She also played junkie ghost Sally McKenna in the fifth season, Hotel, and reprised her role as psychic medium Billie Dean Howard. In Roanoke, she plays Audrey Tindall, an actress posing 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.
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 5 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 Broadway.com 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 movie created by Gary Ross, Ocean's 8.
- Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters are the only AHS Repertory cast members to appear in all eight seasons of American Horror Story.
- Sarah Paulson is one of the twenty-four cast members that portrayed the same character in different seasons. She portrayed Billie Dean Howard in Murder House, Hotel and Apocalypse. She portrayed Lana Winters in Asylum and Roanoke. She also portrayed Cordelia Goode in Coven and Apocalypse.
- The others are Angela Bassett, Christine Estabrook, Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Emma Roberts, Evan Peters, Frances Conroy, Gabourey Sidibe, Jamie Brewer, Jessica Lange, John Carroll Lynch, John Cromwell, Kathy Bates, Lance Reddick, Lily Rabe, Matt Ross, Naomi Grossman, Mena Suvari, Riley Schmidt, Sam Kinsey , Stevie Nicks, Taissa Farmiga and Wayne Pére.
- None of Paulson's characters from the first four seasons and season seven (Billie Dean Howard/Lana Winters/Cordelia Foxx/Bette and Dot Tattler/Ally Mayfair-Richards) were killed off, giving her the unique honor of surviving every season. In a bit of subversion, her fifth season character, Sally McKenna, was killed in 1994 in a flashback given in the first episode, but she continues to "live on" as a ghost.
- Sarah has a lisp.
- Sarah starred in the TV series Leap of Faith with Lily Rabe's mother, Jill Clayburgh.
- Sarah briefly reprised her role as Billie Dean Howard towards the end of the fifth season, when Iris hires her to help Liz Taylor contact her recently deceased lover, Tristan.
- She can also be considered a singer as she has recorded songs for Freak Show.
- Over the eight seasons, she portrayed three LGBT+ characters, Lana Winters (Asylum and Roanoke), Sally McKenna (Hotel) and Ally Mayfair-Richards (Cult).
- Sarah Paulson worked with two other cast members on another Ryan Murphy show, American Crime Story. Those cast members being Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Connie Britton.
- She made her directory debut on AHS in the sixth episode of Apocalypse (Return to Murder House) which marked the crossover between the eighth and first seasons.
- Thus far, Sarah is the only member of the cast to portray three different characters in one season.