played more than her share. Sure, she started out playing what was basically a small recurring role in season 1's "Murder House," but she was the star of "Asylum," with the plot of season 2 basically revolving around her reporter Lana Winters. The same could be said for her role in season 3's "Coven."

By season 8, "Apocalypse," Paulson was doing the heavy lifting in playing not one, not two, but three parts. Not only did she play sadistic bunker captain Wilhemina Venable, she reprised her role of Supreme Witch Cordelia Goode from "Coven," and even revived her "Murder House" character, the psychic Billie Dean Howard, for an episode.

So yes, Sarah Paulson is a versatile actor. And given the wide array of eccentric, unhinged, or just plain terrifying characters "AHS" relies on, that's a valuable trait. It's not for nothing that Paulson has become so associated with "American Horror Story," even after sitting out both "1984" and "NYC," and even if her future with the anthology series remains unclear. But there was one part in particular — or rather, technically, two parts — that seemed to really test Paulson's abilities and patience.

Acting and puppeteering at the same time

With all the magic of digital editing at our fingertips today, it might be surprising that playing conjoined twins would be such a challenge for "American Horror Story." But when you have to play both, as Sarah Paulson did when she played Bette and Dot in season 4's "Freak Show," the challenges apparently built up quite a bit. As a quick refresher, Bette and Dot are the conjoined twins, whose heads share a single body, living and performing with the titular traveling sideshow.

Not only would every scene with Bette and Dot need to be shot twice so that Paulson could act both parts, but she was also given a large puppet to simulate Dot when she was playing Bette and vice versa. "AHS" creator Ryan Murphy has spoken about the process of creating this puppet, which sounds like it was its own arduous process.

"It was very heavy, and we were shooting in New Orleans," Paulson recounted while speaking with GQ, "and it was very hot." Originally, a crew member was brought in to manipulate the puppet while Paulson acted, but that was deemed too confusing, so Paulson took over for her "other half," essentially puppeteering and acting at the same time.

What's more, she had to match movements with exact precision for the green screen. "One time I had to write with one hand, but then act with another," Paulson elaborated. "So I was playing one character, but my body was doing the body reference for the other part that I was playing."

"It was an actual nightmare," she continued. "But I am very proud of having done it. I don't think anyone had ever done what we did on that show, even from a special effects standpoint at that point."