There’s a lot to look forward to, TV-wise, this year – particularly when it comes to Netflix. So far, we’ve had must-watch shows like Unorthodox, White Lines, Stateless, The Baby-Sitters Club, and Tiger King to sink our teeth into.
Perhaps the one we’re most excited for, though, is Ryan Murphy’s Ratched.
A psychological feminist horror
As readers of the original text will no doubt be aware, Nurse Ratched’s unspeakable crimes in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest place her firmly among literature’s most hateful characters.
Referred throughout the book as the ‘Big Nurse’, Ratched rules over her psychiatric ward with unbridled sadistic glee. Her patients live in terror of her, for they know that she can send them to the orderlies for invasive treatments, or order them into electroshock therapy, or even have them removed from the picture altogether. Indeed, over the short time frame of the book, she destroys three men – two of whom die by suicide, and one who is rendered a shell of his former self after he is lobotomised.
Worst of all, though, is the fact that nobody can speak out against Ratched’s reign of tyranny. Her word is law, because she will always, always, always be believed over her patients, such is the terrible stigma of mental health.
But who is Nurse Ratched, really?
Murphy’s TV show will, as you probably guessed by the title, act as a prequel to One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, focusing on the ‘origin story’ of Nurse Ratched.
“The series is set to be an origin story of sorts taking us back to before Nurse Ratched had evolved to the monster by exploiting people in the mental health care system,” reads the official Netflix synopsis.
Sarah Paulson as Nurse Ratched
Sarah Paulson – who has collaborated with Murphy on a slew of projects, including American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, Feud, and every season of American Horror Story – will be taking on the formidable role of the young Mildred Ratched in the series.
And she does so with serious aplomb, according to Murphy.
“It’s the performance of Sarah Paulson’s life,” the showrunner told Deadline.
Explaining what drew her to the role, Paulson told The Hollywood Reporter: “Ratched was complicated and dark and not what I expected, and totally terrifying. It’s more psychological than murder-scary where somebody jumps out from behind you. It’s sort of a meditation on someone’s psychological strengths or weaknesses.
“What I found really interesting is that people prescribe such villainy to her and the truth of the matter is that she really was a product of her time. Part of the conceit of the movie is that you fall in love with all the men and their friendship, but you never want the killjoy coming in to say, ‘We have to follow the rules.’ But she was, in her way, trying to offer them help, just with devastating consequences.
“[But] there was no mustache-twisting. There was a real steadiness and a stillness to her that I like to try to steal.”
Below: Nurse Ratched was played in the 1975 One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest movie by Louise Fletcher, who won a Best Actress Academy Award for the role.
Paulson added that the series will offer One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest fans a better understanding of Ratched’s influences and motivations, noting: “I don’t want to give away a piece that comes out in the second episode where you realise, ‘Oh, that’s why she behaved that way,’ [but] this is sort of a contextualisation of how Mildred Ratched became the woman that you see in that movie.
“I do think any character you play, particularly the ones that on the surface seem difficult, angry or monstrous, a lot of people don’t like to investigate that stuff and to me, I think it’s our job to represent all kinds of people without judgment, if possible.”
The cast of Netflix’s Ratched
Paulson will be joined by fellow American Horror Story actor Jon Jon Briones, who is set to play a character called Dr Richard Hanover.
Judy Davis, meanwhile, will portray Nurse Betsy Bucket, and Vincent D’Onofrio will take on the role of Governor George Milburn.
As if that weren’t enough starpower, the series will also feature performances from:
- Cynthia Nixon as Gwendolyn Briggs
- Sharon Stone as Lenore Osgood
- Finn Wittrock as Edmund Tolleson
- Charlie Carver as Huck
- Alice Englert as Dolly
- Amanda Plummer as Louise
- Corey Stoll as Charles Wainwright
- Sophie Okonedo as Charlotte
When will Ratched be available to stream on Netflix?
Netflix has yet to confirm when Ratched will be hitting our TV screens. Murphy and Paulson, though, have both hinted that we can expect to sit down to the series by September 2020 at the very latest, so fingers crossed we won’t have long to wait!
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.