Nurse Ratched Origin Story Heads To Some Extreme Places

Credit: Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Netflix’s new series, Ratched, from Ryan Murphy is a prequel to Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and is an origin story showing how the story’s antagonist Nurse Ratched ended up so scary.

Murphy regular Sarah Paulson recently spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the series, in which she plays the title role.

For anyone who has either read the novel or watched the brilliant 1975 film adaptation, Nurse Ratched is a nightmarishly disturbing figure. Head nurse of a psychiatric treatment centre, she controls her patients with drugs, humiliation, withholding privileges or necessities, or outright threats. A tyrant who wields her authority over the patients of the centre like a weapon, Ratched is the epitome of the saying power corrupts.

Laura Fletcher, who earned an Academy Award for her performance as Ratched in the 1975 film, said at the time that the devil-horns-like 1940s hairstyle was “a symbol that, for her, life had stopped a long time ago”.

“There’s so little known about Mildred Ratched from the film,” Paulson told THR. “So everything was sort of open for interpretation and everything was on the table, and because it’s Ryan, he sort of went to some very extreme places. And I was very grateful for that because it meant I had a lot of room to move around where I didn’t have to adhere to one locked way of playing her. It was very interesting to have an endgame in sight of knowing where she ends up and sort of rewinding at warp speed to a time when she was in her developmental stage as a person.”

Emmy Award winner Paulson’s ability to portray a surface of elegant normality, alongside a calculating stillness, and surprisingly chilling menace, promise great things for the series.

The ensemble cast also includes Sharon Stone, Cynthia Nixon, Vincent D’Onofrio and Don Cheadle, making their debuts in the Ryan Murphy Universe, alongside some of Murphy’s other regulars like Jon Jon Briones and Finn Wittrock.

Ratched is out now on Netflix.

Carolyn Hucker