If you grew up in the '90s, you probably remember Monica Lewinsky as the one-time White House intern who got involved in an inordinately publicized sexual relationship with Bill Clinton. But you might also have a few memories of a post-scandal Lewinsky—the one who started her own bag company, publicly struggled with her weight, and collaborated with HBO on a documentary about the scandal, hoping to wrest control of the media narrative that had come to define (and, apparently, continues to define) her life.
Monica, a new DIY mini-series that hit the internet today, dramatizes this second chapter of Lewinsky's story, kicking off in 2001, when she moved to New York City at the age of 27. Across six short installments, the show captures many of the events chronicled in a 2002 New York magazine profile called "Monica Takes Manhattan," drolly following the young Lewinsky through the awkwardnesses of being a widely lambasted public figure in post-Sex In The City NYC, one yoga class and publicist meeting at a time. It asks question that the media probably should have been asking itself when it transformed her into a late-20th century incarnation of The Scartlet Letter's Hester Prynne: can a young women ever lead a normal life after her sex life goes public?
"I watched and read many interviews with Monica, but rather than doing on a dead-on impression of her, I aimed to recreate her essence," lead actress Lily Marotta explained to The FADER of her experiences researching the role. "I searched for a leather jacket and pantsuits that I thought she would have worn. I imagined myself as a young hurt woman who just wants to have a successful career and be able to window shop in the West Village without people staring and talking about her."
According to director Doron Max Hagay, the project was all about creating an alternate history of the young protagonist. "The obvious route of representing Monica as a joke or vixen was an appealing aspect of her story to play against, and once I began to ask questions in the process of figuring out the story, complexities began to emerge," he said. "I began to empathize with Monica, whom I saw as gravely hurt and misunderstood. I love melodrama, especially the films of Douglas Sirk, so crafting a narrative with a female protagonist whose desire to control her destiny and regain a semblance of normalcy, which fits in in the intensely emotional realm of melodrama, was exciting to me." Watch the first two episodes today (the first is above, the second is below), and visit the show's website for more information.
Photo credt: Getty Images / Adrian Sanches