That's exactly what the actress did when preparing to depict Marcia Clark – lead prosecutor in the 1994 O.J. Simpson trial – in the hit FX series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and she spilled the beans about their boozy get-together on Tuesday's Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Courtesy FX; AFP / Getty
As for what it was like when they first met, Paulson, 41, said she couldn't contain her excitement.
"I made a lot of weird sort of squeal-y pig noises because I was so excited," she said. "I had spent so much time with my nose sort of in a book about her, [The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin], that when I saw her it was like seeing someone I'd idolized or had a terrible crush on for my whole life. And she walked into the restaurant and I was like 'Ah!' and she looked around like this was a sort of terrifying experience for her."
The admiration, meanwhile, was mutual: Clark recently told PEOPLE having Paulson play her "was such an honor. I've been such a fan of hers for years."
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Now, Paulson says the series is finally giving Clark, 62, the positive attention "that was probably due her at the time."
"People were really believing what was being fed to them: that she was a kind of shrew, ambitious bitch," Paulson said of the media scrutiny Clark faced at the time. "All of the words that you would use to describe Marcia, if you described a man that way that would be positive, and if you described a woman that way it's pejorative."
"The pictures of her naked ... I mean, can you imagine a person trying to put someone away for what they believe is a double homicide and you're having to deal with naked pictures?" Paulson continued. (Indeed, Clark told PEOPLE the attacks were "unprecedented": "I hated the way it impacted the case – the way it impacted the witnesses. Everyone forgot Ron [Goldman] and Nicole [Brown Simpson], and it became this enormous circus. That was terrible.")
As for whether Clark has tuned in to the series, Paulson said she is definitely "watching," something Clark has confirmed to PEOPLE, saying the show is "amazing."
"I think [watching] it was a very difficult prospect but the actual doing of it I think was less hard than she thought she was going to be," Paulson said. "It's a very painful thing, it was probably the most painful thing that she lived through, certainly."
American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson airs Tuesdays (10 p.m. ET) on FX.