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Reimagining an Iconic Character: Sarah Paulson, Sharon Stone & Cast Talk RATCHED

Now available on Netflix, Season 1 of Ryan Murphy’s Ratched is here and we took part in a group interview with the cast of the prequel to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, to talk about the nightmarish ride of bringing an iconic character to life in an origin story for a new audience. Starring Sarah Paulson, Cynthia Nixon, Sharon Stone, Sophie Okonedo, Finn Wittrock, and Jon Jon Briones, the show brings a Hitchcockian vibe to viewers, making for one hell of a mystery/thriller, one with some bloody results. You can read our season review HERE and be sure to get your medicine from Ratched, on Netflix.

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Finn Wittrock on working with creator/director Ryan Murphy:

“I’ve worked with him a couple times. I feel like as a director for this one, he was really even more meticulous than he sometimes already is. I really was into the nuances of the way it looked and felt. I’m pretty hands on in that way. It’s generally fun on Ryan Murphy set, when he’s directing. There are probably some people that cower in fear, but I think generally it’s like, even when it’s like the craziest bloodiest, most sadistic scene, there’s kind of a party atmosphere that he can sometimes bring.”

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Sarah Paulson on tackling the titular character in Ratched:

“This was a different one for me because he (Ryan Murphy) was very interested in empowering me in a way that I had never experienced before, even in the traditional structure of working with him. I’d never played a titular character before and I had never owned a piece of a show before. I’d never been an executive producer of a show and this is all because of him. It was very important to him and was part of the reason why I was so terrified to do it. I don’t have a ton of experience with that, sort of stepping into what he would say to me over and over again: “Step into your power, step into your power!” It literally makes me want to take a hot shower and run screaming into the streets, thinking about “stepping into my power.” I don’t really know what that means, but he does. He always has been my greatest champion. It was an interesting experience to think beyond my own narrow zero view of just my own performance and think about the show as a whole and what the story was. And I never had that experience.”

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Cynthia Nixon:

“It was kind of mind-blowing. I mean, it was really exciting to get invited into the world with this. So much talent, actor wise, but really design-wise camera-wise. It was wild too. Ryan, when he was directing was on the set and then obviously sometimes not, but we’d been working together a very brief amount of time and he shared with me this not quite final cut of a documentary he did, on this secret love of these two women who were a couple for decades and hidden in their families. It was mind-blowing because like so many other Ryan Murphy things, you think you understand what he does and then you see a whole new project.”

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Sharon Stone on being brought into Ratched and the Ryan Murphy world:

“Ryan took me out to lunch and offered me this part, that he’d written the part for me. And then I didn’t say anything. He was like, “Well, aren’t you excited?” And I said, “I don’t know yet.” Of course I was excited that Ryan Murphy wanted me to work with him and do it, but you never know how big you’re going to have to jump off when he says he’s writing you a part because I’ve seen all the other Ryan Murphy shows. I’m not really used to working in television. I normally have a script and a director, but now I go to work on this and I don’t have scripts, because one day you’re on episode six and the next day on episode one and the next day on episode three, and you have three different directors.

To go to work where women are being empowered, offered opportunities for the types of roles that were written for every single one of us, and the way that the men’s roles are even respected at a whole different layer of emotional intelligence. It’s just a different thing. And I’m just so grateful for it. So just to be able to be encouraged in a group and a feminine group and see women around me being lifted up to watch Sarah have this, it just it’s so touching to me, it’s so meaningful to me, that this man is doing this for women. That’s what Ryan Murphy says to me.”

Paulson on the character of Mildred Ratched:

“I think it’s safe to say that many people are at least familiar with, if not well versed in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest movie and Louise Fletcher’s performance and this sort of iconography that was etched and sketched by everybody in that movie. I think she’s in the top five AFI villains of all time and cinematic history. So, you know, it’s no pressure and it’s just an opportunity for me, humiliated! (Laughs). In the movie, she’s calcified; there’s a hardness and I remember I first saw the movie thinking all those years ago that she was absolutely a villain and evil and all this stuff. When I rewatched it before we started, I thought, you know, this is the woman who was sort of a victim of a patriarchal infrastructure in this hospital that it’s quite possible that she didn’t have any choice about whether or not she could access her heart in her work, if she could bring her femininity and her womanhood to the job? You know, what about considering that idea and that she’s not a villain, but she’s a person who didn’t have any record. The ramifications and the consequences obviously were devastating to many of the men in that were under her care, but I had to believe if I was going to play it, that she did it because she thought she was adhering to some kind of rule that she believed was most right. That’s an enormous freedom, that we can give context and depth to things that maybe weren’t there before. It was interesting to confront my own sort of prejudice against the character from the outside, what I had thought she was.”

Wittrock on playing Edmund, the show’s notorious murderer and someone close to Mildred:

“I really approached him as someone who had never really grown up in any kind of nurturing environment. He was so traumatized by the violence inflicted upon him throughout his childhood, that he was kind of always coming from that place of a battered kid, where his path and Mildred’s paths diverge. That’s sort of still where, even though it was many years ago, still where I think he had Mildred’s relationship still act as kind of that raw place that they’d never really got to resolve. She went this direction and he went that direction.  A lot of violence ensues, but you can’t really think of yourself as playing a sociopath. I guess some people could, but I never thought of them that way. He does have his own sort of moral compass, it’s just kind of a warped one.”

Cynthia Nixon on Ratched touching on the early forms what would be considered mental illness at the time:

“I think one of the overarching themes of Ratched is not only the brutal treatments that were used against people who were deemed mentally ill, but what fell under the umbrella of mental illness and what was defined as mental illness. Certainly being queer is front and center. We have so many different examples of it in the story. We have characters who have turned to murder because literally that was the only way they could survive as a way to not just sink and disappear and self destruct. We have all of these examples of characters who are persecuted for their gayness, but I think that the bigger umbrella is people who, for whatever reason, shows behavior doesn’t fit in the very narrow 1940s.”

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Written by Jerry Smith

Writer. Director. Drinker of Dr. Pepper.
John Carpenter is my religion. 666.

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