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Beanie Feldstein on Monica Lewinsky: 'I saw myself as her bodyguard'

Beanie Feldstein on Monica Lewinsky: 'I saw myself as her bodyguard'
Beanie Feldstein says Monica Lewinsky answered questions for her. Photo courtesy of FX Networks

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Beanie Feldstein, who plays Monica Lewinsky in Impeachment: American Crime Story, premiering Tuesday, said she felt protective of Lewinsky. The latest installment of the anthology series chronicles Lewinsky's affair with President Bill Clinton and his subsequent impeachment hearings.

"I saw myself as her bodyguard," Feldstein said on a Television Critics Association Zoom panel. "I think she knew that I really had her back."

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Lewinsky was a White House intern in 1995. Independent counsel Kenneth Starr asked Clinton about Lewinsky during Whitewater hearings in 1998.

Impeachment shows Lewinsky meeting Clinton (Clive Owen) and working with Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) at the Pentagon. Tripp recorded telephone conversations in which Lewinsky told her in confidence about encounters with Clinton.

"Listening to the tapes was obviously something I had to do, but was very emotionally taxing for me," Feldstein said. "They are so raw and so open."

Lewinsky has a producer credit on Impeachment. Producers Brad Simpson and Nina Jacobson, as well as head writer Sarah Burgess, said she provided feedback on each script of the series.

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Feldstein said she met with Lewinsky once before the COVID-19 pandemic, and kept in touch during production. Feldstein said she relied on the Impeachment scripts to vet the details of the historical events.

"When I received the scripts, I knew that every word that I was saying was approved and had been to Monica first," Feldstein said. "I was sure that everything in there was something that she felt comfortable with, she felt was real to her life and felt represented her."

Simpson said the show relied on Lewinsky's firsthand accounts, as well as books, documentaries and grand jury testimony. They did not, Simpson said, consult the Clintons.

"There's a ton of historical record for us to rely on," Simpson said. "This was written about so extensively."

Jacobson added that Lewinsky was careful to only speak to her own experiences. Jacobson said Lewinsky did not influence the show's portrayal of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

"Monica was actually incredibly mindful of not wanting to speak to rooms she had not been in," Jacobson said.

Feldstein said she and Lewinsky texted and sent each other videos throughout 2020. The information she gleaned from Lewinsky, Feldstein said, had more to do with personal details than historical ones.

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"I asked her about nail polish," Feldstein said. "Little detailed things are fun to fill in and make things feel very specific."

Feldstein, 28, said she remembered the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal occurring when she was a child, but she was too young to understand it. Feldstein said researching the role helped her understand the events as an adult.

"I was as about as blank of a slate as you could possibly have, given that this is such a known story and it's a huge American historical moment," Feldstein said. "In that way, I didn't have my own preconceived notions."

Feldstein appeared in recent comedy movies like Neighbors 2 and Lady Bird and as the lead in Booksmart. She said the drama of Impeachment was her most intense performance.

In particular, Feldstein said the sixth episode centers on Lewinsky's January 1998 interrogation by the FBI and Starr (Dan Bakkedahl). Feldstein called the episode a "roller coaster" in which she had to portray "the strength that she conjured up, and the emotionality that was within her, and the pain she was in."

Feldstein said she filmed that episode for 23 days, two days fewer than the entirety of Booksmart took to complete. Feldstein said Lewinsky's perseverance in the actual interrogation motivated her to perform the scenes.

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"Every time it got hard, I would just say to myself, 'This is Monica. This is for Monica.'" Feldstein said. "That was sort of my dialogue with myself."

Lewinsky wrote about her experience in a 2014 Vanity Fair column and participated in television specials for National Geographic and A&E that looked back at the scandal. Lewinsky has given interviews around the #MeToo movement and promoting Impeachment, but Feldstein said the show will show yet another unseen side of her.

"Monica is a deeply loyal person," Feldstein said. "You learn more about her familial relationships, her previous romantic relationships, and how they've all led her to this moment in her life."

Impeachment airs Tuesdays on FX.

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