Frequent TV duo Ryan Murphy and Sarah Paulson have collaborated once again, this time for the new Netflix original series Ratched, that centers around the infamous Nurse Mildred Ratched from Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The series, which is set to premiere on September 18, stars Paulson in the title role and is set to explore Nurse Ratched’s life approximately 15 years before she arrives at the psychiatric hospital and begins implementing her hard-handed regime over the residents.
Per Netflix, the prequel series’ official description reads: “In 1947, Mildred arrives in Northern California to seek employment at a leading psychiatric hospital where new and unsettling experiments have begun on the human mind. On a clandestine mission, Mildred presents herself as the perfect image of what a dedicated nurse should be, but the wheels are always turning and as she begins to infiltrate the mental health care system and those within it, Mildred’s stylish exterior belies a growing darkness that has long been smoldering within, revealing that true monsters are made, not born.”
Paulson is set to shine in the role of the unforgettable character but will also be accompanied by a stellar cast, which is set to include Cynthia Nixon, Judy Davis, Sharon Stone, Jon Jon Briones, Finn Wittrock and Charlie Carver.
Nurse Ratched: The Infamous Character
Louise Fletcher first wowed audiences with her portrayal of the maniacal character in the 1975 film adaptation of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, earning herself an Academy Award for the role. But despite the lasting impression it had on viewers, little light was shed on the background of Nurse Ratched’s character in the film. This in particular is where Ryan Murphy’s inspiration first struck after he came across a spec script written by Evan Romansky that imagined the antagonist’s origin story.
In regards to the memorable character, Murphy said in a conversation with Vanity Fair, “I feel like Nurse Ratched is sort of a shorthand for barbarism. She became almost like a catchphrase for any sort of institutional abuse of power. What was interesting was trying to create an emotional character from a reputation that’s very cold…trying to figure out every little detail about her childhood, her relationships, her sexuality. Because when people think of Ratched, they think of her as shut off and cruel and uncaring.”
Paulson has similar sentiments about Ratched, as she apparently hated her “very, very deeply” thanks to Louise Fletcher’s performance in the original film. However, she was able to find some sympathy for the nurse which she drew upon when portraying the character.
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“I identified very deeply with her loneliness,” Paulson told Vanity Fair. “I think ultimately at the end of the day, that is sort of what drives Mildred. A pursuit of survival and of finding some sense of home. Even though the methods that she chooses to achieve that internal security are somewhat questionable, I would argue that she’s doing them with a potentially selfish need, but a survival need nevertheless. Sort of an animal need that blinds her to the inappropriateness of some of her actions.”
It will certainly be interesting to see Murphy’s and Paulson’s take on such a notorious villain who is known for her desire for order and control, as she manipulates her patients and the hospital staff to her liking. Paulson discussed delving into the character and giving her the depth that will resonate with audiences who are only familiar with the surface level of her character: “A lot of us are on the planet trying to figure out how to survive our childhoods, our environments, our circumstances. And to have an opportunity to do a deeper dive into this invented character that has become so pulsating with life for so many people, to figure out why she is so cold…so removed… By the time you get to the end of the first season, you will not wonder how and why Mildred became the way she did. You may question her actions, you may have judgment about it—but you will understand it. It will make sense to you.”
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The trajectory of the show is said to follow the character along her path to where she stands as the head nurse at the psychiatric hospital in the book and film. A two-season order for the show was granted by Netflix back in 2017, so a definitive second season will be following the eight episodes that are set to drop on September 18. Paulson told The Hollywood Reporter that the show’s future seasons will bring us closer and closer to the Nurse Ratched that audiences know from Cuckoo’s Nest, as she said the culmination of that character would ideally occur by season 4.
Murphy and Paulson
Sarah Paulson and Ryan Murphy have been consistent collaborators, including working together on American Horror Story and American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. Now, Paulson, who won an Emmy in 2016 for her portrayal of Marcia Clack in American Crime Story, now leads this cast in their latest project and in what Murphy has described as “the performance of Sarah Paulson’s life.”
Murphy, also known for co-creating and producing Hollywood, Glee, 9-1-1 and Pose, among others, has had serious influence over television himself since the beginnings of his mainstream success in the early 2000s, having often been referred to as “the most powerful man” in modern television, especially as he recently signed the largest development deal in television history with Netflix. He is also noted for the shift he brought to television in regards to inclusivity, bringing marginalized characters to the spotlight through his storytelling that has led to mainstream praise from audiences. While Nurse Ratched certainly differs from several of these characters, the series will certainly garner attention from fans of the book and film, or even just those who are looking for another dark psychological thriller, especially as there won’t be another season of American Horror Story this fall due to coronavirus production complications.
Ratched is executive produced by Murphy and Paulson, along with Ian Brennan, Michael Douglas and several others. Having produced the original film, Michael Douglas’ involvement may leave room for more potential overlap and continuity from the 1975 film into the new series, which will no doubt add more depth to the original character that has become such a prominent figure in literature and media.
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