Ryan Murphy is known for his baroque, boundary-pushing approach to storytelling. At their best, the star showrunner’s series — among them: “Glee,” “Nip/Tuck,” “American Horror Story,” “Feud” and “Pose” – have made a spectacle of shaking up the TV landscape, often through sheer virtue of whose stories they choose to tell.
From “Pose,” which foregrounds five trans women of color in its exploration of ’80s New York ball culture, to HBO film “The Normal Heart,” about gay activists struggling against the onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis, Murphy’s repeatedly chosen to stand with societal underdogs.
So when FX announced this week that Murphy is centering the next cycle of his “American Crime Story” franchise around the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal — which rocked Clinton’s presidency and defined decades of Lewinsky’s life — the question became: Whose story, exactly, will he be telling?
According to FX chief John Landgraf, the series will “explore the overlooked dimensions of the women who found themselves caught up in the scandal and political war that cast a long shadow over the Clinton presidency.”
One invaluable ally to that cause: Lewinsky herself, who told Vanity Fair she agreed to produce “Impeachment: American Crime Story” after meeting with Murphy and sensing his dedication to “giving a voice to the marginalized” in his shows. “People have been co-opting and telling my part in this story for decades,” Lewinsky told the publication. Now, it’s her turn.
Beanie Feldstein (“Booksmart”) will play Lewinsky, with Sarah Paulson on board as Linda Tripp and Annaleigh Ashford portraying Paula Jones. Both Paulson and Ashford are “American Crime Story” vets; Paulson won an Emmy for playing prosecutor Marcia Clark in season 1, “The People v. OJ Simpson,” while Ashford had a standout arc in last year’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” No word yet on who will play the Clintons or, indeed, whether they’ll appear.
“Impeachment,” as its title might suggest, is after something more charged than historical reenactment. “Powerful people, often men, take advantage of those subordinate to them in myriad ways all the time,” Lewinsky added in her comments to Vanity Fair. “Many people will see this as such a story and for that reason, this narrative is one that is, regretfully, evergreen.”
Adding to its timeliness, Murphy’s series will premiere on Sept. 27, 2020 — right as the next presidential race, between a currently undecided Democratic challenger and President Trump (embroiled in his own, ongoing conversations around impeachment and alleged sexual misconduct) will enter its final weeks. To Murphy’s fans, that part shouldn’t come as a surprise — no one’s ever accused the guy of passing up a dramatic entrance.