Sarah Paulson has addressed the backlash over her transformation in the new season of American Crime Story, revealing that she has "regrets" over wearing a fat suit to portray Linda Tripp.
The American actress plays the civil servant in Impeachment, the third season of the anthology series, which this time focuses on the series of events that led to Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1998.
Tripp was a close confidante of Monica Lewinsky, and secretly recorded incriminating phone conversations between the former US president and the White House employee, as well as phone calls during which Lewinsky discussed her affair with Clinton.
The tapes were used to prove that the former president and Lewinsky had falsely denied their relationship in the 1998 lawsuit Clinton v Jones, a sexual harassment claim filed against Clinton by a former state employee.
To embody Tripp in the FX series, Paulson wore prosthetics, a wig and a padded suit to add around 2 kilograms to her frame.
When initial images were released of the Ratched star in costume, the actress, aged 46, and the show's producers were criticised for using a fat suit rather than hiring a star who better fit the role.
"It's very hard for me to talk about this without feeling like I'm making excuses," Paulson told The Los Angeles Times regarding the backlash in a new interview this week.
"There's a lot of controversy around actors and fat suits, and I think that controversy is a legitimate one. I think fat phobia is real. I think to pretend otherwise causes further harm. And it is a very important conversation to be had.
"I would like to believe that there is something in my being that makes me right to play this part. And that the magic of hair and make-up departments and costumers and cinematographers that has been part of moviemaking, and suspension of belief, since the invention of cinema. Was I supposed to say no [to the part]? This is the question."
Paulson, who won a Golden Globe in 2017 for her performance as lawyer Marcia Clark in The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, the first season of the anthology, added that she had "regrets" over the costuming.
"That is an important thing for me to think about and reflect on. I also know it's a privileged place to be sitting and thinking about it and reflecting on it, having already gotten to do it, and having had an opportunity that someone else didn't have. You can only learn what you learn when you learn it," Paulson said. "I wouldn't make the same choice going forward."
The actress had previously said she didn't intend to wear a padded suit for the role.
"I'm going to gain some weight to play her, and I don't want to wear a suit because I think it will feel very strange," Paulson said at the New Yorker Festival in 2019.
"I don't feel like it would be a great idea for me to come to work putting on some kind of faux suit and just all mucked up and not being able to move my face nor feel the feelings that she [Tripp] might have been feeling."
Tripp died of pancreatic cancer in April 2020, aged 70.
Impeachment: American Crime Story, on which Lewinsky acts as co-producer, is due to be broadcast on Tuesday, September 7.