Published: Friday, 18 September 2020 12:51 | Written by Christiane Elin
Netflix adds the new suspenseful drama series, Ratched, developed by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan. Ratched has all of the dark twists and turns that you can expect from a Ryan Murphy project.
Ratched sounds familiar, right? You are correct. Ratched is based on the character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The Netflix series is Mildred Ratched’s origin story, a deep dive into Nurse Ratched’s character before she becomes the Nurse Ratched of Oregon State Hospital that many of us are familiar with from Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel and the Academy Award winning movie. Fun fact: The character of Nurse Ratched was based on a real-life person that novelist, Kesey, worked with at a psychiatric hospital.
SciFi Vision, in conjunction with Red Glean Media’s Christiane Elin, were invited to join in on a virtual press conference with a few of the leads for the star-filled series. Sarah Paulson, Cynthia Nixon, Sharon Stone, Sophie Okonedo, Jon Jon Briones, and Finn Wittrock chatted about Ratched and working on a series set in the mid to late 40’s to early 50’s at a psychiatric hospital.
The series' main character is Ratched, but much of the series is wrapped around the activities taking place at Lucia State, a psychiatric hospital that performed lobotomies and all sorts of medical experiments to "cure" people of what were considered maladies like daydreaming, forgetfulness, or lesbianism. An aspect of the series examines the way people were tortured and misunderstood.
Jon Jon Briones plays Dr. Richard Hanover, the doctor who is in charge of the hospital. Dr. Hanover does seem to have a bright outlook on what he is doing to help cure his patients. Briones spoke about playing Dr. Hanover, "Just like all the other characters, they're up against something, and I think that that thing is his undoing as well, because of this past, his, probably, but he truly believes that he can help people. I can relate to that, because I feel like personally I want to do something that is going to last me, but I don't know, I just try to do what I can with what I have, and I think that's what he is. He's doubling down on his capability and his honesty of, "I can help someone," but at the same time, his ego gets in the way and gets him in trouble, which, in Ryan's world, that's wonderful, because mayhem ensues."
Sarah Paulson takes on the starring role as Mildred Ratchet which appealed to Paulson being that she was familiar with the Nurse Ratched character from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Paulson describes her fascination, "I was interested in this idea of, who is Mildred Ratched when she takes that key and turns it and goes into her house during that movie? Who is that woman?" Paulson goes on to talk about connecting Nurse Ratched to Mildred Ratched, "I wasn't thinking of it so much as an opportunity to sort of counteract or have a female Don Draper or someone who was allowed to have those complexities, but it would be impossible to undertake it without thinking, we've got to show something here that has yet to be seen, and it's entirely up to us. We can invent it, because there is no backstory. So, that’s an enormous freedom, and we can give context and depth to things that maybe weren't there." Sarah Paulson also takes on the title of executive producer on Ratched with the encouragement of Ryan Murphy, a title she had to be convinced of but found herself quite capable of the job. This makes Paulson even more invested in this series.
Cynthia Nixon plays Gwendolyn Briggs, another character in this series that has secrets of her own and a lot to lose if those secrets get out. Nixon talks about her role, "The thing about Gwendolyn, is she's so wholehearted, and she's so pure, and she's so confident, and she's up against so many odds. I mean, she's a queer woman in 1947. She's trying to make a life for herself in politics. I mean, she's got all of these seemingly impossible tasks that she sets for herself, but she moves ahead, sort of seemingly without fear. So, for me, to be basically, I think, the only person really to wholeheartedly be advocating, like, walk in the light; there is a there is a path of light that I'm taking, and that you, Mildred, could take. It was just very, very different for me.
"Also, I don't know, it’s just a real, a real challenge to particularly not have so many little cul-de-sacs to go down of a quote unquote complicated character, but just someone who was so wholehearted and who she was. To just sort of do that and hope that it would be, I guess, interesting enough, was kind of a delightful challenge.
"Almost every other character has many different parts of themselves that they're trying to kill or stamp out or suppress a bunch of those, and Gwendolyn is really the opposite. She knows she's got at least four or five pieces of her personality, but meeting Mildred is kind of the key that unlocks the door. She realizes she actually has to integrate all these parts of her personality, and thanks to her, for the first time, it could be possible."
Finn Wittrock has signed on once again to be a part of a Ryan Murphy series. Wittrock plays Edmund Tolleson, somewhat of an enigma from the start who is transferred to the hospital. His connection to Ratched is fuzzy, but as the series unfolds you will see how they are brought together. Tolleson is a mental patient and we get to explore why he spiraled into a deadly tirade that leads him to Lucia State Hospital. Wittrock speaks about his character, "I really approached him as someone who had never really grown up in a any kind of nurturing environment. It was like he was so traumatized by the violence inflicted upon him throughout his childhood that he was kind of still always coming from that place of a battered kid. Where his path and Mildred paths diverge, even though it was many years ago, that's where I think he and Mildred's relationship is still at. It’s kind of that raw place that they've never really got to resolve."
A standout role is played by Sophie Okonedo, as Charlotte Wells. Charlotte Wells suffers from multiple personality disorder. Playing a part of someone with so many complications is intense. Okonedo shared with us how she took on the big part, "I didn't really do much research around kind of mental illness, if I'm honest, because I thought, well, when she's in it, she's not thinking, oh I'm going through this mental illness. [I just got each] character and then just got to the heart of the character. It was all in the script." She goes on to explain how she put her spin on the multiple personalities of Charlotte Wells, "I had fun filling in the kind of coloring book of their lives. Then I just played each one like that was the thing. That's the character I'm playing. I didn't really worry about Charlotte being underneath or anything."
Now if this isn't enough characters with mystery, welcome Lenore Osgood to the fold, played by Sharon Stone. Osgood is connected to Dr. Hanover, and well, Dr. Hanover has a past he is running from. Osgood wants to make sure that Dr. Hanover does not forget his past. Stone shared how she became a part of Ratched, "It's a series of things. A lot of things happen. When I heard that Ryan wanted to meet with me and that he had the part written for me…he's so brilliant, and also because I thought that other women that I had admire, like Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates, had done these incredibly interesting kind of guest pieces in these other shows that were so interesting to me.
"And then, as I started to look at the character, I liked that there were so many vagaries about her and that we had to figure out, first of all, why she is this kind of person. How the hell did she get there to begin with, and what kind of backstory leads a person to be this thing?"
Get your binge going and take a dive into the characters and mysteries of Ratched, which is now streaming on Netflix. Ratched is an ongoing series and has been confirmed for a second season by Sarah Paulson, executive producer and lead actor. The series stars Sarah Paulson as Mildred Ratched, Cynthia Nixon as Gwendolyn Briggs, Judy Davis as Nurse Betsy Bucket, Sharon Stone as Lenore Osgood, Jon Jon Briones as Dr. Richard Hanover, Finn Wittrock as Edmund Tolleson, Charlie Carver as Huck, Alice Englert as Dolly, Amanda Plummer as Louise, Corey Stoll as Charles Wainwright, Sophie Okonedo as Charlotte Wells, Brandon Flynn as Henry Osgood and Vincent D’Onofrio as Gov. George Wilburn.
Netflix Zoom Conference Call Ratched Sarah Paulson, Sharon Stone, Cynthia Nixon, Finn Wittrock, Jon Jon Briones, and Sophie Okenedo
September 1, 2020
***Due to length, extra crosstalk or off topic discussion was omitted. Small parts are missing due to gaps in the audio due to technical difficulties*** MODERATOR: What was it like working with Ryan Murphy for the first time, for Sharon, Cynthia, and Sophie, and of course for Sarah, Finn, and Jon Jon, what was it like continuing that process of collaboration? Why don't we start with you, Jon Jon?
JON JON BRIONES: You know, this is actually my first time working with Ryan. I didn't work with him in Versace and [American] Horror Story; this is the first time. So, it was a little intimidating, but I loved every minute of it.
Actually, it's hard to gauge if he's kidding or he is serious, but the first time he looked at me, I was in my costume and wig. He looked at me, and he was like a foot away from my face, and he went, "Okay," and then he left. And I think that set up the whole thing for me. It's light, but at the same time he means business. Then, as you go along, he shows you the genius that he has with his vision and the way he designed the whole world for his story telling, which is exciting.
Who else would like to jump in there? Let's go to Finn.
FINN WITTROCK: Yeah, I worked with him a couple times. I feel like as a director for this one, he was really even more meticulous than he sometimes is, and he really cared about and was into the nuances of the way it looked and felt and was pretty hands on in that way. But like Jon Jon was saying, it's generally fun on a Ryan Murphy set when he's directing it. I mean, there are probably some people that cower in fear, but I think generally, even when it's like the craziest, bloodiest, saddest scene, there's kind of a party atmosphere that he can sometimes bring.
SARAH PAULSON: [laughs]
I love that only Sarah laughed at that.
FINN WITTROCK: Yeah. So, that was not lacking on this end.
Sarah, how about yourself? You've worked with him a number of times, too.
SARAH PAULSON: Yeah, just a couple. This was a different one for me, because he was very, very interested in empowering me in this way that I had never experienced before. Even in the traditional structure of working with him, I'd never played a titular character before. I had never owned a piece of a show before. I'd never been executive producer of a show before. This is all because of him, and it was very important to him. It was part of the reason why I was so terrified to do it. I thought, you know, I don't have a ton of experience sort of stepping into what he would say to me over and over again of like, “step into your power; step into your power.” It literally makes me want to take a hot shower and run screaming into the streets to think about stepping into my power, because I don't really know what that means, but he does, and he would like me to do more of it. [laughs] So, it was a kind of an interesting thing to confront my hesitation and to deal with all of those moments of, what does that look like for me, and am I capable? Am I ready? Do I want it? What does it mean if I do? Is that ambition? I mean, it was just like a whole kind of myriad of things to contend with.
But, you know, he always has been my greatest champion, and it's not without its complications, because it is. I mean, any real relationship will be that, and he gave me a lot of power, but not all of it, which was also healthy and good. He could have been like, "No, do what you want," and then that wouldn't have been good for anybody.
But he wanted my input, and he would send me cuts and say to me, "What do you think?" And I was like, "Are you sure?" Then I would write pages and emails, and he finally called me, and he said, "Okay, listen, here's the deal. You get to watch them before I get my first look at them, because then I start thinking about having to break all this shit down that I've already decided, and now I don't know what to do.” So, then I started getting the edits first, and then by the time he got them, at least some of my notes had been [taken into consideration].
It was interesting. It was an interesting experience to think beyond my own narrow view of just my own performance and think about the show as a whole and what the story was. I never had that experience, and once again, he's responsible for giving me the thing I had yet to experience in a work environment.
Cynthia, this was your first time working with Ryan. What was that experience like for you?
CYNTHIA NIXON: It was kind of mind blowing. I mean, it was really exciting to get invited into the world with so much talent, actor-wise, but really, every-wise: design-wise, camera-wise, writing-wise, every-wise. It was wild. Sometimes when Ryan was directing, he was on the set and then, obviously, sometimes not, but we'd been working together for a very brief amount of time, and he shared with me a not quite final cut of this documentary he did, a secret love about these two women, who were a couple for decades and hid it from their families. I mean, it was just mind blowing, because it's like so many Ryan Murphy things: you think you understand what he does, and then you see a whole new project that's not even a new chapter. It's like a whole other book in a whole other language.
But I guess the thing apart from enjoying his direction and being with him on the set, was watching all the other things that he was doing, like his children coming to visit. Like literally, they're setting up a shot, and enormous billboards of the new clothes from Pose are like being paraded out, and then, oh, now there're storyboards coming of a whole new show that he is developing. I mean, as Sarah was saying, one is so used to being in one's little actor character box, even just sort of a glimpse in his direction of all [it]. He contains multitudes. Literally, to see that in action was really mind-blowing and wonderful.
Sophie and Sharon What about you guys? What was that experience like for you?
SHARON STONE: Well, first of all, Ryan took me out to lunch and offered me this part…and [told me] that he written the part for me. Then I didn't say anything, and he was like, "Well, aren't you excited?" and I said, "I don't know yet."
SHARON STONE: I mean, of course I was excited that Ryan Murphy wanted me to work with him and do it, but you never know how big the cliff is you're going to have to jump off of when he says he's writing you a part, because I've seen all the other Ryan Murphy shows. So, I'm still in here going, "Mmm hmm." So, it's kind of like that.
Then, of course, I'm not really used to working in television. So, I go to work, and I normally have a script and a director and plan, and I kind of am good at that. Then I go to work now, and I don't have scripts…one day you're on episode six and the next day are on episode one and the next day on episode three, and you have three different directors, and you haven't gotten to read all of these episodes. So, by about day five, I was in the hair chair and Sarah goes, "What's going on?" And I'm like, "I don't know." And that's when I finally understood what a spectacular producer that Sarah is…I mean, I have pride for you. You know, in my generation, I wasn't afforded this possibility to - what did you say he wanted you to do?
SARAH PAULSON: Step into my power.
SHARON STONE: If I wanted to do something, what would happen, would be I would get a real talking to. If I had any thoughts or ideas, I could get called to the studio to get a real discussion about, you know, what was my problem, and I might want to shut it down.
…First of all, when I started working, it was me and 300 men. Even my dresser was a man. So, to come to work and have women cameramen and sound people and in every department, and to work with all these actresses, I can do really strong work, because I've worked with all these really big, you know, actors, and I didn't have this opportunity to work with in these fine subtle, intimate, layered, tender work of women and to be in the company of women.
So, at first it was almost awkward…I didn't even know what that would be like. And then to go to work where women are being empowered and offered opportunities. I mean, even the opportunities of the types of roles that were written for every single one of us and the way that the men's roles are even respected at a whole different [level], the layers of emotional intelligence, it's just a different thing. I'm just so grateful for it, and I was so worn out from the other thing. I could do a triple salchow and skate backwards into the judges and get like a three…So, just to be able to be encouraged in a group, in a feminine group, and see women around me being lifted up, and to watch you, Sarah, have this, it’s just so touching to me. It's so meaningful to me, and that this man is doing this for women. That's what Ryan Murphy says to me.
Sophie, how about yourself?
SOPHIE OKONEDO: This is such an interesting conversation, because I'm just absolutely fascinated by what everyone said. I really relate. I really love hearing that.
…When you said about the kind of complication, and you felt inside about stepping into your power, and I just thought, I'm so happy to hear that you feel conflicted about that, because I do myself. Then I think you've got to look like you really can do; you're one of these women who can do it, or you can't do it and you keep out of the way, and to be able to sort of be publicly saying, "I have conflict inside me," is so refreshing. Sorry, I just had to say that. It's really very helpful. You don't just have to be either on or off, that you can be some kind of -
SHARON STONE: It's healthy, I think.
SOPHIE OKONEDO: Yeah.
Then you asked me about working with [Ryan], well, I didn't actually do any of my actual acting stuff with Ryan, but this is what you get. I mean, look at this conversation. It's just not bullshit; it's stimulating, and I got to be with all these people, though I didn't get any scenes with Sharon.
SHARON STONE: I know, and you're so great; you're so amazing in this.
SOPHIE OKONEDO: So, this is what he brings. I might just get one person in this cast in a job I do, but to get like so many that aren't even here on this particular round table, it's just they just were incredible everywhere I went, and I got to work with real grownups.
So often in entertainment, we give value to complicated antihero characters, like Don Draper and Walter White, while female characters who do bad things, they're not always seen in the same light. I didn't know if that was part of the draw for some of you all to this project, because maybe this hadn't been seen before. Certainly, at this level of visibility, was that part of what made you say yes to this project? And that's truly for anyone who might want to jump in and say something about that.
SARAH PAULSON: I think it's safe to say that many people are at least familiar with, if not well versed in, the One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest movie and Louise Fletcher's performance, and the sort of iconography that was etched and sketched by everybody in that movie. I think she's in the top five AFI villains of all time in cinematic history. So, you know, it's no pressure, and it's just an opportunity for me humiliated. It's not an issue. That's fine; that's totally fine. [laughs]
But I think it wouldn't have been interesting to me to explore the parts of Mildred Ratched that aren't porous, and in the movie she's like calcified. There's a hardness; nothing ekes out, and I remember when I first saw the movie years ago thinking that she was absolutely a villain and evil and all this stuff.
Then, when I rewatched it before we started, I thought, this is a woman who's sort of a victim of a patriarchal infrastructure in this hospital, that's quite possible, quite possible. Could it be considered that she didn't have any choice about whether or not she could access her heart in her work, if she could bring her femininity and her womanhood to the job? You know, what about considering that idea, that she's not a villain, but she's a person who didn't have any recourse? There was nothing to do. Some people might access that and then get fired, and other people think, "I better toe the line, and that's sort of what I'm going to do." The ramifications and the consequences, obviously, were devastating to many of the men that were under her care, but I had to believe if I was going to play it, that she did it because she thought she was adhering to some kind of rule that she believed was the most right. You know, maybe [she was] limited in her thinking because of the era in terms of what she was willing to investigate where she might have found power outside of the confines of that hospital. Who knows what her life was like.
So, I was interested in this idea of, who is Mildred Ratched when she takes that key and turns it and goes into her house during that movie? Who is that woman?
So, I wasn't thinking of it so much as an opportunity to sort of counteract or have a female Don Draper or someone who was allowed to have those complexities, but it would be impossible to undertake it without thinking, we've got to show something here that has yet to be seen, and it's entirely up to us. We can invent it, because there is no backstory. So, that an enormous freedom, and we can give context and depth to things that maybe weren't there.
But it was just interesting to confront my own sort of prejudice against the character from the outset and what I had thought she was. Of course, I did have to find - I was looking for a way that I could get in there without being like, "She is so crazy." [laughs]
I’m going to now switch over, because there're so many great questions that have come in from my journalism contemporaries. I want to start with you, Finn. This question is about your character Edmund. He may have committed some truly dark acts, but his motivation behind them was fueled by a love of family. Do you think Edmund was more of a product of his environment? And was there a particular scene that you found difficult to approach and why?
FINN WITTROCK: Yes.
SARAH PAULSON: Sorry, I got sick that day, Finn, and you had to shoot the scene with no prep.
FINN WITTROCK: Yeah. The, the big scene I had with Jon Jon in episode two is probably the most challenging scene I had. I don't know how much I should explain right now, but sufficed it to say, it's a lot. It's a lot to chew. We had to kind of shoot it a little preemptively, because someone, some lead of the show happened to get sick with something. [laughs] No, it was great, actually.
But is he a product? Yes, I would say. You know, as we learn his history and his history with Mildred and her history, I really approached him as someone who had never really grown up in a any kind of nurturing environment. It was like he was so traumatized by the violence inflicted upon him throughout his childhood that he was kind of still always coming from that place of battered kid. Where his path and Mildred’s path diverge, even though it was many years ago, that's still where I think he and Mildred’s relationship is still at. It’s kind of that raw place that they've never really got to resolve. So, she went this direction and he went this direction, and a lot of violence ensued.
I guess you can't really think of yourself as playing a sociopath. I guess some people could, but I never thought of him that way.
But he does have his own sort of moral compass; it's just kind of a warped one. Like there is this level of innocence that he really, really believes in and that he would never harm. You'll see he's got this affinity for animals that might come as some something of a surprise but reveals the actual sort of little kid still inside of him.
Cynthia, Gwendolyn is one of the few characters in Ratched that seemed keen on being her truest self. Despite the time period and its collective belief that homosexuality is unnatural, Gwendolyn never let that deter her. Is that what initially drew you to this character?
CYNTHIA NIXON: I mean, she's a really interesting character and very different than any of the usual kinds of things I'm asked to play. I would say particularly, as I've gotten older, like in the last 10 or 15 years, I've been asked to play a lot of what would politely be called complicated people, sometimes bordering on malevolent, but at least we could give them complicated.
So, the thing about Gwendolyn, is she's so wholehearted, and she's so pure, and she's so confident, and she's up against so many odds. I mean, she's a queer woman in 1947. She's trying to make a life for herself in politics. I mean, she's got all of these seemingly impossible tasks that she sets for herself, but she moves ahead, sort of seemingly without fear. So, for me, to be basically, I think, the only person really to wholeheartedly be advocating, like, walk in the light; there is a path of light that I'm taking, and that you, Mildred, could take. It was just very, very different for me
Also, I don't know, it’s just a real, a real challenge to particularly not have so many little cul-de-sacs to go down of a quote unquote complicated character, but just someone who was so wholehearted and who she was. To just sort of do that and hope that it would be, I guess, interesting enough, was kind of a delightful challenge.
Almost every other character has many different parts of themselves that they're trying to kill or stamp out or suppress a bunch of those, and Gwendolyn is really the opposite. She knows she's got at least four or five pieces of her personality, but meeting Mildred is kind of the key that unlocks the door. She realizes she actually has to integrate all these parts of her personality, and thanks to her, for the first time, it could be possible.
Jon Jon, despite Dr. Hanover's unfortunate decisions and ill-conceived notions, he actually appears to have a stronger moral compass than most; he truly wants to help people. Did you find that to be true of this character?
JON JON BRIONES: Absolutely, absolutely. Just like all the other characters, they're up against something, and I think that that thing is his undoing as well, because of this past, probably his, but he truly believes that he can help people. I can relate to that, because I feel like personally I want to do something that is going to last me, but I don't know, I just try to do what I can with what I have, and I think that's what he is. He's doubling down on his capability and his honesty of, "I can help someone," but at the same time, his ego gets in the way and gets him in trouble, which in Ryan's world, that's wonderful, because mayhem ensues. [laughs]
Sophie, I can imagine the perspective of playing a part such as Charlotte Wells must be thrilling for an actress, but is there also an element of apprehension conveying that type of neurosis? Did you rely on research or was your process more intuitive?
SOPHIE OKONEDO: I didn't really do much research around kind of mental illness, if I'm honest, because I thought, well, when she's in it, she's not thinking, oh I'm going through this mental illness. [I just got each] character and then just got to the heart of the character. It was all in the script, so, it's not like I had to reach out. It was all in there, and all the rhythms of how everyone talks was just written. Then, I worked from the script sort of backwards and then just kind of made each person - like I had fun filling in the kind of coloring book of their lives. Then, I just played each one like that was the thing. That's the character I'm playing. I didn't really worry about Charlotte being underneath or anything. [laughs]
What was the first bit of the question?
Did you do research or was your process more intuitive?
SOPHIE OKONEDO: Research, but not that kind of research. Intuitive, yeah.
Sharon, Murphy pens such female empowering characters, as you mentioned earlier, and Lenore is quite a creation, from the costumes and her relationships with both her son and her monkey to, well, her insane behavior. Can you speak to why you wanted to portray her and bring her to life?
SHARON STONE: …It's a series of things. A lot of things happen. When I heard that Ryan wanted to meet with me and that he had a part written for me…he's so brilliant, and also because I thought that other women that I had admire, like Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates, had done these incredibly interesting kind of guest pieces in these other shows that were so interesting to me.
And then, as I started to look at the character, I liked that there were so many vagaries about her and that we had to figure out, first of all, why she is this kind of person. How the hell did she get there to begin with, and what kind of backstory leads a person to be this thing?
So, building this character…it's really interesting, because you have to find out what it is she's covering up to begin with, and then what she's covered it with. What were those failures that made the character so insecure? Then [there was] this enormous failure that caused this internal schism and that caused her to ultimately have a monkey on her back, both literally and metaphorically.
Then, what is the metaphorical monkey on the back? What is the relation, the intimacy? What is the intimate relationship with the metaphorical monkey on the back?
I thought all of this was really interesting…we could erase the monkey at the end, and it would all be the same; the character would be the same character, even if we took the monkey out, because it all ultimately meant the same thing for the character. So, it was just a really different process and a different type of character than I'd ever approached before, and I thought that that was going to be, and it was, very challenging, and really interesting.
Sarah, Mildred has spent her life running from who she is and suppressing her truest self. That also seems to be a pervasive theme for Ratched, embracing who you truly are, flaws and all. It's still a common struggle we deal with today, especially in the LGBTQIA+ community. Do you think that Ratched will resonate with audiences because of that?
SARAH PAULSON: I think every story resonates with its audience, because there is some revelation that happens that makes a person feel connected to the story, meaning any opportunity you have to reveal yourself to an audience means they have a way into something where they I think feel a little bit less alone in the world.
I don't quite understand the question. Are we framing this as a an LGBTQIA? I get all these things wrong, forgive me, but are you saying, I think the question I need a little bit more -
I think they wanted to just know that that commonality with that particular community, did you think that kind of the themes that they thought also felt similar with the series would resonate with an audience because of that familiarity? The idea of like, no longer suppressing your truest self.
SARAH PAULSON: Yeah. I mean, I certainly think it's a thing that's in process though. I don't think by the end of the series, at least in the first - by the way, it's not a limited series. It is an ongoing series. I think you called it a limited series in the beginning.
My apologies, my apologies.
SARAH PAULSON: No, it's okay, but we are doing a second season.
But I guess I sort of feel that, you know, any art form, whether it's music or a book or a novel of poetry, anything, there's always an opportunity to reveal yourself, and I think that’s what's happening here.
…I don't put it in a box of any kind in terms of how it's going to be received or what's going to make it more digestible for anyone. I think Mildred, and I think all of the characters, are in some form of discovery. Nobody has landed anywhere yet. Nobody has figured anything out, totally. So, it's a process, I guess.
CYNTHIA NIXON: I was just going to say something very small, which is that I think one of the obviously overarching themes of Ratched is not only the brutal treatments that were used against people who were deemed mentally ill, but what fell under the umbrella of mental illness and what was defined as mental illness. Certainly being queer is front and center, and we have so many different examples of it in the story, but we have characters who have turned to murder, because, literally, that was the only way they could survive, or they developed other personalities as a way to not just sink and disappear and self-destruct. Or to me, one of the saddest things that we see in the show is a character played by Jon Jon's real-life son, who is a boy who is forced to undergo a lobotomy, because he daydreams. I think that, obviously, we have all these examples of characters who are persecuted for their gayness, but I think that the bigger umbrella is people, who for whatever reason, their behavior doesn't fit in a very narrow 1940s, 50s acceptable box and what our medical establishment chose to do about it.
SARAH PAULSON: I think the reason I get hung up with the question, is that although it has many elements about it that are queer centric, I think somehow this is not a story of a woman who is - on her journey there is a consequence of discovering that part of herself, but this is not a story of a woman who is struggling with that identity. It's a story at its heart of a woman who wants to absolve herself from the horrible guilt she's been carrying about abandoning the most important person in her life at a very young age and living with that guilt and doing whatever she must do to be reunited with this person, only to ultimately have him forsake her. Also, the only moments really that are ever contained, the only place where joy lives, is in Mildred's relationship with Gwendolyn. And it's the first time in Mildred's life, I believe, since she was a child with her brother pre all the sort of horrible things that were happening, where she has any opportunity for happiness and for joy. I love that element of this story, that within this show, the queer component is one of love and joy and an opportunity for Mildred for the very first time to feel seen and to explore these parts of her. All the stuff that happens with Gwendolyn with Mildred, all of that confidence that you see that Mildred has or that she's feigning, goes completely away. She doesn't know how to access that real part of herself. So, there is great, great joy in that component for me as a member of the community, I guess.
This question is for the cast: did you have a moment on set where you were truly terrified of Nurse Ratched, and what was the creepiest scene to film? Because there are a couple of creepy scenes. What stands out to you guys?
How about we start with that with you, Jon Jon. Any ideas about that or thoughts about that?
JON JON BRIONES: No, there was nothing creepy about Nurse Ratched, because even though as an actor, you go, "Okay, get in the moment," the thing is, the person right in front of you, and I got to know Sarah so well, that sometimes I just want to hug her, and even though she's being mean to me, I just want to kiss her. But if anything, I'm in awe, because she's well-prepared, and at the same time, it's so easy for her to drop everything. Then once the camera is on, she's on you, and she's so giving when it's just you and on you, and she's giving you everything. But probably the most difficult, for me, was stitching up somebody with blood and everything, because I was shaking, and the camera was on me and the crew waiting around, and I'm messing up.
What are you guys most looking forward to with season two, even though people have not even seen season one yet?
SARAH PAULSON: I'm probably just looking forward to going back to work full stop. I mean, I'm not even thinking about what exactly. I mean, I want it to be safe, and of course, before that happens, I would like the world to have some sort of massive rectifying of the way this has all been handled and have some forward motion in terms of coming up with something to help us deal with this. But aside from that, I think I am going back to work soon, not on Ratched, but I have to say, the conversations that we've been having about beginning again all exclude the part of this that is the most delicious part, which is getting to really be together and with our crew.
I will never forget looking into Hillel's eyes, who was our wonderful prop man, and saying, "I want to get a key chain; Louise Fletcher had this key chain, and I want to kind of do this homage to her. No one will know what I'm doing, and it doesn't matter, and who cares?" And his eyes lighting up because we were like nose to nose. He's like, "Oh, yeah, okay, cool, cool!"
The collaborative excitement and that feeling that you're really making something with all of these people, they are just as invested as you are, and feeling that vibrational thing that happens. I don't know how we're going to access that with shields and masks and gloves and smocks and pods.
So, the collective, the camaraderie, and the community is the thing to really, really consider what it's going to be and how we're going to do that and the sitting around that we all do together, while we're all on our phones but we're together. You know what I mean?
We got trapped in a bar together, me and Cynthia and Vincent D'Onofrio. Was there anybody else there that day? I can't remember, it was a horrible...
SOPHIE OKONEDO: I was outside. I couldn't get in.
SARAH PAULSON: Oh, you couldn't get in. There was a horrible event that happened in downtown LA, so we were all forced to stay in this bar where we were shooting.
CYNTHIA NIXON: A shooter. There was a live shooter.
SARAH PAULSON: …An active shooter, but there we all were together and everybody [was] checking on each other every five minutes.
…But there are these horrible, horrible moments, and yet there's this real family that I, for one, really love about doing things like this. So, that's going to be really hard.
That doesn't really answer your question, but nobody knows, because nobody knows anything about season two, because Ryan, as Cynthia was saying, the number of things he has going on, who's to know when that's all going to begin? Then throw in the pandemic, and then we think, well, who knows? And so, I look forward to actually just being Mildred Ratched again and looking at some of these faces.
CYNTHIA NIXON: I think the most exciting thing about season two would be, what the hell is going to happen?