Ratched: Sarah Paulson on Ryan Murphy’s Prequel Series to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Ryan Murphy’s new series, Ratched, tells the origin tale of Nurse Mildred Ratched, the infamous character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Sarah Paulson, who stars as Nurse Ratched in the prequel series, discussed the creation of the Netflix show, which expands on the story of the nurse from the 1975 film, based on the 1962 novel by Ken Kesey.

“There’s so little known about Mildred Ratchet from the film,” says Paulson. “So everything was sort of open for interpretation and everything was on the table, and because it’s Ryan, he sort of went to some very extreme places. And I was very grateful for that because it meant I had a lot of room to move around where I didn’t have to adhere to one locked way of playing her. It was very interesting to have an endgame in sight of knowing where she ends up and sort of rewinding at warp speed to a time when she was in her developmental stage as a person.”

The show’s star-studded cast also includes Sharon Stone and Cynthia Nixon, marking their first turns working with Murphy. The pair spoke to THR about what drew them to the project.

“The chance to work with Sarah, definitely,” says Nixon. “The chance to be in the Ryan Murphy universe and to act with all of these folks. To get to act with people who are your heroes and your idols like Sharon and like Judy Davis and Sophie Okonedo. I mean, it’s incredible. Also just a really fan, fascinating character and a chance to go back to you know this historical period when there were queer characters, but we had no representation in the movies and try and imagine who we were and what we were up to.”

Adds Stone, “I think Ryan is a genius and I like the fluidity of his mind. I just think he picks the greatest actors and actresses. And every person in every department really brings their A game. You can go on the set and you can give it all you’ve got and it’s not too much. Everybody is giving it all they’ve got. Every department is giving it all they’ve got. You can just slide into a completely winning environment, which is very, very exciting.”

The show also stars several actors and actresses who have worked with Murphy many times before, including Paulson, Jon Jon Briones and Finn Wittrock, who all have appeared in various seasons of FX’s American Horror Story and American Crime Story. They explain that they are honored to always able to return to the “Ryan Murphy universe.”

“For him to ask you back, that’s a compliment, because his projects are just one of the best around in the industry,” Briones says. “His vision is just out of this world.”

Adds Wittrock, “Because you know that everything you’re going to be given, we know it’s going to be extreme. Working with him a lot, we talk about the cast coming [back] over and over, but not everyone knows a lot of the crew stays the same from thing to thing … So it’s a safe space to do dangerous things.”

Says Paulson, “A lot of people ask me, ‘Why don’t you go work with someone else?’ And it’s like, ‘If someone else were calling with as many interesting opportunities as Ryan continues to present to me, I would, but I keep coming back because the material is unquestionably a rich and real opportunity to sink my teeth into something’ … He tends to write stories for women who are at the center of the story. And all of these women are really, really defined and multidimensional and you don’t always get that. Where every character has a real shape and a real life. How can I walk away from that? Hard to do.”

Watch the video above for more. Ratched debuts on Netflix September 18.