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‘Impeachment: American Crime Story’s Head Writer Explains Who Is Really Impeached in Her Series

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As much as we as a society have dissected Bill Clinton’s impeachment, it’s shocking how little we know about the woman at its center. Over the years Monica Lewinsky has been cast as a harlot, a liar, a victim, a punchline, and a thousand other unflattering things. Now head writer and executive producer Sarah Burgess is attempting to fix this inexcusable oversight through Impeachment: American Crime Story and recast Lewinsky as a human.

Impeachment rewrites the Lewinsky/Clinton scandal, transforming what’s become a scandalous joke of sorts into a reflection on young love, terrible mistakes, bruised ego, and destroyed innocence. For once this story is being told by the three women at its center: Monica Lewinsky; the friend who betrayed her, Linda Tripp; and the woman who sued President Clinton for sexual harassment, Paula Jones. Ahead of Impeachment‘s premiere, Decider spoke to Burgess about how she turned this stranger-than-fiction story into a saga of betrayed friendship as well as why she’s a fan of Sarah Paulson’s casting and what went into her decision to not have Hillary Clinton front and center.

Decider: What I was really blown away by with Impeachment is that it feels almost like a horror series, the way that it shot and paced. Was that intentional?

Sarah Burgess: It became pretty clear, as I was working on the first two episodes, that we wanted to create something that felt as stressful and, at times, terrifying as the real events of the characters, whether that’s moments like the things that happened to Monica Lewinsky [Beanie Feldstein] that are just truly bone-chilling frightening and surreal or the point-of-view of other characters who feel that their situation is as though they’re in the middle of All the President’s Men or The Insider. I’m thinking about Linda Tripp [Sarah Paulson] in the first few episodes and how in our own lives these things feel — at least to me — stressful and important to us. So yeah, definitely. Horror I didn’t think about specifically. But we were talking about the sort of color palette that Ryan [Murphy] chose and that’s Ryan’s vision for the show.

Edie Falco as Hillary Clinton in 'Impeachment: American Crime Story'
Photo: FX

Because of the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton’s character being in this is a huge deal. I was really interested in how Hillary Clinton [Edie Falco] is always in the background in the first six episodes. Can you explain why she was placed in that role?

Usually with a story like this is, there was so much information and research to take in and there’s so many potential ways to tell the story. Especially in talking with my producers, in the middle of 2018 when I started on this, there was always the idea of telling a story from the point of view of Monica [Lewinsky], Linda [Tripp], and Paula Jones [Annaleigh Ashford]. The idea is, for these women’s lives, we started in a place of they are not famous. They are working, in Monica and Linda’s case, in important but regular bureaucratic D.C. jobs.

As what happened between Monica and Bill Clinton [Clive Owen], what happened in that relationship, it starts to affect other people. It starts to affect Ken Starr [Dan Bakkedahl ]. That starts to affect the FBI. It starts to affect the media, and it starts to affect Hillary Clinton. Then those characters become activated. So that’s what was behind that decision… In the first few episodes, we see Hillary Clinton as a mysterious figure who, Linda Tripp talks about in the White House or who’s on TV. The decision behind that was that the story hasn’t landed in her life yet in a way that really affected it. It’s really a pure storytelling decision in that regard, not like I’m intentionally concealing her from you. It was more that this is not landed in her lap. And it will.

Speaking of Monica’s perspective, during a panel for Impeachment at TCA, you spoke a lot about how this season is really about Monica and Linda’s friendship. Why do you think Monica Lewinsky trusted Linda Tripp? You can speak on that as them as people or as your characters.

I wrote this based on research. I was thinking of this last night last night; I think I read like 56 books and all the FBI files and everyone’s memoir and the Linda Tripp tapes. Linda started taping Monica and fall of ’97. They’d known each other for over a year at that point, so it’s deep into this friendship. Of course, something has turned and changed because Linda is secretly taping her; Linda knows about the taping and Monica doesn’t. So the sense that a writer would get from that dynamic is obviously skewed by that fact.

That being said, as a writer what I thought about was Monica. You have to think about Monica’s situation. She was working in the White House, the most prestigious place to work in America, right? I think that’s just simply true. She was involved in this relationship that she characterized as a relationship. She had said she was in love with him. It was incredibly intense. And suddenly, she’s cast out into the Pentagon. She lands in the Pentagon, and, as any of us, what I was writing from Monica’s perspective, like, that just sucks.

Impeachment: American Crime Story
Photo: Tina Thorpe/FX

She lands there, and here is this woman who also used to work in the White House. That was important. They have that connection. They knew what it was like to walk those halls. That was one reason. That’s one thing that brought them together. There’s a thing that happens with co-workers where you’re not in a great place. I mean, this has happened to me on this show. You have ups and downs… One day I was struggling with a script or something, and I called our line producer, Louise Shore. She answered the phone, also dealing with her own work shit. You know when your coworker answers the phone, and they’re also like, “Hey,” and it actually makes you feel better? I was like, “Oh, god, it’s just like that.” They both were not thrilled to be there. That was a bonding mechanism for them.

It also seemed like Linda was someone who would listen and clearly was curious and clearly liked the gossip and, as things went further, wanted to hear more and more. From Monica’s perspective, here was this person who knew the world of the White House, who is weighing in with her opinion. It did seem to me that Linda would sometimes speak in ways — I mean, Linda Tripp herself would deny this later. But Linda would speak in ways that were supportive of the relationship and would give Monica a feeling like, “Oh, it’s not over.” It’s that thing too where you’re in a tricky emotional place and a friend is maybe telling you what you want to hear and just lending an ear.

And just to pass the time they started talking on the phone a lot at night. Part of the imbalance of power is reflected in the fact that Monica couldn’t call the White House. She couldn’t call Bill Clinton. So she would be at home — this was pre-cell phones — she would be in her apartment at night in case he would call her. She writes about this in her book. To pass the time who could she talk to? She could talk to Linda Tripp. It seemed like at a certain point in Monica’s life, there are people in Monica’s life that maybe didn’t want to hear as much about the relationship. So Linda became that person that she could process all of this with.

FX

I also want to talk about Sarah Paulson’s casting as Linda Tripp. Obviously, Sarah Paulson’s phenomenal in the role. She’s always phenomenal. But there’s been some controversy about her casting. Were there any discussions about casting a plus size actress instead of Paulson?

When I came onto the project, I always knew it would be Sarah. I always had that in my mind from the very beginning. That’s sort of where I came into it, to answer your question. The amount of research I’ve done on Linda Tripp — I do think, aside from Sarah, I’m the world’s leading expert on Linda Tripp at this moment. I’ve read her emails. I cannot express to you how far I’ve gone. [Paulson] just poured herself into this role, and I just think it’s an astonishing performance.

At TCA Nina Jacobson mentioned that Bill Clinton’s story isn’t the only like impeachment story and the season. Could you expand on that a little bit?

I kind of think she was doing a turn of phrase… The other two are about murder, which is the highest stakes thing in the world. How do you put together a thriller tone in that context? These women and their stories — specifically, we’re talking about Paula Jones and then Monica Lewinsky when she became famous — they were considered not valid. Their integrity was imbued, they were not believed. So I think there’s a sense of the sort of tearing apart of someone’s of identity and this assumption that they’re dishonest was what [Jacobson] was talking about. These women were, to some degree, impeached and are in the public arena.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

New episodes of Impeachment: American Crime Story premiere on FX Tuesdays at 10/9c p.m.

Where to stream Impeachment: American Crime Story

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What Time Will ‘Riverdale’ Season 6 Be on Netflix?

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The season finale of Riverdale aired in late July on The CW. Notice we said season finale? Thankfully, the beloved series will return for a seventh season, but, unfortunately, Season 7 will be the final installment of Riverdale.

If you already streamed the current season, make sure to read Alex Zalben’s interview with Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa on Decider. If you’re waiting to binge Season 6 on Netflix, well, you better clear your calendar because all 22 episodes are about to drop on the streamer. What time will the sixth season of Riverdale debut on Netflix? What time does Netflix release shows? Here’s everything you need to know.

WHEN IS THE RIVERDALE SEASON 6 NETFLIX RELEASE DATE?

Riverdale Season 6 premieres Sunday, August 7 on Netflix.

HOW MANY EPISODES ARE IN RIVERDALE SEASON 6?

The sixth season of Riverdale consists of 22 episodes.

WHAT TIME DOES NETFLIX RELEASE NEW SHOWS?

Netflix releases new episodes at 3:00 a.m. ET/12:00 a.m. PT.

WHAT TIME WILL RIVERDALE SEASON 6 BE ON NETFLIX?

Netflix is based out of California, so Riverdale Season 6 will be available to stream at 12:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (3:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time) beginning Sunday, August 7. If the clock strikes 12:00 (or 3:00 a.m. for folks on the East Coast) and you don’t see the new episodes, give it a moment, hit refresh, and then enjoy the show!

WILL THERE BE A SEASON 7 OF RIVERDALE?

Yes! Decider recently covered that very topic.

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Actress Anne Heche Suffers Severe Burns After Crashing Car Into Los Angeles Home

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Actress Anne Heche, known for her roles in such films as Donnie Brasco, Volcano and I Know What You Did Last Summer, was involved in a fiery car crash in the Mar Vista area of Los Angeles on Friday.

According to TMZ, Heche was driving a blue Mini Cooper and had first crashed into the garage of an apartment complex. Residents of the apartment complex tried to get her out of the vehicle but she backed up and sped off.

Footage of Heche speeding down the streets of her neighborhood had been obtained by TMZ as well as her initial encounter at the apartment complex.

In the first clip, you can hear her car crash towards the end. It has been reported that the actress crashed into someone’s home, causing her vehicle and the house to erupt into flames. Heche suffered severe burns and was resisting being taken away in a stretcher. You can also view footage of this via the TMZ article.

It has not been confirmed whether alcohol has been involved in the incident since her condition prevents doctors from performing any tests to determine if she was driving under the influence. She is currently intubated in the hospital but expected to live.

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These are the vulgar license-plate requests the DMV has rejected

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Stay CL4SSY, New York!

The state Department of Motor Vehicles nixed 3,752 requests for vanity license plates in the last three years because it deemed them too raunchy, radical or simply ridiculous.

New York’s personalized plates go for $60 initially, and then $31.25 annually for renewal. You can get any plate as long as no one else has it and it’s not offensive.

Odds are a request for a plate that marks a wedding anniversary or shows your allegiance to a team — like METS86 — will pass muster with the DMV gatekeepers.

Vulgarity won’t get you to first base.

So plates with the phrase LFGM — the acronym for Pete Alonso’s “Let’s F–king Go Mets” rallying cry — did not make the cut.

And you won’t see anyone driving around with the custom plates MILFDAD, AS5M4N and WLHUNG.

Crude meanings such as “MILFDAD” are unacceptable by the DMV.
Crude meanings such as “MILFDAD” are unacceptable by the DMV.
New York DMV
NYC123
New York state Department of Motor Vehicles denied more than 3.5 thousand requests for license plates deemed inappropriate.
New York DMV
“AS5M4N” was rejected for referring to “Ass man.”
“AS5M4N” was rejected for referring to “Ass man.”
New York DMV

The DMV also put NICEBUNS, FATFANNY, GOTAPOOP and BENDOVER in the rear-view mirror.

One player unsuccessfully tried to score the plate YESDADDY, to no avail.

The DMV also shot down such dark requests as DEADGIRL, GENOC1DE, S8TAN, DETONATE and MURDERM3.

“SUM8ITCH” is not allowed.
“SUM8ITCH” is not allowed.
New York DMV
The DMV thoroughly nixed a request for “CNNLIES.”
The DMV thoroughly nixed a request for “CNNLIES.”
New York DMV
BOOBIE is prohibited.
BOOBIE is prohibited.
New York DMV

Getting political is a dead end too — FJOEBIDN, FDTRUMP and CNNLIES were nixed.

LUDEDUDE, NARCO, GOT METH and BLUNT also went up in smoke.

Staten Island attorney Bill Dertinger said his blue 1995 Jaguar SJS was tagged with ESQLTD after his company and his 2014 Porsche had the plate GHOSTGTS because the sleek sportscar was white.

“The plates can make you stand out — which can be a curse or a blessing,” the 54-year-old Dertinger said. “Make sure you don’t cut anybody off.”

A man attempted to sneak in “YESDADDY” onto his license plate.
A man attempted to sneak in “YESDADDY” onto his license plate.
New York DMV
The DMV stopped a request for “FJOEBIDEN.”
The DMV stopped a request for “FJOEBIDEN.”
New York DMV
The DMV also rejects any license plates referring to politics.
The DMV also rejects any license plates referring to politics.
New York DMV

There must be a New York Jets fan playing referee at the DMV because a request for the seemingly innocent plate GASE was sidelined. Ex-Jets head coach Adam Gase had an offensive 9-23 win-loss record during his forgettable two-year tenure.

The DMV would not reveal who gives the final yea or nay.

“The DMV reviews all custom license plate requests and works hard to ensure that any combinations that may be considered objectionable are rejected,” said agency spokesman Tim O’Brien.

“GLOCKS” referring to guns is not accepted by the DMV.
“GLOCKS” referring to guns is not accepted by the DMV.
New York DMV
“FLYMOFO” is not approved by the DMV.
“FLYMOFO” is not approved by the DMV.
New York DMV

He said guidelines on what plate combinations are restricted can be found on the DMV website: https://dmv.ny.gov/learn-about-personalized-plates. Approximately 50,000 personalized and custom plates are sold per year, O’Brien said.

Bagged Tags

The state DMV has rejected 3,752 requests for custom license plates in the last three years because it deemed them potentially offensive. Here are some:

YESDADDY

FJOEBIDN

FDTRUMP

GLOCKS

FLYMOFO

BOOBIE

AS5M4N

BUDLIGHT

DEADGIRL

SUM8ITCH

GENOC1DE

S8TAN

CNNLIES

DETONATE

MURDERM3

MILFDAD

WLHUNG

Source: NYS DMV

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