With the third season of American Crime Story, Ryan Murphy and co. are taking on one of the biggest presidential bombshells of the last few decades: Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky when she was a White House intern (while he, of course, was commander-in-chief) and his subsequent impeachment. Odds are, if you were alive in the late ‘90s, you’ve already heard this story—likely more than once, through numerous media sources and countless headlines—but you haven’t seen it quite like this. Impeachment centers on the women in the eye of the storm: Lewinsky, played by Beanie Feldstein; whistleblower Linda Tripp, played by Sarah Paulson; and Paula Jones, who sued Clinton for sexual harassment, played by Annaleigh Ashford.
As we revisit the controversy, we’ll be seeing some familiar faces on screen as the drama unfolds. See ahead who’s who in Impeachment: American Crime Story and how they compare to their real-life counterparts.
Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein)
After charming us in comedies like Lady Bird, Booksmart, and How to Build a Girl, Feldstein takes the dramatic lead. She portrays Lewinsky, who is a producer on the show, through her years as White House intern and being villainized by the media and public. Feldstein told The Hollywood Reporter “It was an instant yes” when it came to taking on the role, on which she worked closely with Lewinsky. “But of course it was daunting because I just want to do right by her. All that matters to me is what she thinks,” she also said.
Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson)
The longtime Ryan Murphy collaborator underwent a drastic transformation to become Linda Tripp, the former White House employee who befriended Lewinsky when they worked together at the Pentagon. She later secretly recorded conversations with Lewinsky and exposed her affair with President Clinton. Want more Sarah Paulson after watching Impeachment? (who doesn’t?) Try The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, Ratched, Ocean’s 8, Mrs. America, or American Horror Story.
Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford)
You’ve seen Ashford before in Masters of Sex, Unbelievable, and Younger. In Impeachment, she plays Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee who sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment in 1994. It was while investigating Jones’ case that prosecutor Kenneth Starr discovered Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky.
Bill Clinton (Clive Owen)
The Golden Globe winner’s transformation into Clinton goes beyond prosthetic makeup and a feathery white wig; he’s nailed the president’s mannerisms and Southern drawl, too. Owen admitted that he was hesitant about taking on the role. “One: I’m English. And two: I don’t really look like him,” he told Vanity Fair. It took some convincing, but Owen (who has starred in The Knick, Children of Men, Closer, and more) accepted the challenge. “I started to get excited by the challenge of it because it felt like a leap,” he added.
Hillary Clinton (Edie Falco)
The Sopranos and Nurse Jackie star is taking on the role of former first lady, eventual Secretary of State, and presidential candidate. Clinton likely won’t be watching along, though. “No one, as far as we know, from the Clinton camp has seen this series,” producer Brad Simpson said, according to Deadline.
Anne Coulter (Cobie Smulders)
Smulders—known as Marvel’s Maria Hill, How I Met Your Mother’s Robin Scherbatsky, and Stumptown’s Dex Parios—made a last-minute switch to play conservative pundit and author Anne Coulter. She stepped in after actress Betty Gilpin exited the role, citing scheduling complications. An attack dog writer with a legal background, Coulter was rabidly in favor of Clinton’s impeachment in the late ‘90s.
Lucianne Goldberg (Margo Martindale)
With her Lewinsky bombshell, Tripp contacted literary agent Lucianne Goldberg, who had a penchant for conservative tell-all books. Goldberg suggested Tripp record her conversations with Lewinsky so they would have evidence of the affair. On Impeachment, she’s played by celebrated actor Margo Martindale, who’s starred in August: Osage County, The Hollars, Mrs. America, and many more.
Susan Carpenter-McMillan (Judith Light)
Carpenter-McMillan touted herself as a “conservative feminist”; she was deeply against abortion but stood for victims of abuse with the Women’s Coalition, a nonprofit she co-founded. She became a spokesperson for Paula Jones after she accused Clinton of harassment (an allegation he repeatedly denied). Judith Light—a veteran actress known for roles in Who’s the Boss?, Transparent, and Ugly Betty—steps into the role (and the wig).
Matt Drudge (Billy Eichner)
The comedic star, whose credits include Billy on the Street, The Lion King, and more, plays Matt Drudge, the fedora-wearing, right-wing political commentator and founder of The Drudge Report. The site was the first to break news of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.
Marcia Lewis (Mira Sorvino)
The Mighty Aphrodite and Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion star plays Marcia Lewis, Lewinsky’s mother. Lewis and her daughter “are incredibly close. And alike. Marcia is Monica squared,” a family source told The Washington Post in 1998, after the scandal broke.
Mike Emmick (Colin Hanks)
Yes, that’s Hanks as in Tom Hanks’s son. But outside of his father’s cred, Colin is racking up his own impressive resume, with projects including 2005’s King Kong, the Fargo TV series, and Dexter. On Impeachment, he plays Mike Emmick, one of the lawyers on special prosecutor Ken Starr’s team. According to NBC, he tried to coax Lewinsky into cooperating with a probe on whether Clinton had her lie under oath about their relationship.
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