Paulson grew up in the U.S. state of Maine and in New York City. She studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. She made her debut in the play The Sisters Rosensweig. In 1994 she won a small role in the television series Law & Order.
Paulson played in the movie What Women Want (2000) opposite Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt in the movie Down with Love – A Little Bit of Love! (2003) alongside Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. She was also in the television series American Gothic – see Prince of Darkness (1995) Jack & Jill (1999) and Metropolis (2001). In the series, Leap of Faith (2002) she played the lead role, she appeared as a guest in the TV series Deadwood (2005). As of March 2005, she starred in a Broadway theater in the play The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, the role of Laura.
* 1995: American Gothic (TV series)
* 1995: Love to the death (Friends at Last)
* 1999: The Other Sister (The Other Sister)
* 1999: Held Up – Caution hostage! (Held up)
* 2000: What Women Want (What Women Want)
* 2003: Down with Love – A Little Bit of Love! (Down with Love)
* 2005: Swimmers
* 2005: Serenity
* 2005: The Notorious Bettie Page
* 2006: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (TV Series)
* 2006: Griffin & Phoenix
* 2007: Desperate Housewives (4 # 07 as Lydia)
* 2008: The Spirit
* 2010: Grey\’s Anatomy (6 # 15 Grey as a young Ellis)