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Why Sarah Paulson Was Never The Same After American Horror Story

American Horror Story has long been a shocking and memorable experience for viewers who love the show. ScreenCrush, in 2017, pointed out, "If it's traumatizing, American Horror Story's got it." Mass murders are just the tip of the iceberg — over the course of nine seasons, fans have had to confront everything from supernatural sexual assault to torture and creepy clowns. The point of the show is to scare its fans, and it does so with what sometimes seems to be a gleeful amount of violence and mayhem. 

Of course, the effect isn't completely confined to the show's fans. The actors who make up the show's ever-revolving cast also find themselves influenced by the emotional intensity that is part of the inherent makeup of the FX series, as series star Evan Peters can attest. 

Sarah Paulson, who has played a number of characters on the show from Billie Dean Howard in the first season, Murder House, and conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler in Freak Show to Wilhelmina Venable in Apocalypse, is no exception. It's safe to say Paulson is the heart of the series, and it wouldn't be the same without her. The opposite can also be said: She would not be the person she is without her experiences on American Horror Story. In one especially unforgettable way, American Horror Story changed Paulson — but not in a bad sense.

Sarah Paulson made her directing debut in the Apocalypse season

Sarah Paulson felt American Horror Story was the best place to dip her toes into the directing life. "I'm a gal who likes to be prepared, so I wanted it to be in a world that I felt I knew very well," she said, per Variety. "Because I've been on the show for so long, I do understand both the visual style and the emotional stakes of what goes on in the scenes."

So, after being asked to direct another episode and turning it down due to timing issues, she felt comfortable taking the reins of American Horror Story during the sixth episode of the Apocalypse season, "Return to Murder House." She called the experience "scary," though she hopefully didn't mean it in the same way the show is scary. "It was the hardest thing I've ever done," she said on Jimmy Kimmel Live. "I did like it, but it's a lot of questions ... I'm just used to acting and taking a 20-minute break by the craft service truck — and this time there's no break, and you have to answer all the questions."

Paulson said that much of directing is having the ability "to roll with the punches," while naturally she's more of "the running-around-screaming-like-your-hair-is-on-fire kind of person." So, she had to confront that part of herself, which had served her well in acting but not so much in directing.

And the experience changed her perspective. "Sometimes as an actor, it can be really hard to not be myopic and only think of your scene and your piece of the story. As a director, though, your job is to see the whole thing. So this experience has helped me zoom out from my own piece of the puzzle and see the greater picture and how my character fits into it," she told the Hollywood Reporter.

It may even influence her career trajectory, because it looks like she'll be back in the director's chair soon. Per Decider, she'll direct at least one episode of American Horror Stories, the weekly anthology spin-off of American Horror Story that's coming.