Monica Lewinsky confirms the accuracy of Impeachment and how Vernon Jordan really did pat her behind
On the eve of the Impeachment finale on FX, Monica Lewinsky on Monday joined fellow executive producer Sarah Burgess and stars Sarah Paulson, Beanie Feldstein, and Annaleigh Ashford for a panel discussion about retelling the Bill Clinton scandal for today's TV viewers. (Though Feldstein likes to remind everyone that she was only four when it all happened).
Unfortunately, no one stopped to ask Lewinsky what she thought about the miniseries that also starred Clive Owen as Clinton and Cobie Smulders as Anne Coulter. The former White House intern-turned-activist, whose personal nightmare from her early 20s played out over nine weeks on FX this fall, was only there to moderate. And it was a kind of a bummer: Judging by the standing ovation Lewinsky received when she took the stage at Director's Guild of America in Hollywood, the scores of people who were in attendance were clearly there for her.
Lewinsky did preface some of her questions with her own thoughts and observations. She confirmed that certain moments in Impeachment, like when Vernon Jordan (played by Blair Underwood) patted Monica on the butt or when Clinton wore a tie that Monica bought him to his Grand Jury testimony, actually happened in real life. She also referenced Linda Tripp's hours and hours of secretly recorded tapes by saying "listening to yourself on tape when you don't know you're being recorded was one of the lower moments for me in 1998."
She also revealed that she was on set when Ashford recreated Paula Jones' infamous Penthouse photo shoot.
"It was a very moving scene," reflected Lewinsky. "As I was watching that episode, I realized at some point after 1998, all of us were offered millions to pose for Penthouse and Playboy. Because I came from an upper-middle-class family, I was able to say no. It was an eye-opening moment for me. Sometimes, there are sex-positive decisions that are made. That's not this. Someone was worried about paying the rent, so this was their only option."
"That was our meet-cute!" continued Ashford. "It was an imperative piece of her story. I think there's... empathy that we have for her now that we didn't then. This show is an act of social justice, to revaluate how we could have been better and how we can be better now."
In a lighter moment, Lewinsky said she had seen Booksmart three months before Murphy approached her about exec producing Impeachment and wanting to cast Feldstein as her former self.
"I kept thinking Beanie reminds me of me in my late teens, something about her emotional truth that she brought to the moment," Lewinsky recalled.
And Lewinsky was particularly interested to hear how Paulson felt when she read the recent Vanity Fair interview with Tripp's daughter Allison, who said she wanted to "hug the shit" out of the actress for her portrayal of her late mom. Tripp died in April last year, right around the time when production was set to begin on the miniseries.
"The article was meaningful to me," said Paulson, who would occasionally freak out Lewinsky during the panel by uttering Monica in her throaty, Linda Trippian way. "I imagined deep down in some fantasy that I would get to meet Linda and have it be a pleasant experience."
"I didn't want to think about humanizing her," Paulson continued. "The great gift of Sarah Burgess' writing was that she didn't take any of the hard edges off of Linda. There is a lot to dislike about her personality. It's challenging for people to sit with a person who is unhappy. I think it was important to not try to engender goodwill and feeling with the audience. We were trying to honor the truth of what happened. There was a real betrayal in what happened. Linda tried to move around the reality of what she was doing."
In the end, both Feldstein and Paulson said they had become very close to Lewinsky.
"You are never going to get rid of me," said Feldstein. Added Paulson, "I'll never do to you what she [Tripp] did to you. I can promise you that."
The finale of Impeachment airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.
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