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After three years in development, Impeachment: American Crime Story is now just days away from being shown to the world — and to the subjects it depicts, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge and Paula Jones.
“I feel nervous,” writer and exec producer Sarah Burgess admitted to The Hollywood Reporter at the show’s premiere on Wednesday. “For three years I have thought about this, the families of people who’ve passed away and the real characters themselves. Part of me is fascinated to see what response they’ll have. I know there will be contrast with how people feel about their own lives, I know that from Monica. So I’m nervous about that but I accept it too and I’m curious if anyone speaks out, what they say.”
The FX series, of course, follows the Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal of the 1990s, with Lewinsky as a producer who gave notes on every script. And as EP Brad Simpson notes, “this season doesn’t have a lot of good guys in it,” which may result in some public reaction.
Cobie Smulders, who plays Coulter, anticipates the conservative pundit “will probably be tickled by the whole thing” and Billy Eichner, who plays Drudge, saw the political commentator already put a photo of him in character as a lead story on The Drudge Report, “which was a hilariously surreal, meta moment. I thought, ‘Well, this is the perfect way for this to end.'”
“Of course you’re curious about they react. We hope everyone feels we’ve been fair and empathetic to them, [but] everyone’s going to have different reactions,” added Simpson. “This is a story about Washington and some of them acting at their worst, so I think it’ll be complicated for a lot of people to watch.”
One subject who knows what’s coming is Lewinsky, who along with her active advising of writers and producers also worked closely with star Beanie Feldstein. The Booksmart actress said it was freeing knowing her scenes had been “Monica-sanctioned,” but more so the two worked together on specifics unavailable in any book or news report.
“What nail polish color were you wearing; did you call Catherine [Allday Davis] ‘Cat,’ did you call her ‘Cathy’? What was your nickname for her? Was it this grandma that gave you this necklace or was it that grandma?” Feldstein said of the sort of conversations she had with Lewinsky. “I didn’t want to leave anything unturned or unknown. I didn’t want to guess.”
Sarah Paulson, who exec produced as well as played Linda Tripp, also has formed a close bond with Lewinsky over dinners and FaceTimes.
“I find her to be a really special person and she was a huge asset to the production. She insisted things be there for veracity sake that probably made her wildly uncomfortable — I know they did — but she felt it was for the benefit of the story,” Paulson told THR. “She’s become a friend, a real friend. I only learned recently that she told the L.A. Times that she was actually concerned when she became friends with me that I would betray her. And I called her up and was like, ‘You never told me this’ and she’s like ‘I wasn’t going to tell you! I don’t think that anymore.’ And I was like ‘I’m so glad!’
The premiere, held at Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, also welcomed stars Annaleigh Ashford, Clive Owen, Mira Sorvino, Blair Underwood, Colin Hanks, Elizabeth Reaser and Taran Killam, along with EPs Nina Jacobson and Alexis Martin Woodall. EP and director Ryan Murphy was not in attendance, and Lewinsky did not do red carpet interviews but joined the cast for a cocktail reception, where she embraced Feldstein and Paulson and was honored during the night’s champagne toast. Which, the cast said, is a reaction they hope is mirrored in the audience.
“The goal of Impeachment is to illuminate the sides of these people that people were never exposed to at the time,” said Feldstein. “I’m really excited for those who are watching to understand that Paula Jones and Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky and everyone in the show, they’re human beings. They’re not just late-night jokes or caricatures or SNL characters.”
Impeachment: American Crime Story premieres on FX on Tuesday.
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