In 1976, the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Also winning for Best Actor and Actress were Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher, respectively.
It told the frightening story of a psychiatric hospital. And it featured one of the most iconic villains ever created, Nurse Mildred Ratched.
Forty-five years after the movie’s premiere, Ryan Murphy is bringing the prequel, Ratched, to Netflix, on September 18, 2020.
Set in 1947, Mildred (Sarah Paulson) arrives in Northern California, seeking employment at a leading mental asylum. The institution is run by Dr Richard Hanover, where new and disturbing experiments are being used on the patients. She soon penetrates the health care system and those within it.
Sarah Paulson and Sharon Stone, who portrays Lenore Osgood, talked with the Television Critics Association. The series has already been picked up for a second season.
Ratched 103 - Sarah Paulson and Judy Davis
Ratched 103 – Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson) and Nurse Betsy Bucket (Judy Davis) ©2020 Netflix, photo by Saeed Adyani


Sarah, you are also the Executive Producer of the series. Did you originate this project?

Sarah Paulson: I did not originate this project. This project was written as a spec script, apparently, and made its way to Ryan’s agent. Ryan read it and loved it. He did send it to me. I thought it was an incredibly interesting and intimidating thought to try to take this on. And yet, because of the nature of its prequel-ness and its origin story component, I felt a little bit more liberty and freedom to even think about doing it.

Mildred’s life

What are the pluses or minuses of taking on a role originated by someone else?”

Sarah: Oh, god, the enormous plus is that I (was) watching one of the most masterful performances in cinematic history. Louise Fletcher is really remarkable.

However, it gave me an opportunity to have a real spine of the character built inThis story predates (the movie). It is an imagined idea of what Mildred’s life (was) before she found her way to that hospital.

So it’s both a blessing and a curse. I do recognize that some people will be looking for Louise Fletcher. They’re not going to find her and I don’t want them to be disappointed. (she laughs)

Mildred’s plan

Ratched 108 - Sarah Paulson
Ratched 108 – Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson) ©2020 Netflix, photo by Saeed Adyani
Do you see Mildred as someone who has a thought-out plan when she enters the hospital, or is she making it up as she goes along?

Sarah: That’s a good question, and without giving away too much for those people who haven’t seen it, she absolutely has a plan upon entering the hospital. Her ultimate end goal is to be reunited with someone that she loves very much.

How all of that will work itself out and every little detail is something that is not planned out. It reveals itself in terms of all the people she comes in contact with. (There are) complications (in) trying to achieve her goal, with the roadblocks that they throw up for her.

Right’s issues?

Ratched 106 - Sarah Paulson and Cynthia Nixon
Ratched 106 – Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson) and Gwendolyn Briggs (Cynthia Nixon) ©2020 Netflix, photo by Saeed Adyani

This comes from an iconic film. Have you heard from the original actors, producers?

Sarah: Well, in order to get the project made, we did have to get the rights from the estate. The real take-away from it was how quickly it happened. Michael Douglas is a producer on this show. He had to get all the rights from the film and the character itself.

He was concerned that once the script had come in, it might get tied up with red tape. (But) Ryan was surprised we were able to make it quite quickly and with not a lot of trouble.

I have not heard from any of the actors. I did not reach out to any of them. But I thought about Louise Fletcher every day that we were shooting it. I hope that in the coming season there will be some Louise Fletcher.

Sharon Stone

Ratched 103 - Sharon Stone
Ratched 103 – Lenore Osgood (Sharon Stone) ©2020 Netflix, photo by Saeed Adyani

Sharon, how was it entering Ryan Murphy’s universe?

Sharon Stone: It was really interesting because I wasn’t used to doing television in this way. You go in one day and you’re doing Episode 1 with one director, and you’re doing Episode 6 three days later with a different director.

Buddhist sensibility

How did you cope?

Sharon: Sarah looked at me one day and said, “What’s wrong?” I said, “I’m losing my mind, and I don’t know how to do this!” She said, “I just stay in the day that I’m in.” That’s such a Buddhist sensibility. I was like, “Oh yeah, right.  You stay in the day that you’re in.” You know, like life.

When you know the character that you’re playing, staying in the day that you’re in creates a much better engine for your character. (It’s) a much more exhilarating opportunity to play, define and get to know your character. When Ryan throws such crazy things at you and you figure out how to lace it together, it’s really exciting.

I think with any other producer, I might have been lost. But Sarah’s a beautiful producer. She affords you an opportunity to lace your character together; and define what different directors bring to the set.  It made it very easy. It’s a really warm and wonderful environment.  And Ryan keeps providing you with more great scenes to flesh out the character.

Period performance

Ratched 105 - Sharon Stone
Ratched 105 – Lenore Osgood (Sharon Stone) ©2020 Netflix

This is set in 1947. Were there specific film or TV references that you watched in the development of your character?

Sharon: I thought that it was really interesting to reference some of the acting of that period. There were great performances by actresses like Barbara Stanwyck. And I wanted to have a few affectations of the acting of that period in my performance.

Ratched interaction

Who is Lenore Osgood, and how does she interact with Mildred Ratched?

Sharon: My character is the mother of a patient, though she really could be a patient, herself. She goes to find Dr Hanover, and successfully gets him to treat her son. [But] then is not quite as happy with the results as she could have been.

I don’t really want to give away much more. But it becomes a little bit of an engine within the story. And I try to work it out with Nurse Ratched, in our special way.

Sarah: In our special, special way.

Sharon: In a special way that Sarah and I do things; that we play those really special, nice people, in our warm and lovely fashion. (she laughs)

Ratched’s Sarah Paulson Soundbyte

Sarah was asked how she became Executive Producer on this series. Click below for her answer.

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Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.