Ratched Star Sarah Paulson Talks Jon Jon Briones and Film Comparisons

Ratched executive producers Sarah Paulson and Ryan Murphy pretty much secured a built-in audience when the duo announced they were teaming up again for a new project. When it turned out to be the backstory of a younger version of sadistic Nurse Mildred Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and that Paulson was lead, it was a no-brainer: we surrendered. Similar in approach to Bates MotelRatched is an origin story that begins in the mid-40's and follows Ratched's (Paulson) devolution from nurse to full-fledged monster as she makes her way up through the mental health care system. Murphy has mapped out a four-season origin arc for the series, where Paulson's nurse would face off against a different male adversary each season. The fourth and final season would blend Cuckoo's Nest into the narrative.

Ratched star Sarah Paulson plays Cordelia in American Horror Story, courtesy of FX.
Ratched star Sarah Paulson plays Cordelia in American Horror Story, courtesy of FX.

The Academy Award-winning 1976 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (based on Ken Kesey's novel) introduced audiences to Nurse Ratched, instantly making her one of the most famous and infamous pop culture villains of all time. Ratched was played in the movie by Louise Fletcher, who would go on to win a Best Actress Academy Award for the role (one of five Oscars that the film would win). Joining Paulson on the series are Jon Jon Briones (Sons of Anarchy), Charlie Carver (The Leftovers), Judy Davis (Feud), Harriet Harris  (Nurse Betty), Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City), Hunter Parrish (Weeds), Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction), Corey Stoll (The Strain), Sharon Stone (Casino) Finn Wittrock (American Horror Story), and Rosanna Arquette (Pulp Fiction), which has a two-season, 18-episode, straight-to-series commitment from the streaming service. Murphy is set to direct the opening episode from a script by newcomer writer Evan Romansky.

Speaking recently with Inquirer.net to promote FX on Hulu's Mrs. America, Paulson took some time to briefly discuss the series beginning with co-star Briones, who she describes as an "excellent dancer" and who "absolutely destroys" it in his "big, fat, juicy part." In fact, Paulson knew he would be perfect for the series without reading a single script page, based on his performances in another Murphy project: "I loved working with him. I can't wait for everybody to see him in our show. He was one of my favorite things about 'Versace.' I remember calling Ryan Murphy and saying, 'Who is this guy who's playing Andrew Cunanan's father?' He said, 'Oh, that's Jon Jon. I'm thinking about putting him in 'Ratched.'' I said, 'Oh, you must.' And I hadn't even read the 'Ratched' scripts yet then."

While Paulson recognizes and respects that Fletcher's award-winning performance is a tough act to follow, being able to tell the nurse's story from an earlier time in her life eases the tension somewhat: "This show predates the movie by many years. This is the '40s. So it's about the earlier life of Mildred Ratched and you learn how and why she became the way she became. And that was really dark, sometimes quite twisted, sometimes quite moving. It's not what you think it is. There's a whole story that you'll learn that is pretty exciting and surprising." Murphy, original film producer Michael Douglas, as well as Aleen Keshishian, Margaret Riley, and Jacob Epstein of Lighthouse Management & Media will serve as executive producers; with Romansky co-executive producing the series. Paulson produces along with Paul Zaentz of the Saul Zaentz Company, which owns the rights to the Cuckoo's Nest feature.

About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought on board as staff in 2017.

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