Sarah Paulson learned a lot about what professional women have to overcome in another specialised field while playing Marcia Clark on FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
“Because she’s a woman she got the harsher side of the spotlight, and she had no support,” Paulson recently told Business Insider of playing the prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. “And this woman in a man’s world, being ripped apart for her appearance, it’s pretty shocking.”
The 10-episode series, which premiered Tuesday night, follows the lawyers on both side of the notorious Nicole Brown Simpson/Ronald Goldman murder case intensely — including, in a future episode, a much-documented focus group for the prosecution that didn’t fare well for Clark.
As seen on the show, a jury consultant put together the focus group, which criticised Clark’s looks and presentation in court. It’s an eye-opening experience for both Clark and the viewer as the group, many of them women, see the attorney’s command of the courtroom as a reason to dislike, distrust, and even vote against her.
“Any of the words, the negative words to describe Marcia Clark, would be positives in a man: aggressive, strong, tough,” Paulson said. “When it’s a woman and she’s doing the same thing, it becomes a negative and women don’t want to associate themselves. They’re like, ‘I don’t want to be like that.’ When in fact, we all should have rallied around her and said, ‘She’s one of our people.'”
After the focus group, the consultant suggested Clark soften her hair and wear skirts instead of suits. Midway through the trial, Clark would take the consultant’s advice and get a much-publicized makeover.
But as far as Paulson is concerned, Clark already had a huge task ahead of her as the prosecuting attorney and didn’t need the extra pressure of changing her looks and demeanour.
“The prosecution has the burden of proof. They have to prove it,” the actress said of the courtroom’s roles. “All the defence has to do is poke enough holes in it to make the boat leak. In my opinion, that’s rough.”
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