If you watched Sarah Paulson in American Horror Story: Asylum, as a lesbian journalist unfairly locked away and subjected to electroshock therapy, and realized you’ve long been underestimating her, just wait till you see her in Steve Mc Queen’s 12 Years a Slave, which premiered last week to a rapturous response at the Toronto Film Festival. [Laughs.] The only way I could do it was to think about [Mistress Epps's] motivations, because I don’t believe that anybody does anything just to be a mustache twirling evil-doer.
The wrenching, violent film is based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup, a freeman from the North kidnapped into slavery, and Paulson plays Mistress Mary Epps, the wife of Michael Fassbender’s sadistic cotton plantation owner, Master Edwin Epps, who eventually comes to own Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor, in a career-making performance). There’s a little bit of a black heart in all of us.
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John Edward Robinson (born December 27, 1943) is a convicted serial killer, con man, embezzler, kidnapper, and forger who was found guilty in 2003 of three murders and received the death sentence for two of them.
He subsequently admitted responsibility for five additional homicides, and investigators fear that there might be other, undiscovered victims as well.
And to me, I was able to get into the head space by thinking about her fear and her terrible embarrassment at being disrespected and usurped by this woman. Something that Michael [Fassbender]’s been talking about is that he loves her desperately, and the reason he beats her is because he doesn’t know what to do with his own feelings. He said to me [lovingly mimics Mc Queen's British accent], "I want it to be like a figurine on top of a cake, like a figure on a cake," and I was just like, "I know exactly what you mean." You know, those dolls you stick on top of a cake, like a dress that’s out, neck up, chin up. I wanted it badly because I wanted to work with Steve because I loved Hunger and I loved Shame, and I think Michael is an extraordinary actor. And a lot of very famous actresses were coming after the part, but the great thing about Steve Mc Queen: He’s not interested in that.
I mean, Epps is in love with Patsey, and she knows it. The thing I do think about Mistress Epps is that she is not — it’s not that she’s not bright, but she’s not very deep, she’s not very complicated. You could throw that thing — they don’t break, they don’t move, just a hardness. He’s interested in who he feels is the most right for the part.
If you’re self-aware and you think, I’m feeling threatened, I’m feeling jealous, I don’t know what to do with myself, you don’t go hauling off and throwing glass decanters at people’s faces. There was a stillness, and I tried to do that in the movie, which I think I did do. He doesn’t care if you’re the most famous actor in the world, and that is a very rare thing in this business, and it’s the only reason why I’m in the movie, because he was about to offer it to another actress — he would never tell me who it was — he’s about to offer it to another actress, and I made a tape in New York at the very last minute with a casting director who wasn’t even assigned to the project, who just did a favor for me, and I sent it, and the next day I got a call saying, "He’s very intrigued by you.
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I am very sorry for the delay and I can understand your frustration.
But if a woman doesn’t have any other recourse in her mind because she’s not capable of thinking about something in a complicated way — I’m not saying she’s dumb, I’m just saying she’s not emotionally or psychologically smart, or developed in that way. This is where she can exert her power, because [her husband] does listen to her, and he is weak, and she knows it. Well, I got to New Orleans a few days before we started shooting, and I went and met Chiwetel [Ejiofor] and Steve, and we had lunch and I went back to Michael’s apartment — he called it his flat — and we went back there and rehearsed for a couple hours, and then Michael and I went on the roof of his place and sort of just talked about our characters’ backstory and made things up that we thought would be helpful or useful. He’s about to make an offer to another actress, and he’s not going to." We waited until the end of the day and got more information that he wanted me, and we had to work it out with American Horror Story.