Ryan Murphy’s “Impeachment: American Crime Story” tells the story of the infamous affair between President Bill Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. While the upcoming FX anthology will dive into many details surrounding the scandal, it will not include depictions of sexual acts that occurred between Lewinsky (played by Beanie Feldstein) and Clinton (Clive Owen).
In fact, the most intimate interaction you’ll see the two share over the first few episodes of “Impeachment,” which premieres Sept. 7, is a kiss. The more explicit elements of the relationship are revealed during Lewinsky’s phone calls with former White House employee Linda Tripp (played by Sarah Paulson).
And the reason for that decision, according to writer Sarah Burgess, is because enough of the public already knows the “graphic sexual detail” of the 90s scandal — like the blue dress Lewinsky kept that was stained with Clinton’s semen after she performed oral sex on him.
“It was always my instinct to write it the way you saw it,” Burgess told TheWrap while sitting on a virtual panel for “Impeachment: American Crime Story” during the Television Critics Association’s press tour on Friday. “We actually didn’t discuss that so much, I think it was just sort of in my first drafts. It’s really shocking… I was like a preteen when this came out and I remember [independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s] report being in The Washington Post, which is like my hometown newspaper. Because the graphic sexual detail was the headline in 1998, it felt like … first of all, something that much of the audience already knew.”
She continued: “Like you mentioned the blue dress, like, everyone knows precisely the mechanics of that and what that is. And I think a lot of my thinking has always been to sort of put us in Monica’s shoes through Beanie, this extremely young person who shows up in D.C. with her whole life ahead of her. And to feel like, who the human being was around that, what the feelings were around that and her relationship with Bill, it never felt like the move to me. And I don’t remember … any intensive discussions about doing it another way.”
“Impeachment: American Crime Story” centers on the “national crisis that swept up Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp as principal characters in the country’s first impeachment proceedings in over a century,” with Annaleigh Ashford playing Jones and Sarah Paulson as Tripp.
Executive producer Nina Jacobson said during the Friday panel that the show’s decision to keep the physical aspects of Clinton and Lewinsky’s relationship largely off-screen was “always the intention,” and viewers might see more on-screen sexual elements included as the season progresses.
“You’ll see, as you see the rest of the season, that we are very mindful of what we show when, and why, and what we don’t show, and why,” Jacobson said. “And it definitely was a very calculated instinct and I think a really good one from Sarah and something that I think we knew early, early on, collectively, that we wanted to approach it the way it ultimately is approached. But also let the series speak to that as you get to the last episodes.”
Feldstein added she “completely” agrees with the way “Impeachment” handled intimate scenes between Lewinsky and Clinton.
In addition to Feldstein as Lewinsky and Owen as President Clinton, “Impeachment: American Crime Story” stars Paulson as Linda Tripp, Edie Falco as Hillary Clinton, Ashford as Paula Jones, Billy Eichner as Matt Drudge and Cobie Smulders (who recently replaced Betty Gilpin) as Ann Coulter.
“Impeachment: American Crime Story,” which hails from 20th Television and FX Productions, is executive produced by Murphy, Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Alexis Martin Woodall, Sarah Burgess, Sarah Paulson, Brad Falchuk, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski and Michael Uppendahl.
“Impeachment” is the third installment in Murphy’s “American Crime Story” franchise, followed by the first season, “The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” and the second, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.”