An actress with a knack for both comedy and drama, Sarah Paulson was born in Tampa, FL, on December 17, 1975. Her family relocated to Manhattan, where she attended both the LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Paulson made her professional debut at the age of 12 in an off-Broadway production of Amerlia Again, and she worked extensively on the New York stage after completing her education. She made here television debut in a 1994 episode of the series Law & Order, and, in 1995, was cast as Merlyn Temple, a dead woman who can communicate with her living brother, on the fantasy series American Gothic; while the show only ran for a year, it developed a devoted cult following. Following American Gothic's cancellation, Paulson made her feature-film debut in the thriller Levitation, and, in 1999, she appeared in Garry Marshall's comedy drama The Other Sister. She returned to episodic television that same year as Elisa Cronkite on the romantic drama series Jack and Jill, which ran two seasons. During the show's run, she landed a supporting role in the Mel Gibson/Helen Hunt vehicle What Women Want, and after Jack and Jill ran its course, Paulson was cast in the lead role of the short-lived situation comedy Leap of Faith. She later had a supporting role in the 2003 romantic comedy Down With Love.
She continued to appear in acclaimed films such as Mud, 12 Years a Slave, Carol, and the Post, and took a lead role in M. Night Shyamalan's Glass in 2019. On the television side, she became a favorite of superproducer Ryan Murphy, who cast her in numerous incarnations of his series American Horror Story, as Nurse Ratched in his One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest prequel series Ratched, and as prosecutor Marcia Clark in The People v. O. J. Simpson, the first season of his American Crime Story anthology series.