The American Crime Story star also reveals another (very surprising!) real-life figure she'd like to play

By Scott Huver
Updated March 21, 2016 06:05 PM
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SARAH PAULSON: LAW & ORDER
Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Sarah Paulson is aware that she’s in the midst of having a career-high moment, and she’s letting herself embrace all the goodwill coming her way – including the compliments from fellow actors/admirers including Matthew McConaughey.

Following several standout seasons starring on American Horror Story and high-profile stints in prestige films like Carol and 12 Years a Slave, Paulson is currently delivering what many to consider the performance of her career playing real-life prosecutor Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Around Hollywood she’s being referred to as an actor’s actor, and she admits that lately she’s found herself in the surreal position of accepting praises from Oscar-caliber stars.

“I was actually with someone last night where Matthew McConaughey said the most lovely thing to me,” she told PEOPLE on the red carpet at the PaleyFest tribute to AHS: Hotel. “If I could’ve written it down I mean, I’ve got it committed to memory, and I’m not going to repeat it because it’s just for my own personal self!”

Admittedly more than a little self-conscious in the face of such compliments, Paulson, 41, confesses she’s trying absorb head-turning acknowledgements like McConaughey’s in the spirit in which they’re being offered.

“It was one of the moments where I realized, ‘God, you know, sometimes you work and you don’t know that anyone is noticing or seeing, and other times you’re working in a way that you can tell that people are responding to the thing that you’re doing,’ ” she said. “This has been a new world for me to be inhabiting, of people feeling an awareness of my work, which I have not experienced before in this way. So it feels incredibly nice – and I can say it’s preferable to the former!”

With just a few episodes of American Crime Story left, Paulson hopes for a reunion with the real Clark, 62, with whom she met and bonded with over drinks several well into production. “Once it’s all done, I hope she’ll hang out with me repeatedly,” says the actress. “I’m going to email her and say, ‘Can we please, now? How about now? What about NOW? Tomorrow? How about NOW?’ ”

She’s also game for a return to the anthology series for a new true crime in an expected follow-up season – with a next real-life role on her wish list. “I’m sort of interested in the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan thing. I would like to play Tonya Harding, I’m just putting that out there,” she laughs. “I’ve got the skating skills and the bangs and the hair. I’m really into the hair thing. Half the job is the hair. I’ve done that once before, and now I feel like it suits me.”

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Before that she’ll be returning for another season of American Horror Story, though she claims to know nothing about the next storyline or the character she might play – adding with a twinkle in her eye. “I mean, I do, but I’m not saying anything.”

She’s even hoping she gets the opportunity to work with her significant other, Holland Taylor, 73, if the right project presents itself.

“I would like to,” says Paulson. “I think she’s an extraordinary actress. I haven’t really thought about what that would be. Anything – I could do it on the street corner. That would be fine.”

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story airs Tuesdays (10 p.m. ET) on FX.