The Characters in 'Impeachment' : 'American Crime Story' and Their Real-Life Counterparts

How the actors who play Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton and more in Impeachment: American Crime Story compare to the inspiration for their roles

Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky
Beanie Feldstein (left), Monica Lewinsky. Photo: Kurt Iswarienko/FX; Harry Hamburg/NY Daily News Archive via Getty
01 of 07

Monica Lewinsky, played by Beanie Feldstein

Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky
Beanie Feldstein (left), Monica Lewinsky. Kurt Iswarienko/FX; Harry Hamburg/NY Daily News Archive via Getty

Monica Lewinsky (right), played by Beanie Feldstein in Impeachment, is a former White House intern whose affair with President Bill Clinton spanned from 1995 to 1997, starting when she was a 22-year-old working in the West Wing and he was 49. Their relationship became the focus of his impeachment trial in December 1998.

Lewinsky acted as a producer on the show and helped to prep Feldstein. The actress has said she grew close to Lewinsky in the process.

"Ryan Murphy himself said, 'This should not be told without your perspective.' And I couldn't agree with him more," Feldstein told PEOPLE (the TV Show!) of Lewinsky's behind-the-scenes role. Feldstein also said she hopes Lewinsky will be seen in a "different light" after Impeachment: American Crime Story airs.

02 of 07

Bill Clinton, played by Clive Owen

Clive Owen as Bill Clinton
Clive Owen (left), Bill Clinton. Kurt Iswarienko/FX; Diana Walker/Getty

Bill Clinton is the 42nd president of the United States, having served from 1993 to 2001. Clinton was investigated and ultimately impeached by the House of Representatives in December 1998, charged with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. The Senate, however, acquitted Clinton on the charges, which stemmed from the affair he had with Lewinsky.

Clinton initially denied the allegations but later acknowledged to prosecutors that he had indeed had a relationship with Lewinsky.

In an August interview with Vanity Fair, Clive Owen said he was initially confused when approached about the role, with the British actor noting he doesn't look or sound like the former president.

But over time, he grew to be excited by the challenge. "The idea of recreating the real footage or archival footage really was the hook for me," Owen told Vanity Fair. "There's something about a challenge that always excites me when it that feels dangerous."

03 of 07

Linda Tripp, played by Sarah Paulson

Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp
Sarah Paulson (left), Linda Tripp. Tina Thorpe/FX; Harry Hamburg/NY Daily News Archive via Getty

Linda Tripp, played by Sarah Paulson, was the Pentagon employee and Lewinsky friend whose secret recordings thrust her into the middle of the historic scandal.

After meeting Lewinsky at work at the Department of Defense (she was moved from the White House to the Pentagon but continued her burgeoning relationship with Clinton), the two grew close and Tripp eventually began to record their conversations in the fall of 1997 and gave the recordings to authorities in January 1998, amid an investigation into Clinton's conduct with another woman, Paula Jones.

Tripp received immunity for her cooperation and faded from public view amid intense media scrutiny. In the years after, she said she was doing her civic duty to the country and rejected the idea she had betrayed Lewinsky, despite their relationship.

Tripp, who re-settled in the Middleburg, Virginia, after getting married in 2004, died in 2020 at the age of 70.

Paulson, who gained weight and controversially wore prosthetics to play Tripp, said the role was "one of the great parts I'll probably ever get to play."

04 of 07

Hillary Clinton, played by Edie Falco

Edie Falco as Hillary Clinton
Edie Falco (left), Hillary Clinton. Kurt Iswarienko/FX; Cynthia Johnson/Getty

Former First Lady Hillary Clinton opened up about her husband's affair with Lewinsky in Hulu's 2020 documentary series Hillary.

"I was just devastated," she said in the documentary. "I just could not believe it. I was just so personally hurt and, 'I can't believe this. I can't believe you lied.' It was — anyways, horrible. And I said, 'If this is going to be public, you've got to go tell Chelsea.' " (The couple's daughter, who was then a teenager, is not a major character in the show.)

As producer Brad Simpson told The Hollywood Reporter, actress Edie Falco worked hard to ensure she accurately portrayed a person whom he said she admires.

"For Edie, she really respects Hillary Clinton, and she brought a lot of that to the role," Simpson told THR. "But it's a very big weight when you're playing a real person, and so every actor had their concerns."

05 of 07

Paula Jones, played by Annaleigh Ashford

Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones
Annaleigh Ashford (left), Paula Jones. Kurt Iswarienko/FX; Cynthia Johnson/Getty

Paula Jones, played by Annaleigh Ashford, is a former Arkansas state employee who sued then-President Clinton in 1994, claiming he had exposed himself to her in a hotel room while he was governor.

The case — which was settled out of court for $850,000 — provided the impetus for independent counsel Ken Starr to broaden his investigation into the president's financial dealings, leading him to look into accusations of other affairs. Starr's investigation resulted in Clinton's impeachment in the House of Representatives and subsequent acquittal by the Senate in February 1999.

In recent years, Jones has made headlines for her support of former President Donald Trump, whom she joined for a 2016 press conference ahead of a debate between him and then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Ashford, who wore prosthetics and worked with a movement and vocal coach for her role as Jones, said in an interview with Glamour that the casting was "the dream of a lifetime."

"I noticed in my research that physically, she was much more closed off. There was a childlike quality about her in the beginning. As she got some media training, you can see it change. You can see her get more confident as the years go by," Ashford said.

06 of 07

Ann Coulter, played by Cobie Smulders

Cobie Smulders as Ann Coulter
Cobie Smulders (left), Ann Coulter. Tina Thorpe/FX; Neville Elder/Corbis via Getty

Ann Coulter is a Senate aide-turned-conservative firebrand who rose to fame amid the Clinton impeachment as she argued for his removal from office with her 1998 book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Coulter has been a conservative fixture on cable news and the speaking circuit ever since and has written a number of books.

Producer Simpson told THR that Cobie Smulders required some convincing when she was asked to audition for the role: "She was like, 'I don't know, especially with Trump and everything,' and we went to her husband who was playing Paula Jones' husband, on set and we were like, 'Please convince her. We promise you it's going to be good.' And she's great in the role."

Smulders replaced Betty Gilpin, who had been previously cast in the role of Coulter, due to scheduling conflicts.

07 of 07

Lucianne Goldberg, played by Margo Martindale

Margo Martindale as Lucianne Goldberg
Margo Martindale (left), Lucianne Goldberg. Tina Thorpe/FX; Emile Wamsteker/AP/Shutterstock

Lucianne Goldberg is an American literary agent and former conservative activist who played a key role in the impeachment after she advised her friend Tripp to record her private conversations with Lewinsky.

"Then she told me the story. ... I thought it was fascinating and I can't stand Clinton. I think he's a criminal," Goldberg told The Washington Post in a 1998 interview. "She knew she was dropping a hunk of red meat in front of me. I loved it."

Though critics said Goldberg and Tripp had partisan motives, Goldberg has said she only wanted to expose Clinton's immorality.

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