At the 2016 Emmys, Kirsten Dunst (Fargo), Felicity Huffman (American Crime), Audra McDonald (Lady Day at Emersons Bar and Grill), Kerry Washington (Confirmation) and Paulson were all nominated for Lead Actress in a Limited Series of TV Movie. (Golden Globe winner Lady Gaga did not make the cut for her performance in American Horror Story: Hotel.)
And while all of these actresses (Dunst in particular) would have been a deserving winner, it was Paulson's career-defining portrayal of Clark that earned the actress her first Emmy.
Paulson, who was also nominated for her supporting role in Hotel (which she shot simultaneously with The People v. O.J. Simpson) but lost to American Crime's Regina King, dedicated a good portion of her speech to Clark and said she wouldn't be standing there without her. (Clark was also Paulson's date on the red carpet.)
"The responsibility of playing a real person is an enormous one. You want to get it right, not for you, but for them," Paulson said. "The more I learned about the real Marcia Clark, not the two-dimensional cut-out I saw in the news, but the complicated, whip-smart, mother of two who woke up every day, put both feet on the floor and dedicated herself to writing an unconscionable wrong, the loss of two innocents, Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown, I had to recognize that I, along with the rest of the world, had been superficial and careless in my judgment. And I am glad to be able to stand here today in front of everyone and tell you I'm sorry."
Hearing Paulson's moving speech, Clark, got visibly emotional, tearing up as the crowd broke out in roaring applause.
Prior to this, Paulson had been 0-4 at the Emmys, memorably losing to Ellen Burstyn three years ago when Paulson was nominated for American Horror: Story: Asylum. But this year, there was no denying Paulson, whose performance of Clark was so inspiring Tina Fey changed her membership status just to vote for her.