Sarah Burgess interview: ‘Impeachment: American Crime Story’ showrunner
“I was so mindful that I was coming into a pre-existing, incredibly successful franchise that Ryan [Murphy] built,” explains Sarah Burgess, the co-writer and showrunner for “Impeachment: American Crime Story” on FX. “Because Ryan directed episode one, I first met him through his ideas for my script that I had written. We were supposed to start shooting this show in March of 2020, so there was a very sudden stop. Finally everything came together in the Fall of 2020 and I met him at a production meeting. He mentioned one of my favorite movies without he and I ever speaking about it, ‘The Lies of Others,’ as a visual reference and tone reference for the show. As a neurotic, self-involved writer it meant so much to me that I felt that this person read and understood the anxious tension in the script.”
We talked to Burgess as part of our “Meet the Experts” TV showrunners panel. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
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“Impeachment: American Crime Story” is a limited series examining the national crisis that led to the first impeachment of a U.S. President in over a century. It tells this story through the eyes of the women at the center of the events: Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein), Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson) and Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford). All three were thrust into the public spotlight during a time of corrosive partisan rancor, shifting sexual politics and a changing media landscape. The series shows how power lifts some and disposes of others in the halls of our most sacred institutions.
“I only met Monica about a year into me writing the script,” admits Burgess. “I had written multiple scripts. I had been obsessed with reading this whole history and, of course, about her and her life. I was so nervous. I’ve never been that nervous. We had a wonderful dinner and we talked thematically and broadly about that experience. Eventually, I would write a script and she would read them and give thorough written notes. That was the process. In the end she had a very large impact.”
Burgess was a Writers Guild Awards nominee for “Impeachment: American Crime Story.” Other projects have included “Five Difficult Situations,” “Compliance” and “Purity.”