In the late 1990s, former White House intern Monica Lewinsky rose to prominence after her affair with U.S. President Bill Clinton became public knowledge. Though it’s been years since that infamous scandal made headlines, Lewinsky still cringes when looking back on that point in her life, especially now that her story is playing out on the small-screen.
Monica Lewinsky’s infamous affair with Bill Clinton is being retold on a new TV series
On Sept. 7, the new series Impeachment: American Crime Story premiered on FX. The third season of Ryan Murphy’s anthology franchise explores the infamous affair between former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and U.S. President Bill Clinton that ultimately led to his impeachment in 1998.
The pair’s relationship was thrust into the public eye fast and hard after Lewinsky’s former friend and co-worker Linda Tripp handed over illegal recordings of her confessing to the relationship. Before Lewinsky knew it, she was being looked at under a microscope, all while being belittled and humiliated by the media.
After Clinton’s impeachment, Lewinsky laid low for a few years. But in 2014, she re-emerged to speak on the scandal and how it affected her personally and professionally over the years. Though she participated in plenty of interviews and conferences, Lewinsky declined to be involved in fictional retellings of the events — until now.
Lewinsky says many of the show’s scenes are ‘cringeworthy’
In 2020, Monica Lewinsky signed on to co-produce FX’s Impeachment: American Crime Story. With this role, she was able reclaim her story for how she truly experienced it.
But despite having creative control over the series, being part of this project wasn’t easy for Lewinsky.
During an exclusive interview on NBC’s TODAY show leading up to the new season premiere, Lewinsky revealed that it was tough for her to watch her past experiences play out on screen. Though she was “proud” of her work on the show, Lewinsky shared that reliving those dark moments was “cringeworthy.”
“I’ve really worn two hats in this project,” Lewinsky said, “So as a producer, I’m really proud of the project of the show and as a subject, I’m nervous. I’m nervous for people to see some of the worst moments of the life and a lot of behavior that I regret. If you remember your twenties not that long ago, it was pretty cringeworthy.”
Lewinsky added, “I do not recommend watching your early 20s be dramatized on TV, especially in this instance where the truth really was stranger than fiction.”
Monica Lewinsky hired a therapist to watch ‘Impeachment: American Crime Story’ with her
In an August 2021 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Monica Lewinsky opened up about the “weird” and “challenging” experience of seeing past events played out in front of her while working on Impeachment: American Crime Story.
Though she knew what she had signed up for, Lewinsky didn’t expect the experience of reliving those “retraumatizing” scenes to feel so “surreal.”
“There are many moments where I’m transported to a memory from the show,” she shared. “But also, there’s the kind of bizarreness that when we relive a memory in our head, we don’t see ourselves.”
Lewinsky shared that even before she could watch rough cuts of the show and make notes, she had hired a therapist to sit with her so that she could fully process those scenes that retell her affair with Bill Clinton.
“There’ve been some really, really difficult periods in this process for me, so I’ve been creating a patchwork of support in a different way than I’ve had before,” Lewinsky said. “I have somebody who’s a therapist — not my traditional therapist, who’s a trauma psychiatrist, but someone who’s both a friend and one of my helpers — and I pay her and she sits on Zoom while I work on my notes so I’m not alone. Because it’s hard. It’s really hard.”
But despite the discomfort she felt during the process, Lewinsky didn’t shy away from allowing her most difficult moments from the affair to unfold on screen.
“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,’ but I’m incredibly experienced in understanding how people see this story,” Lewinsky told the outlet. “So, ultimately, I felt two things: One was that I shouldn’t get a pass because I’m a producer; and two, that it was unfair to the team and to the project because it would leave everybody vulnerable.”
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