‘Ratched’ Star Sarah Paulson on Getting Closer to ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ in Season 2

Netflix star tells TheWrap Mildred ends Season 1 “further away from her heart and her humanity”


(Warning: This post contains spoilers through the Season 1 finale of “Ratched.”)

By the time viewers reach the end of the first season of Netflix’s”Ratched,” they’ll know the initial origin story of Mildred Ratched (played by Sarah Paulson) — the one cooked up by Ryan Murphy and co. — but will still be missing a few decades’ worth of puzzle pieces that make up the iconic “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” character.

Luckily, the prequel series received an initial two-season order from the streaming service, so we already know fans will get more blanks filled in with another batch of episodes. But in terms of if and when Paulson will become the harsher, colder version of Ratched that you know — and either love or love to hate — as played by Louise Fletcher in the 1975 film based on Ken Kesey’s novel of the same name, the “American Horror Story” alum says that’s a “complicated question” to answer.

“Because from my vantage point, the things that she does in ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ are actually a result of a woman — in my opinion, this is just my opinion — of a woman who is a product of a patriarchal infrastructure inside that hospital who is doing what she believes to be right and true and are sort of period-era-informed choices and decisions about how to treat patients with mental illness,” Paulson told TheWrap.

“I don’t agree with the choices, but they were often what was considered and done at the time. And some of it’s still antiquated, to be sure. But I really do wonder if Nurse Ratched had been a man in that movie if people would have the response that they did to the things that she quote-unquote did. Because I think we have to come up against this idea that when we think of a nurse, we want a woman to be only maternal and soft and a person who engaged her heart before her clinical self, which is, of course, a very normal thing to want,. Because, traditionally, if you are around a nurse you are not well and you want that kind of comfort. So in terms of, will we ever get a place of seeing her do … horrible things like treat her patients the way she’s been taught to? I’m not sure.”

Paulson says Murphy has told her the “goal” for the show — should the show continue beyond Season 2 — is to end up in the ’70s era that “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” took place in.

“But I don’t know that we would ever go into the hospital, simply because — and this is me saying this, I don’t know what Ryan’s plan would be — I certainly don’t want to see me acting opposite a computer-generated Jack Nicholson,” she said, laughing. “I mean, I don’t think that sounds like a good idea. So I think if we end up in that era, it would be more about what Nurse Ratched’s life was when she turned the key in her white uniform, coming back into her house from those days at the hospital with all those events that happened there.”

At the end of Season 1, Mildred has traveled to Mexico with her terminally ill partner, Gwendolyn (Cynthia Nixon), following the escape of her beloved, semi-adopted brother, Edmund (Finn Wittrock), from St. Lucia hospital with the help of multiple-personality patient Charlotte (Sophie Okonedo), soon after he found out Mildred was planning to euthanize him before he could be killed on death row.

In the final moments of the finale, Edmund calls Mildred to confess to murdering seven nurses as revenge for what she was going to do to him. And that’s when she tells him she will seek her own revenge against him now.

“I think what you do see at the end of this season is that, once Mildred realizes that the very thing she has spent her entire life governed by has betrayed and forsaken her — which is her brother — and has now brought harm and more mayhem by taking the lives of seven innocent women, who are also nurses, she says, ‘I’m coming for you,’” Paulson tells TheWrap. “And what you are probably going to see is a Mildred, who has now become even harder, because the thing that kept her soft was the part of her that was engaged in the love and the protection and the desire for absolution as it pertained to her brother. And now that that’s gone, I don’t know who she’ll become. But further and further away from her heart and her humanity, I can be pretty sure about that.”


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