Julianne Moore's Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Emmy nomination for playing Sarah Palin in Game Change is not only assured, but her win is basically a given. The same goes for Woody Harrelson's tour-de-force performance as campaign manager Steve Schmidt. But the miniseries/movie category would be severely lacking without the inclusion of Sarah Paulson in the Supporting Actress category since her subtle, yet powerful, portrayal of Nicolle Wallace gives the audience someone to align with.
As the campaign's communications chief, it's Wallace who first identities Palin's shortcomings, becoming the Governor's confidant and punching bag while the emotional undercurrent Paulson imbues every scene with manages to make the audience feel empathy for this controversial character. It was the second splendid supporting small screen performance Paulson gave this year, as her American Horror Story psychic Billie Dean not only lent that supernatural series its brain, but set up the forthcoming second season -- for which she's been upgraded to series regular!
ETOnline: What attracted you to Game Change?
Sarah Paulson: Everything. It was Jay Roach directing and the script by Danny Strong. Plus, all of my scenes were with Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson … although I didn't know that at the time. When I auditioned, I only got four pages of the script, so when I finally read the whole thing it was so exciting to have all these other scenes with just Julianne. I didn't know how substantial the role was going to be when I got it. Very exciting day in my house.
ETOnline: I was amazed that the film actually managed to make me empathize with Palin.
Paulson: I think that's a testament to Julianne Moore. I do think it's because she brought a certain vulnerability to the role that few other could have. I also think we, as a cast, were so much more interested in playing real people, not caricatures of these people.
ETOnline: I felt like Nicolle functioned as the audience's eyes into this world. How did you see her?
Paulson: I agree. My function was to show Nicolle and Sarah behind-the-scenes, not who everyone on the outside saw. And that was all in the script that Danny Strong wrote. It was clear who this woman was. Nicolle's moral center was very strong and that really guided her throughout the journey we show in the film.
ETOnline: Has it occurred to you that you could potentially go up against your AHS co-star, and friend, Jessica Lange in this category.
Paulson: Working with Jessica Lange is like working with the greatest actress alive. She's my dear friend. We were on Broadway together in 2005 and I would feel really so excited.
ETOnline: And fans are excited that you are going to be back on season two!
Paulson: Yes! I'm back. Back for real. I feel very honored. It's exciting. But then again, Ryan Murphy is the only person I know who could ask me to come and play without giving me any idea of what the role is. It's a leap of faith, but I trust him and know that there's nothing he could throw at me that I wouldn't be excited about. The crazier the better, I say!
ETOnline: Not only are you back, but it was one of Billie's lines that revealed what the second season would be. Did you know the importance of that line at the time?
Paulson: I had no idea. Which is kind of the brilliant thing because I think had I known what an important line that was, I might have been twirling my mustache at the camera [laughs]. Like,"“Hey, look at what I'm saying – it's the sign of things to come!"
ETOnline: Do you know anything about the second season?
Paulson: I know, but I'm really not allowed to talk about it. All I can say is that I am excited to work with Jessica again and I don't think there's any way for you to be prepared for what's coming!
Game Change is currently available at HBO On Demand.