An American History of Crime and the Becoming of Monica Lewinsky

For the first time in 18 months, Bianni Feldstein is returning to New York “forever” and would like to say for the record that she is excited about it. It’s not so much shooting Impeachment: American Criminal History and wearing Monica Lewinsky’s blue beret was not one of the most unusual things that ever happened to the 28-year-old Booksmart actress. It’s that it’s nice to be Elizabeth Greer “Beanie Feldstein” today, not a very malicious former White House intern and icon of the ’90s — without disrespect to her good friend Lewinsky, of course.

On a showy sunny morning during New York Fashion Week in early September, Feldstein flows into Kate Spade’s popped apple orchard like a bird climbing a branch, all tweeting and cheering. Dressed in an all-leopard print and a neon pink bag, she is here to mark the brand new collection I Love NY, and she gives no sign that she is still struggling with the emotions of the show, which ended just two weeks earlier. At least for the moment, she is shaking off the weight of a story tormented by misogyny, betrayal, and abuse of power. Feldstein regained a small piece of Lewinsky’s tale, she thought, so she felt justified in drinking coffee, a crunchy apple with honey, and a little celebration.

“I’ve been to so many events [Kate Spade]and they are always so joyful. This reminds us of the artistry, the creativity of this city. I always rely on the classic, simpler side [of fashion]but always with color and fun. I like talking to people; I’m very sociable, ‘says Feldstein, then smiles, as if to add: Obviously.

Cindy OrdGetty images

Yet, as we speak more, a more contemplative side of Feldstein emerges. It is therefore noticeable how well the young actress must have known Lewinsky and how she found unity with a woman so despised for her affections. While FX is releasing the latest episode of Impeachmentin which Linda Trip (Sarah Paulson) betrays Lewinsky, recording her telephone conversations, Feldstein’s most heartbreaking scenes finally reaching the public’s attention. Below, Feldstein discusses how she approached her most demanding role to date – and whether she lives with regret.

When you learned this [show creator] Ryan Murphy had you and you, for this role, what was your reaction?

I almost fell to the floor. I was in London and I was in my partner’s apartment and I had to hold on to the oven door handle because I was just like … I had to stay. I think Ryan is one of the most prolific, remarkable talents that ever existed, and his work is so revolutionary. Then he asked me to be a producer and that was one of the most empowering moments of my life. His shows speak for themselves about their artistry, creativity, the way they push social boundaries, and he asked me to come to his show not only as an actor, but also in the production team. It changed my life.

Did he explain to you why he wanted you for this job?

No. But Monica actually said, and I didn’t know it [later]but she was watching Booksmartwhich was amazing. She tweeted very kindly about the movie, so I knew she was watching it. When she looked at him, she was like, “It reminds me of me when I was in high school.” So both [Lewinsky and Murphy] they had the same thought at the same time.

Was there any hesitation in entering a project like this one centered around such a high-profile event?

Never hesitate, but always with a great sense of responsibility. There is a difference. There were no hesitations, but the weight of responsibility and the importance of what we did. For me, obviously knowing Monica personally, it was important to play her honestly and carefully, with nuances and humanity.

What advice did Lewinsky give you when you had to embody her, especially at this very moment in her life?

The beginning of the history of history is 1995 for Monica. For other characters, it’s earlier, but Monica has just graduated from college in Oregon. She moved to Washington just four weeks after graduating from college. I think we all know this moment if we are old enough to know this moment. You know who you are in the context of your family, your home life, the school institution. Who are you when you are out in the world? This moment is filled with incredible excitement and curiosity. So here’s what [Lewinsky] really encouraged me to understand. She was both extremely intelligent and incredibly naive, incredibly confident but insecure.

After watching the show now, do you think you relied on the story? Are you sorry?

Well, I think that’s a very complicated question. I wouldn’t change anything in what we’ve done in terms of scripting, the amazing direction, the casting. But as an actor, I’m always picky. I can always find things like “Come on, Beanie. Come on. “I take care of myself, but as a producer I can back down … We worked hard on this thing. It was a 10-month photo shoot. It was about a three-year process from which I got the call so far. We put everything into it. Extremely I am grateful to be a member of this cast and this team and thus I am very proud.As an actor I am still learning, you know?

This interview has been edited and shortened for clarity.

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