Sisters, Survivors, Stage Sirens

“Meg just left one. Lenny never had one. Babe just shot one. The MaGrath sisters sure have a way with men!”

That was the marketing tag line for the 1986 movie version of Beth Hanley’s play Crimes of the Heart, starring Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek as three grown sisters. Sarah Paulson, 33, first watched it when she was living in Brooklyn, deciding whether to take the plunge into an acting career. Ms. Paulson, best known for her Golden Globe-nominated role as Harriet Hayes, the Christian comedian on the now-cancelled Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, has been too scared to rent the flick again since she started playing Meg, the character formerly inhabited by Ms. Lange, in the Roundabout Theatre’s production of the play, directed by that formidable, husky-voiced neo-grande-dame Kathleen Turner. “There’s no way I could anything that Jessica Lange could ever do,” Ms. Paulson said, calling from her apartment in the West Village (movin’ on up!), “so I was like, ‘Why don’t I not watch any of those films so I don’t feel like I have to live up to the expectation of that kind of genius?’”

Meg is a long-legged blond dreamer who makes her sisters jealous with her bewitching sexuality. “I think everybody has a little bit of Meg in them, it just depends on how much of it you’re willing to let out,” Ms. Paulson said. “She’s fiercely protective, fiercely defensive, fiercely afraid. She’s just everything fierce. One could spend a lot of time denying those parts, because she’s not always an attractive person. But I don’t think she thinks of herself as a colossal failure. She’s just a survivor, trying to make her way.” Aren’t we all, honey—aren’t we all. Sisters, Survivors, Stage Sirens