American Horror Story Wiki
American Horror Story Wiki

Sarah Catherine Paulson (born December 17, 1974) is an American actress and frequent member the American Horror Story ensemble.


Paulson was born in Tampa, Florida, the daughter of Catharine Gordon (née Dolcater) and Douglas Lyle Paulson II. She lived in South Tampa until she was five, when her parents divorced. She spent time in Maine before moving to New York City at the age of five with her mother. She lived in Queens and Gramercy Park, before settling in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She spent her summers in Florida to visit her father. Paulson attended Manhattan's High School of Performing Arts and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

She dated actress Cherry Jones, the couple declaring their love for each other in 2007, during an interview with Velvetpark at Women's Event 10 for the LGBT Center of NYC. They broke up in 2009. In an interview with in 2013 during the revival of Talley's Folly, Paulson stated that she only dated men before her relationship with Jones, and that she has not been in a relationship since her breakup with Jones, but that she is open to relationships with women and men going forward.

Sarah's first recurring television role was on the creepy 90s series American Gothic as Merlyn Temple, a ghost who served as a guide to her little brother Caleb. She would later co-star as Elisa Cronkite in the short-lived romantic comedy series Jack & Jill. In 2002 she played the titular character in Leap of Faith. She played the Pinkerton agent posing as a tutor on the original HBO series Deadwood and Harriet Hayes in the Aaron Sorkin comedy series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. She also starred in the 2009 reboot of the 1998 Jeremy Piven series Cupid opposite Bobby Cannavale. Paulson is known for working closely with Ryan Murphy. Before American Horror Story, in Nip/Tuck and Pretty/Handsome. She later starred in the sister series American Crime Story in 2016 and in the 10-part miniseries, Feud in 2017.

In 2018, she starred in the American heist-comedy film created by Gary Ross, Ocean's 8.

Work on American Horror Story[]

In the first season, Sarah Paulson portrayed Billie Dean Howard, a medium that visited the Murder House. In Asylum, she portrayed Lana Winters, an intrepid journalist venturing into Briarcliff Manor. In Coven, she portrayed Cordelia Foxx, the witch headmistress at Miss Robichaux's Academy, and in Freak Show she portrayed Bette and Dot Tattler, conjoined twins.

She also played junkie ghost Sally McKenna in the fifth season, Hotel, and reprised her role as psychic medium Billie Dean Howard for the season finale. In Roanoke, she plays Audrey Tindall, an actress portraying as Shelby Miller in the horrific documentary "My Roanoke Nightmare".

She was the leading character, Ally Mayfair-Richards, a woman facing her phobias, in Cult. In Apocalypse, she's Wilhemina Venable, a hostile woman remolding the dying world with horrors. She also primarily reprised her role as Cordelia Goode, the headmistress of Miss Robichaux's Academy and the current Supreme. In February, Ryan Murphy confirmed her return for Double Feature. She starred in both parts; Paulson starred as Karen, an artist failing to break through in "Red Tide", and as a fictionalized First Lady Mamie Eisenhower in "Death Valley".

Paulson made her directing debut for Apocalypse's "Return to Murder House", which marked the much-hyped crossover between the eighth and first installment of the series. Paulson is also an executive producer for Double Feature.

Aside from Murder House, Roanoke and Apocalypse, she has been nominated for Primetime Emmy Awards for every other season of American Horror Story she has appeared in.

Sarah Paulson on Roanoke[]

Sarah Paulson admitted on The Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter that she was underwhelmed by the experience in Roanoke, the first time she felt "trapped by [her] responsibility and [her] contractual obligation" and "doesnt care" for that season. The season came out after her role as Marcia Clark in "American Crime Story: The People v OJ Simpson". "I felt like I had entered into a new place inside of myself in terms of what I thought possible, in terms of what I might be willing to see if I can do," she explained.[1] This criticism was directly referenced in "Game Over", the first season finale of American Horror Stories.[2]

Sara Paulson on taking a break from AHS[]

Talking to Variety, Paulson has indicated in recent interviews that she may be done with the franchise — including companion series Crime Story – at least for now. [3]

“It’s not that I’m not open to it. I’m always open to it, but I feel like I’ve been doing it for a long time, and people might start getting sick of me in that world,” she says. “Let someone else scream and run and cry for a second. Other people can do that too! Also, my nervous system. There was a time when I was younger when I was like, ‘I can do this all night. I love it!’ Now I’m like, ‘Momma’s tired!’”



Episode appearances for Sarah Paulson
Story or Series Character Episodes
Murder House Billie Dean Howard
Asylum Lana Winters
Coven Cordelia Foxx
Freak Show Bette and Dot Tattler
Hotel Sally McKenna
Hotel Billie Dean Howard Be Our Guest
Roanoke Audrey Tindall


Lana Winters Chapter 10
Cult Ally Mayfair-Richards
Cult Susan Atkins Charles (Manson) in Charge
Apocalypse Ms. Wilhemina Venable
Apocalypse Cordelia Goode
Apocalypse Billie Dean Howard Return to Murder House
Double Feature: Red Tide Karen
Double Feature: Death Valley Mamie Eisenhower

From Chapter 1 to 5, Audrey Tindall re-enacts Shelby Miller in "My Roanoke Nightmare".




  1. Houghton, Rianne (22/06/21). American Horror Story's Sarah Paulson reveals one season "underwhelmed" her. DigitalSpy.
  2. Opie, David (19/08/21). American Horror Stories just fired back at Sarah Paulson's criticism of Roanoke. DigitalSpy.
  3. Emily Longeretta (Aug 2, 2022). Sarah Paulson Isn’t Sure of Her ‘American Horror Story’ or ‘American Crime Story’ Future. Variety.
  4. Evan Peters portrayed seven characters in Cult, but six of them were brief on-screen representations of the stories Kai told his followers or hallucinations.