Sarah Paulson and Sandra Oh discuss mental health in Hollywood


In an interview with Variety, Sarah Paulson and Sandra Oh got real about how Hollywood can take a toll on actors’ mental health.

Television icons Sarah Paulson and Sandra Oh recently sat down with Variety for a joint interview and discussed everything from how they pick roles to how the media landscape is changing for women to the hypothetical plot of a hypothetical American Horror Story – Killing Eve crossover.

Perhaps their most raw insight into the entertainment industry, though, centered around mental health. The actresses, who met for the first time at the interview, discussed the psychological strains of trying to break out as well as trying to handle fame.

Sarah Paulson is best known for her Emmy-nominated work on American Horror Story and Emmy-winning turn as Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson, but she is also no stranger to rejection. She explained how she initially struggled with not comparing her career to those of peers she considered to be more successful.

"As a young person, I had these fantasies about what success was and what it looked like and it was always attached to other people’s versions of it and what happened for other people, whether they were my classmates or people that were around my age and not being able to pinpoint or ascertain the one little magic juice that that person had that I didn’t have."

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Sarah Paulson said everything “started to change” when she focused on being true to herself as an actress, instead of trying to meet someone else’s expectation of who she should be.

"There was nothing wrong with me that was preventing me from being cast. Maybe it’s that I was trying to contort myself into something that I wasn’t. The more I could bring my own point of view, my own self to the party fully, which is the only thing that separates me from any other person, instead of trying to deny it, I started to let that be the thing that led me."

Oh, meanwhile, said that her own experiences with anxiety began after she became a star. To this day, Oh is best known for playing fan-favorite surgeon Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy, which became a cultural sensation almost overnight back in 2005.

According to Oh, the show’s immediate success changed her life dramatically and not entirely for the better.

"I don’t think people get the pressure of becoming famous and what it does for an artist. What does that for your creative self. And what that can do for your mental health. And I would say from year two to year six or eight of “Grey’s” it was extremely difficult and very stressful and traumatic, if I’m being honest."

Oh sought “multiple types of therapy” to learn how to handle the new and “destabilizing” lack of privacy in her life. She eventually left the medical drama in 2014 after its tenth season, but she was able to conclude her run on a positive note.

Oh said she was heavily involved in deciding how Cristina (one of the few major characters in Grey‘s history not killed off) would leave Grey-Sloan Memorial. Oh cited the opportunity to exit the show on her terms, in collaboration with creator Shonda Rhimes, as a “creative gift.”

"The making of that last year involved so many steps, from having the conversation with Shonda to all the amazing writers I worked with for years to write these scripts. To able to know what was going to happen and to be able to craft [Cristina’s] moving on was such an opportunity, such a gift, such a privilege."

Oh most recently returned to television as MI6 agent Eve Polastri on BBCA’s critically acclaimed crime thriller Killing Eve, which has already been renewed for a second season.

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Oh subsequently made history — becoming the first actress of Asian descent to receive an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in Drama Series. Oh was previously nominated five times for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role on Grey‘s.

Paulson will be looking to win her second Emmy this fall. The seven-time nominee is competing in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie category for her role as Ally Mayfair-Richardson in American Horror Story: Cult. Paulson most recently appeared on the big screen in the ensemble heist comedy Ocean’s 8.