This Is Why Sarah Paulson Took Time Off From American Horror Story

Sarah Paulson's career has been unforgettable. The veteran actor was one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2017 and left a chilling impression as Michael Fassbender's wife in "12 Years a Slave." With over 60 acting credits, several producing credits, and one directing credit, Paulson has flexed her creative muscles on television, in film and on Broadway. There is little doubt, however, that Paulson has found her home in the horror-brimming universe of FX's "American Horror Story." 

The anthology series has afforded Paulson the opportunity to explore characters with dark and often-ugly backstories. Lucky for Paulson; the actor says that she gets a thrill from the challenge of tackling characters deemed downright loath-able. "It's where the good stuff is," Paulson told Harper's Bazaar. "I'm much more interested in where there isn't nobility. Human beings so often are motivated by the ugliest part of themselves ... the stuff we don't want to admit to ourselves about what we're hungry for."

Paulson's directorial debut also took place on "AHS" when she directed long-time costars Evan Peters and the legendary Jessica Lange in season 8's "Return to Murder House." Paulson admitted to The Hollywood Reporter that directing her friends probably made her first experience smoother than usual. "There was a tremendous sense of camaraderie. They all wanted me to succeed," Paulson said about her costars. So why did the "AHS" veteran take a season off from the hit show?

Sarah Paulson took a break from "American Horror Story" to stretch her creative wings

If you watched "American Horror Story: 1984" (the anthology series' 9th season), you probably missed the presence of series regulars Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters. For Paulson, it was largely a scheduling conflict — with a side of wanting to do something different. Instead of filming Season 9, Paulson opted to take the role of Alice Macray in the Cate Blanchett-led feminist biopic miniseries, "Mrs. America."

"['Mrs. America'] was shooting exactly when 'American Horror Story' was shooting, and I thought there was no way I could do both," Paulson told Vulture in May 2020. "At that point, they didn't know what they were going to be able to offer me, how much I would be in it, and what I would even be doing." Given the uncertainty surrounding her Season 9 "AHS" role, Paulson approached show creator Ryan Murphy and said, "Do you mind if I sit this season of 'American Horror Story' out? I want to do this instead." 

However, Paulson talked excitedly with The Wrap in January 2020 about returning to Season 10 of the show. As it turns out, the thing she especially looked forward to upon returning was her "hair color I've never had on the show, nor have I ever had it in life," Paulson said. Now that we know she was speaking of Tuberculosis Karen's hair, we guess Paulson really does enjoy delving into the gruesome! 

Has Sarah Paulson's passion for "American Horror Story" waned?

While "American Horror Story" was renewed for Seasons 11 through 13 in 2020, Sarah Paulson isn't so sure about her own future with the show past Season 10. Speaking with The Wrap, Paulson said, "God willing, I have no idea." 

Though Paulson made quite an impression on "AHS" viewers as the filth-ridden drug addict with a heart of gold, "Tuberculosis Karen," in Season 10, she shared in September that the role might be her last after a nine-season run. "I don't know," she told Us Weekly, echoing her previous sentiments. "It's the first time in about three years where I don't know. I think this is my last season of 'Horror Story'." However, Paulson noted that every time showrunner Ryan Murphy "comes to me with some wackadoodle-stoodle character, I tend to be like, 'Yes! Let's do it!'... This is the first time. So, we'll see."

Paulson has made it no secret in the past she already felt "underwhelmed" by her role in "AHS: Roanoke," the show's sixth season. Not finding the challenge she so desired in her acting roles, Paulson described filming "Roanoke" to The Hollywood Reporter (via IndieWire) as feeling "like I had entered into a new place inside of myself in terms of what I thought possible, in terms of what I might be willing to see if I can do. I felt really kind of trapped by my responsibility.'"