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Sarah Paulson Responds To Backlash After Donning Fat Suit To Play Linda Tripp In 'American Crime Story'

Taylor HIll/Film Magic/Getty Images; WILLIAM PHILPOTT/AFP via Getty Images

While Impeachment: American Crime Story doesn't premiere on FX until September 7, Sarah Paulson's portrayal of Linda Tripp has already caused a fair amount of controversy.

Paulson is a frequent collaborator with Impeachment producer Ryan Murphy, having appeared in several seasons of Murphy's anthology series, American Horror Story, played the title role in his Netflix series Ratched, and won an Emmy for her portrayal of Marcia Clark in the first iteration of American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson.

But not everyone was pleased with Paulson's casting as the late Linda Tripp, the whistleblower who exposed President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

In addition to donning a prothetic nose and teeth, the svelte Paulson, who is also one of Impeachment's executive producers, reportedly gained roughly 30 pounds for the role, aided by an additional five pounds of padding from a fat suit.

Initial images of Paulson wearing the fat suit as Tripp, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2020, were met with trepidation and anger on social media.




An op-ed for Refinery29 by Erica Russell also questioned why an actress closer to Tripp's actual size couldn't have been cast in the role, and that Paulson's casting only added to the stigma and plus-sized stereotypes in Hollywood.

"When fat people are poorly represented on screen or treated as costumes for non-fat actors, they're not just being willfully excluded or made the punchline of a tired joke."
"They're being actively harmed by a hostile system that upholds the status quo and makes it okay to mistreat those whose bodies don't fit the conventionally attractive or socially acceptable mold."
"Because when fat people aren't seen as real people, they aren't treated like real people."

Responding to the criticism in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Paulson admitted the controversy surrounding actors wearing fat suits was "legitimate".

"I think fatphobia is real."
"I think to pretend otherwise causes further harm. And it is a very important conversation to be had."
"But that entire responsibility I don't think falls on the actor for choosing to do something that is arguably—and I'm talking about from the inside out—the challenge of a lifetime."

But the Emmy winner went on to say an actor's physical appearance should not have been the deciding factor when it came to casting Tripp.

She felt no obligation to turn down the role.

"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 makeup 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."

But Paulson did admit she regretted not thinking about the issue more clearly beforehand and this will likely be the last time she will don a fat suit for a role.

"You can only learn what you learn when you learn it."
"Should I have known? Abso-f*king-lutely. But I do now. And I wouldn't make the same choice going forward."

Paulson's response to the backlash met with a mixed response on social media.

Many people were still surprised Paulson was comfortable taking on the role despite admitting how dangerous fatphobia is in Hollywood, finding her response a tad insincere.




However, others felt Paulson didn't need to apologize and her gifts as an actress alone were enough to justify her being cast and accepting the role, fat suit or not.




Interestingly, when discussing her preparation for the role at the 2019 New Yorker Festival, Paulson declared she would not wear a fat suit.

"I'm going to take about three months off to eat some food, because I'm going to gain some weight to play her."
"I don't want to wear a suit because I think it will feel very strange."

As reported by The Huffington Post, the need for the fat suit was reportedly due to ongoing production delays as a result of the pandemic.