Paulson was tapped to play the real-life White House staff member who blew the whistle on the affair between former President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. The affair and ensuing national scandal will be depicted and dramatized in the upcoming season of the series that has previously tackled real-life events like the trial of O.J. Simpson as well as the murder of Gianni Versace.
However, as soon as the show debuted its first trailer, Paulson was criticized on social media for wearing prosthetics to match the heavier body type of Tripp, who died in April of 2020 at age 70. Paulson was criticized for having to undergo extensive makeup and prosthetics to match a role that could have more easily gone to a plus-sized actress. Others lambasted her for contributing to a stigma against overweight people in Hollywood.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Paulson addressed the issue head-on, noting that she was torn about wearing a fat suit for the role, and noted that she would likely not do it again for a future part.
“It’s very hard for me to talk about this without feeling like I’m making excuses,” the “American Horror Story” actress told the outlet. “There’s a lot of controversy around actors and fat suits, and I think that controversy is a legitimate one. I think fat phobia is real. I think to pretend otherwise causes further harm. And it is a very important conversation to be had.”
However, the actress said that she does not believe the responsibility to turn down such a complex role lies on the actor or actress to who it is offered. She believes that reducing a portrayal to mere body type is reductive.
“I do think to imagine that the only thing any actor called upon to play this part would have to offer is their physical self is a real reduction of the offering the actor has to make. I would like to believe that there is something in my being that makes me right to play this part,” she explained. “And that the magic of hair and makeup departments and costumers and cinematographers that has been part of moviemaking, and suspension of belief, since the invention of cinema. Was I supposed to say no [to the part]? This is the question.”
While she grapples with questions about whether or not she took the role, she acknowledges that she regrets not being more considerate of the potential backlash when she initially accepted the part of Tripp.
“I also know it’s a privileged place to be sitting and thinking about it and reflecting on it, having already gotten to do it, and having had an opportunity that someone else didn’t have. You can only learn what you learn when you learn it,” she said.
Paulson concluded by noting that she should have known better that such criticism would have come up and declared that she “wouldn’t make the same choice going forward.”
According to People, Paulson really did grapple with the idea of wearing a fat suit to portray Tripp, previously saying publicly in 2019 that she planned to gain weight for the role.