What Is Monica Lewinsky's Role On Impeachment: American Crime Story?

For over 15 years, Monica Lewinsky was a subject of ridicule for the American public over her sexual relationship with former President Bill Clinton, both of whom were the subjects of his sensationalized 1998 impeachment trial. Lewinsky, then a 21-year-old White House intern, found herself unwillingly thrust into the spotlight of American politics and muckraking, Many blamed her, rather than Clinton, for the ensuing scandal — despite the overwhelming power inequity between a young intern and an older world leader. 

Though Clinton was ultimately acquitted by members of Congress and was able to recover from it relatively unscathed, Lewinsky was hardly as fortunate. In the ensuing years, Lewinsky was largely stigmatized and driven into reclusion, going so far as to flee the U.S. for Europe, finding herself unable to gain steady employment for years due to the Clinton scandal. 

In 2014, Lewinsky decided to regain autonomy and agency in her own story, chronicling the personal fallout from the 1998 impeachment trial in a lauded essay for Vanity Fair. After that, Lewinsky entered a new era, in which the public that had once repudiated her suddenly regarded her as a feminist icon nearly three years before the #MeToo movement gained ground. Now, it seems Lewinsky will once again enter the public discourse with the debut of Ryan Murphy's third season of "American Crime Story," which centers on Lewinsky. But does she have a part in it all?

Monica Lewinsky called her American Crime Story experience "surreal"

In an August 25 exclusive with The Hollywood Reporter, Monica Lewinsky (pictured above in 1998) shared her experiences about serving as a producer in "Impeachment: American Crime Story," the third iteration of Ryan Murphy's lauded anthology series. Alongside actor Beanie Feldstein, who was cast as Lewinsky for the project, the current anti-bullying activist apologized beforehand for how many times she would potentially use the words "weird" and "surreal" during her interview with the magazine — simply because, for Lewinsky, it's hard to describe it otherwise. 

Speaking with THR, Lewinsky recounted the difficulties in going over each version of the script as not only a key member of the production team, but as someone who time and time again saw their life play out upon a page with the intention of winding up on-screen. "I have anxiety about the process being week to week," Lewinsky disclosed. Describing how there was (and is) "an enormous amount of trust" she's had to hold on to with both the script itself, as well as the entire cast, there were periods where she still felt trepidation. 

But despite her fervent hopes in the integrity of it all, "I'm nervous about being understood again," she added.

Monica Lewinsky said it was "different" for those who lived the story

While Monica Lewinsky expressed faith in Beanie Feldstein's ability to handle portraying one of the more traumatic and fraught periods of her life, the "Impeachment: American Crime Story" producer explained during her Hollywood Reporter interview how the evolution of the scripted project has, at times, created a sense of dissonance. "I'm very lucky to be in Beanie's hands in that way, but it's very challenging," Lewinsky disclosed. "There are many moments where I'm transported to a memory from the show ... there's the kind of bizarreness that when we relive a memory in our head, we don't see ourselves." 

She also reflected upon how, unlike Feldstein, Lewinsky never imagined she would become a figure rife for public scrutiny. "Beanie, you wanted to be an actor, and to be an actor meant you were going to have a public life," acknowledged Lewinsky. "For many of us in the story, it's different."

Despite it all, Lewinsky — who has been known at times to regard her own past with a mix of both courage and humor — stated that this time around, she's prepared for what may come after "Impeachment: American Crime Story" premieres in September. "There's going to be a lot of attention on this story again, but I'm in a very different place in my life," said Lewinsky. "I just turned 48, I've now been a public person for half my f***ing life. So ... we'll see."

Monica Lewinsky trusts the integrity of the project

While Monica Lewinsky expressed the challenging nature of not only reliving but recreating one of the most painful phases of her life as a producer for "American Crime Story," she also approached it with a sense of integrity in adherence for sticking to the facts — even if they portray her in an unflattering light. One of those particular incidents happens to be an incident that led to the initial consummation of Lewinsky and former President Bill Clinton's ongoing sexual relationship — an explicit flirtation on the part of Lewinsky, in which she lifted her jacket to display the top of a thong she was wearing during a birthday party for Clinton's chief of staff, per The Washington Post

Though Lewinsky herself recognizes that it wasn't her proudest moment, she also knew that the event itself has been inscribed into Clintonian lore. "Listen, I would've loved to have been really selfish and said, 'That's great that you guys think we don't have to show that, fantastic,'" Lewinsky said in her interview with The Hollywood Reporter, "but I'm incredibly experienced in understanding how people see this story." Lewinsky also felt "that I shouldn't get a pass because I'm a producer," and that the scenario was one of damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't. If she'd allowed the moment-in-question to be omitted, as it originally had been from the script, Lewinsky noted it would be "unfair to the team and to the project because it would leave everybody vulnerable."