FX chairman John Landgraf issued a passionate defense of the timing of the cable channel’s Clinton scandal miniseries, which was just announced as premiering weeks before the 2020 election.
Appearing at the Television Critics Association’s press tour in Beverly Hills on Tuesday, the executive was pressed by reporters about the initial online reaction to its Impeachment: American Crime Story limited series which examines the Clinton sex scandal from the point of view of women involved in the scandal.
ACS is planned for Sept. 27, 2020, which had some Democrats worried on Twitter that the project could re-elect President Trump (see tweets below).
“Let me say something about the current environment,” Landgraf said. “When somebody writes, without even knowing what the script is … so this person knows what the show is, knows what the audience response is going to be, knows how it’s going to impact the election. This certainty that says, ‘We can’t have conversations, we can’t make art, we can’t have nuance. I won’t even wait to pronounce judgment on it’ — is toxic to the media environment. I believe very strongly in it. I’ve read [the ACS script]. I think it’s great. I don’t believe it’s going to determine who’s the next President of the United States. I think that’s a little hysterical from my standpoint. I’m insistent I’m going to support artists who are going to make great art and want to put it [on] at a time when people are going to watch it. I will stand up here as long as I’m here and I will stand for artists and stand for art.”
The executive added later, noting Lewinsky is a producer on the project, “The fact that Monica herself is involved tells you something about the quality of the material and the vibrancy of that revisionist history that it can provide now … The way we perceive many characters of [the scandal] — particularly the women — have really been transformed by many factors like the #MeToo movement.”
Here are some of the reactions online:
Three major pieces of casting are already in place: Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart) is set as former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Emmy winner Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story) will play Lewinsky confidante Linda Tripp, and Annaleigh Ashford (Legally Blonde) will portray Clinton accuser Paula Jones.
According to FX, the series will focus on the various perspectives of a trio of female leads: “Impeachment: American Crime Story unravels the national scandal that swept up Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, and Linda Tripp as principal characters in the country’s first impeachment proceedings in over a century.”
The limited series is based on Jeffrey Toobin’s bestselling book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President and is adapted by Sarah Burgess.
Lewinsky herself will serve as a producer on the show, along with the usual ACS legion of heavy hitter executive producers (Ryan Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Brad Falchuk, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, Alexis Martin Woodall, and Sarah Paulson).
“People are going to be very interested in this right around the election and it’s going to be a great show,” Landgraf added.
The third installment of ACS follows up on the franchise’s 2016 blockbuster The People vs. O.J. Simpson (which also starred Paulson) and 2018’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace.
Clinton was impeached in 1998 in a 21-day Senate trial over a sexual relationship between the president and a then-22-year-old Lewinsky. The intern confided details of the relationship to her Defense Department co-worker Tripp who secretly recorded their conversations. Lewinsky initially denied any physical relationship with Clinton in an affidavit in a case where Jones accused Clinton of sexual harassment.