Sarah Burgess interview: ‘Impeachment’ showrunner
“It was terrifying. It was nerve-racking,” says Sarah Burgess, the showrunner for “Impeachment,” the third season of the anthology series “American Crime Story.” It tells the true story of Monica Lewinsky, who was subjected to shame and humiliation in the 1990s during the sex scandal that engulfed the Bill Clinton presidency. It was intimidating because Lewinsky herself was a producer of the series. But now Burgess and her writing team are nominated for Best Adapted Long Form Program at the Writers Guild Awards. She joined us for our panel of 2022 WGA nominees. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Burgess had already started writing “Impeachment” before she met and consulted with Lewinsky for the project, so “I did have the freedom to go and create this character, this version based on the Monica that I had observed in all of the barrage of media from that time.” But then “one day we met and then we were in a creative process and she would give me detailed notes on every page of my scripts. And we started to develop a relationship in many phases … all culminating in a really nice lunch that I had with her a couple of months ago here in New York, which was really great. So it was an intense creative process, and terrifying at times, but really rewarding.”
The story of Clinton’s impeachment was one of the most heavily reported scandals in American history, but what Burgess hoped to bring to this retelling was a “truthful” exploration of “the inner lives of these people. These are complicated people actually going through pretty bad times in their lives, whether we’re talking about Monica or Linda [Tripp], Paula [Jones] or Hillary Clinton,” says Burgess. “These are not women in the middle of necessarily inspiring stories. So I liked the challenge of writing about some of the desperation and the pain and the panic and the rage … These are not people who deserve to be treated as jokes. And they were at that time.”