September 19, 2016 05:30 PM

Sarah Paulson‘s 2016 Emmy Awards date Marcia Clark has been quite literally inspirational for the actress.

The Emmy winner opted to have the real-life [LINK” “” “” “0” ] prosecutor (whom she played in The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) sit beside her at the awards show, and she couldn’t have been more proud.

After thanking Clark in her acceptance speech for the outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie, Paulson told PEOPLE that she and Clark have become close.

“I wanted so much, if I won, to say what I said to her with as many eyeballs on me as possible,” Paulson said after accepting her award. “Because I feel as a country, we owe a big collective apology for getting it wrong about Marcia Clark and putting her through so much … trauma.”

“I would consider her a good friend of mine at this point,” she continued. “I really love her, she’s incredibly smart and I feel very … I just can’t tell you how honored I feel that I got to play her and that I know her. Even more honored to know her.”

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During the 41-year-old actress’ speech, Paulson acknowledged Clark by telling the audience: “The responsibility of playing a real person is an enormous one. You want to get it right, not for you but for them. The more I learned about the real Marcia Clark, not the two-dimensional cardboard cut-out I saw on the news, but the complicated, whip smart, mother of two … the more I had to recognize that I, along with the rest of the world had been superficial and careless in my judgment and I’m glad to be able to stand here today in front of everyone and tell you: I’m sorry.”

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The award-winning actress also gushed about another influential person in her life, Jeffrey Tambor, 72.

“Jeffrey Tambor came up to me before the show started and he said ‘If they don’t give this thing … I think I voted for you 30 times,’ ” she recalled with a laugh. “Which, you can’t vote for someone 30 times, but the sentiment being that he really wanted me to have it, and I think he’s an extraordinary actor.

“I only know him as a peripheral acquaintance and he’s always been so generous with me,” Paulson continued. “I thought it was so lovely and those are the kind of moments that the Emmys can be … so that’s a beautiful thing.”

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