After tackling O.J. Simpson in its first season, American Crime Story will be taking on Monica Lewinsky. According to E!, creator Ryan Murphy has confirmed the anthology will focus on the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal that led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment in its fourth season. This will run after a second season dedicated to Hurricane Katrina, slated to air in 2018, and a third season focused on the 1997 assassination of designer Gianni Versace. Murphy's already announced that his favorite leading lady Sarah Paulson will be part of the show, which is based on Jeffrey Toobin's book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down A President. But who she's playing is something of a mystery.
It's no surprise that she'll be in it at all, since Paulson is a Murphy staple, who appeared in all six seasons of American Horror Story, his new series Feud, and The People vs. O.J. Simpson, which landed her an Emmy. What is a surprise, though, is who Paulson isn't playing. "Sarah will be in it but she won't be playing Hillary [Clinton]," Murphy said. "That's earmarked for talks with somebody else. We're casting that now. I can't say what Sarah is playing, but it starts shooting at the end of this year."
While it's sad to hear that Paulson will not be able to give the former First Lady the Marcia Clark treatment, it forces us to take a look back at the other players in the Lewinsky scandal who aren't named Hillary Clinton. Especially since Murphy says Clinton will also be a side character in this story. "The show isn't really about Hillary Clinton," Murphy said, "it really is about the other women."
Here are the other women Paulson could be playing.
1. Monica Lewinsky
Having Paulson play Lewinsky, who is undoubtedly the star of this retelling, allows the actor to do what she did with Clark: show real compassion for a misunderstood character. What about the age difference, though? While Paulson can play any character, it is true that the actor is a bit older than Lewinsky was during the height of the scandal. Also, it seems a bit too on the nose for Murphy and Paulson who usually team up for the unexpected.
2. Linda Tripp
Tripp was a key player in the scandal, as The New York Times points out, and Paulson is someone who could try to get at why Tripp did what she did without being judgmental. In a 1998 New York Times story, they reported that her friends and colleagues portrayed Tripp as being a "competent, if angry, administrative assistant who was given a ringside seat in the West Wing but did not always like what she saw." If Paulson could change how people feel about Tripp after all these years, it could mean another Emmy-worthy performance.
3. Paula Jones
Jones filed a sexual harassment suit against Clinton in 1994 accusing that in 1991, while Clinton was governor of Arkansas, he had exposed himself to her. Clinton adamantly denied this, and the case would be thrown out on grounds that she failed to demonstrate any damages. However, Clinton would pay her $850,000 to close the case, according to court documents. "Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to be an admission of liability or wrongdoing by any party," the document read. As Vox pointed out, during the deposition Clinton gave in the Jones case, he claimed he never had sex with Lewinsky, which led to accusations of perjury that led to his impeachment trial.
Clearly, Jones is a minor player that plays a big role in the Lewinsky trial, and it would be a complex role for Paulson to explore. But what makes it unlikely that the actor will play Jones is the fact that they look so different. For The People vs. O.J. Simpson, Murphy cast actors that already looked a lot like their counterparts so that their performances wouldn't be weighed down by prosthetics.
4. Susan Webber Wright
When it was revealed that Clinton lied during his deposition, telling the court under oath that he didn't have an affair with Monica Lewinsky, Wright held President Clinton in contempt of court for giving "intentionally false" testimony about his relationship with Lewinsky. It was the first time that a sitting president had been sanctioned for disobeying a court order. She said that she made her ruling to "protect the integrity." Paulson playing a do-gooder seems appropriate in this political climate, but is it too small of a role for this anthology? That's to be decided.
5. Janet Reno
Yes, this is a long-shot but Paulson could totally pull off playing the former Attorney General, who gave Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr permission to look into Clinton's perjury. This would ultimately lead to the impeachment trial. While Reno may not be the star of this show, she's an important element of the case. The struggle she faced in making that decision could certainly make for good TV. It would also give Paulson a supporting role she could really sink her teeth into.
What we need to remember is no role is too small for Paulson's talent, so expect the actor, no matter who she plays, to steal the spotlight in every scene.