Sarah Paulson was shocked to come face to face with, well, herself the other day. “We were driving up and we pulled up, and I was like, ‘Oh my God—my face,’” she tells Broadway.com Editor-in-Chief Paul Wontorek on The Broadway Show. “Outrageous psychotic insanity.” That face is currently glaring at passersby from the marquee of the Hayes Theatre, and with good reason: The actress is making her long-awaited return to Broadway in Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’ Appropriate, where she joins a cast that includes Elle Fanning, Corey Stoll and Natalie Gold.
Paulson is thrilled to be back—and ready for the particular thrill that only theater provides. “I never feel more capable of acting in something than when I’m done with a play,” she says. “Planes like to fly. They like to be in the air… It’s like an ‘actor-as-plane’ analogy that I’m going with.”
In the spirit of works by Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill, Appropriate examines the messy, complicated, often contradictory relationships contained in a single family. The play is “a family drama by way of a very dark comedy,” says Paulson, or perhaps “a dark comedy by way of a family drama.” Paulson plays Toni, a woman emotionally destabilized by the death of her father, who is reunited with her two younger siblings one fateful weekend. “A lot of questions come up about Dad,” she says. “It’s very, I think, wildly relatable. I think every person in the audience will connect to some person represented in the family unit.”
It has been 10 years since Paulson last performed on stage, in off-Broadway’s Talley’s Folly, and 13 years since she was on Broadway in Collected Stories. She’s had plenty of other things going on, particularly a busy collaboration with American Horror Story auteur Ryan Murphy.
“I wish you could make a living, and a robust one, doing nothing but theater,” she says. “I think it would make me very, very happy and make me feel very connected to the original germ of why I wanted to do this in the first place.”
Paulson’s Broadway comeback is also something of a full-circle moment. The Hayes Theater happens to be next door to Sardi’s, the famed Broadway watering hole where Paulson’s mother worked as a waitress (and where this interview took place). Paulson was five at the time and already an aspiring performer. “I wanted to be on television, I wanted to be in movies, I wanted to be on Broadway. And those things have happened.” She adds, “I’m never not going to be a person for whom this is wild and cool and a dream come true.”
And that magnetic mug on the marquee? “If you’re wondering where this amazing face came from,” jokes Paulson, “it was totally from my mom.”