In 1994, Sarah Paulson got her first on screen role in the Season 5 episode of “Law & Order” titled “Family Values” (via PopSugar). We are introduced to her character, Maggie Conner, being told that her mother is missing. From her very first line delivered, one can tell that there is something special about this actress. A lot of Paulson’s distinguishing acting characteristics can be recognized as she fusses over giving Detective Lennie Briscoe a coaster, because that’s what her Mom would want. You can also see it in her cadence describing the last time she saw her mom, the way she rings her hands with worry, and how she lets those tears well up! It’s all very classic Paulson.
As the episode goes one, we learn that Maggie has been having an affair with her stepfather, Steve. Once it becomes clear that Steve’s only objective is to save his own skin, Maggie confesses that Steve is the actual murderer. When her mother found out about the affair, there was an argument and Steve murdered her, forcing Maggie to help clean it up. Paulson gives a very convincing performance of a young woman confused by the love she feels for a man who is nothing more than deceptive and selfish in his actions. By the end of the episode, Maggie makes her confession and Steve is brought up on charges.
In 2010, Paulson even returned to the “L&O” universe with a guest appearance on “SVU.” She appeared in a Season 11 episode titled “Shadow,” playing a woman who murders her wealthy parents for her inheritance. It’s kind of a modern day Lizzie Borden.