Sarah Paulson has ‘regrets’ about the ‘fat phobia’ of playing Linda Tripp

Olivia Rodrigo speaks during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room with Jen Psaki

I hate everything about the promotion for American Crime Story: Impeachment. I hate that we’re supposed to humanize Linda Tripp or listen to her “true story.” I hate that Monica Lewinsky is a producer on the series. And I really loathe the casting, I’m sorry. Beanie Feldstein isn’t a great choice for Monica. Edie Falco is a poor choice for Hillary Clinton. And Sarah Paulson is an offensively bad choice for Tripp. I actually like Paulson a lot, and I definitely believe she’s a great actress. But no – I’m completely against the hiring of actors to play real people when the actors look absolutely nothing like the real people. Prosthetics and fat suits are not “acting.” If you want Jared Leto to play someone who looks like Paul Giamatti, just hire Giamatti. If you want a thin, beautiful actress to wear a fat suit to play Linda Tripp, you should have just cast the part differently. Paulson addresses that criticism in her interview with the LA Times:

She was surprised by reporters’ antipathy towards Linda Tripp: “I think in the initial moment, I thought: ‘Oh, my God, I took a really big swing and I missed.’ Not only may it not affect anybody’s assessment of her, it might make people double down. And that is something I never thought of. And I don’t know if that makes me foolish, or it just makes me a person who was so invested in trying to be a person. … I think Linda was certainly a victim of being caught up in a machine. Don’t get me wrong — she put the gas in the car, she put the keys in the ignition, and then she started driving, put her foot on the pedal. But then it’s like a runaway train — I know I just mixed my vehicle metaphors. I will never think that what she did was right. Far from it. But I do have a greater understanding as to the why.”

The early years of her career in the 1990s: “Back then, I wanted the unattainable: I wanted to be Julia Roberts. It was some fantasy. And because I was young enough, it didn’t really occur to me how it happens to one in a million. Then, slowly, it became about, ‘I just want to work to live.’”

Paulson wore padding & prosthetics to play Tripp instead of encouraging a plus-sized woman to be cast in the role: “It’s very hard for me to talk about this without feeling like I’m making excuses. There’s a lot of controversy around actors and fat suits, and I think that controversy is a legitimate one. I think fat phobia is real. I think to pretend otherwise causes further harm. And it is a very important conversation to be had. But that entire responsibility I don’t think falls on the actor for choosing to do something that is arguably — and I’m talking about from the inside out — the challenge of a lifetime. I do think to imagine that the only thing any actor called upon to play this part would have to offer is their physical self is a real reduction of the offering the actor has to make. I would like to believe that there is something in my being that makes me right to play this part. And that the magic of hair and makeup departments and costumers and cinematographers that has been part of moviemaking, and suspension of belief, since the invention of cinema. Was I supposed to say no [to the part]? This is the question.

She has regrets about taking this role: “I think the thing I think about the most is that I regret not thinking about it more fully. And that is an important thing for me to think about and reflect on. I also know it’s a privileged place to be sitting and thinking about it and reflecting on it, having already gotten to do it, and having had an opportunity that someone else didn’t have. You can only learn what you learn when you learn it. Should I have known? Abso-f—ing-lutely. But I do now. And I wouldn’t make the same choice going forward.”

[From The LA Times]

Paulson makes it sound like this is some dumb decision she made a decade ago. They literally wrapped on Impeachment THIS YEAR. WTF? Oh, if only I had known then what I know now! Lady, it was like nine months ago. Paulson wanted to play Tripp because she knew it would be this big, juicy role and she couldn’t stand the thought of someone else playing it. And to be fair, it’s not entirely her fault at all. This is Ryan Murphy obsessively hiring his “muse” Paulson for every project. Instead of casting Paulson more reasonably – as Hillary Clinton, the role she honestly should have played – Murphy wanted his friend to do “fat drag” and win awards. And all of it is fatphobic. It pisses me off so much that overweight people are so unpalatable to Hollywood that producers and directors literally hire young, thin people to wear fat suits and ageing-prosthetics to play these roles just so no one will have to – gasp – interact or work alongside an overweight or old person.

Olivia Rodrigo speaks during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room with Jen Psaki

Photos courtesy of FX.

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73 Responses to “Sarah Paulson has ‘regrets’ about the ‘fat phobia’ of playing Linda Tripp”

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  1. Elle says:

    It’s fascinating to me that a man can gain weight for a role and he’s applauded for his dedication but women don’t have that luxury. If a woman gained weight for a part everyone would just say she was using an excuse – OR a woman in hollywood wouldn’t want to be caught being overweight because it would be shameful to her even if just for a part.

    • Susan says:

      Misogyny is alive and well, especially in Hollywood. I got in a deep discussion the other day with a friend about the ingrained misogyny in religious culture and how it is permeated every aspect of ours….it got me so fired up I couldn’t sleep. Ugh.

    • Amy Bee says:

      Actors should not be gaining or losing weight for roles. That’s damaging to their health. Film companies should just do casting calls for people who already fit the body type.

    • Oh_Hey says:

      And this is the only tiny pass there is to give. Charlize Theron and Rene Zellwiger had to gain 30 pounds and then immediately loose it for “awards season”.

      I think it was more about Murphy and his muses – Sarah, Evan Peters, Emma Roberts, Darren Criss. Hollywood at large has a problem with fatness and age. Ryan’s problem is favoritism. Beanie Feldstien is actually a bit thicker than Monica ever was and Sarah was asked to wear a fat suit. Hollyweird has a fat problem but I don’t think that was exactly this problem. Sarah should have said no and Ryan should have found an actor that looked more like Linda.

      • bettyrose says:

        When I think about Charlize Theron and Rene Zellweger doing that, though, I cringe so hard. It’s a horrible thing to do to your body and your metabolism will never be right again.

    • GrnieWnie says:

      well. Renee Zellweger famously did for Bridget Jones.

      • questions says:

        Yeah, I think of Renee Zellwegger when I think of women gaining weight. Also, Charlize Theron for Monster. At one point, it was seen as really transforming for a part and you could win an award. I can kind of see why maybe Sarah Paulson looked to those examples and didn’t think her choice would receive backlash. There wasn’t really a precedent you could turn to where you might think it’s a bad idea since all the previous examples were praised for gaining weight. Now, going forward, someone might think twice. But since she’s the first (it would seem, I think?) to not get praised, I can see why she initially wouldn’t have thought it might be a bad idea.

      • FilmTurtle says:

        Yeah, and the press around RZ was relentless about how she was such a porker after she gained the weight for the role when she looked perfectly normal and pretty. I’ve never forgotten that.

  2. Driver8 says:

    Thousands of out of work actors, great character actors, older actors and Hollywood goes with the same 20 people. The prosthetics almost always look super obvious. Sarah sounds likes she’s just doing damage control and sounds disingenuousto me. I won’t watch this, the casting is off and I was around when this all went down. No need to relive it.

    • ElleV says:

      Yep, agree it’s disingenuous and her fatphobia is showing that she never thought twice about donning a fat suit

    • Meg says:

      I remember watching something on golden girls and they decided to do it after watching older actors like doris roberts at some event and she was a riot the audience loved her so when holding castings they said they were embarrassed at how deep the talent pool was of older actors. Yes! There just weren’t opportunities for them. Then les moonves came along and decided he didnt like shows like that and did things like 2 and a half men where the only sexually viable women were portrayed as dumb 20 somethings

    • North of Boston says:

      I always get the sense with the bad fat suit prosthetics that the filmmakers, prosthetic makers biases are showing… like they don’t just make the actors look fat, they design them to look fat in the distorted negative way they see fat people in their fat phobic minds.

      Sort of like body dysmorphia but applied to other people’s bodies.

  3. Jezz says:

    I can’t disagree more. Acting is absolutely about donning a costume (physical, emotional, etc) and creating a persona different from the actor. What is “not acting” is hiring someone to basically play themselves, whether in weight or mannerisms. Tripp’s essence was not her weight. A great actor takes on the essence of the person they are playing. Nothing to do with their weight or hair colour or even gender.

    • OriginalLala says:

      I see what you’re saying, but in Hollywood the fact remains that young, thin, white people are hired for *EVERY* role. I don’t care how great of an actor anyone is, I’m tired of only seeing young, thin, white people on my screens, especially when there are incredible actors that aren’t any of those things and they are never really given a chance are they. Notice how they never give a thin, white person’s role to an older, non-white person? it’s always the reverse though.

      • Ann says:

        Well, to be fair, it wouldn’t make sense to hire a woman of color to play Tripp. Color blind casting works for some projects but not others. I don’t think it would have worked here.

      • Chaine says:

        But Ann why not? I’m being serious. Why does anything about the Clinton/Lewinsky saga require any actor to be a particular race? I truly don’t recall anything racial about any of it that would require ANY of the actors to be white or really any other race at all. I think it would be interesting and stretch our brains if this was an all-Black cast, for example.

      • questions says:

        Monica Lewinksy is telling her story and she’s the executive producer. If you changed the races, it might not be her story anymore. It may be something else that’s interesting (and completely fictional with elements adapted from her story), but it wouldn’t achieve the vision she has in mind for her own story.

        I think you can stretch things for a Shakespeare play and anything else that’s already fictional, but I don’t know if it works for a real-life story with the participants still living and telling the story themselves.

    • ElleV says:

      donning a *costume* yes, but is weight really a costume?

      actors get rejected for roles *all the time* based on physical criteria and this hypocritical resistance to inclusion based on physical criteria has made it out like being thin, white and pretty is the blank slate upon which one adds the costume of weight, race and features that don’t fit the eurocentric ideal.

      the whole thing seems gross to me. there are tons of talented actors in the world who can both look and act the part. treating body size/shape as a costume is gross and stigmatizing and lazy.

    • Sankay says:

      Agree, it’s not about hiring lookalikes it’s about an actor taking in a role and absorbing that person personality, mannerisms go along way in portraying someone. I don’t get this need to have an identical person play a part.

      • Anne says:

        Cultural clothing is not a costume. Skin color is not a costume. Weight is not a costume. Just stop

    • LillyfromLillooet says:

      I agree. I also think about the fact that it is unhealthy to be overweight. James Gandolfini, the actor who played Tony Soprano stated in interviews that his large body size was key to portraying that character. He had a heart attack and died in his 50s.

      We also have to acknowledge that there are so many reasons, that actors get cast, and a big part of it is reputation. Sarah Paulson is well known and has fans. Actors can get cast because they can, as they say, “open a movie.”

      I just don’t have a problem with actors radically changing their appearance for a role. Meryl Streep was brilliant as an elderly Jewish rabbi, and I loved Cate Blanchette playing Bob Dylan (uh…did she? I may be wrong about that)

      • Elaine Stritch says:

        “it is unhealthy to be overweight” Is blatantly fatphobic and false. Only an individual and their doctor know the status of a person’s health.
        We have no idea WHY James Gandolfini died of a heart attack. My father dropped dead of one at 48 from a genetic defect.

        Meryl Streep playing an elderly rabbi is part of the casting in Angels in America and not quite the same thing. Actors are double cast in that play in specific roles for specific reasons relating to the narrative and what those characters mean to each other and other people in the story.

      • Green Desert says:

        No, @Lilly. A person can be “overweight” and very healthy or normal weight/thin and not healthy. A person can be in great shape on the outside but have something wrong internally or be fat and have no genetic issues and great bloodwork. And one anecdotal example does not prove your point. We’ve all been socially conditioned to be fatphobic, and we need to actively work against it.

      • STRIPE says:

        Sorry y’all but we have crossed over to the absurd if we cannot admit that being overweight is not good for your health.

        We can certainly agree that MBI is garbage and “ideal” weight is not the same for everyone. Also, just because you are overweight does not mean all of your health problems are because of that. You may not have any issues. But just because someone who smokes doesn’t have lung cancer, it doesn’t mean smoking isnt unhealthy. To say that being overweight is not an issue for your health is just not living in reality. Yes, being underweight is unhealthy, being “ideal” weight and unhealthy in other ways is unhealthy. That doesn’t mean that obesity is not detrimental to your health. It is.

      • ElleV says:

        this whole bit about *the art of transformation* is just a fancy way of saying you don’t really believe a fat actor could bring as much to the table as a thin one in a fat suit. i disagree.

        and are you really arguing that Hollywood hires thin actors to depict fat people… out of concern for fat actors’ health? how does health have anything to do with casting a fat person as a fat character? being model/actress-thin isn’t healthy either but they seem to get plenty of roles? i didn’t realize actors had to prove a clean bill of health to work!

      • Juniper says:

        No. Just, no. This is fatphobic and ignorant. James Gandolfini did not die because he was overweight. Weight and health are not in concert with each other as much as people like to believe.

    • Green Desert says:

      @Jezz, all things being equal you would have a point. But the point here is that for the most part, there’s still a bias against female actors who aren’t a size 4 with a perfect face and white skin. And choosing one of those actors to play someone who looked vastly different is problematic because that bias still exists.

    • Anne says:

      Cultural clothing is not a Costume. Skin color is not a costume. Fat is NOT A COSTUME.

  4. questions says:

    I can see why she took the role — just simply based on the economics of it (you’re getting paid; she mentioned the whole “work to live” concept even if she probably is wealthy enough now. Still, money.) I can also see the challenge of it (playing a repulsive character).

    I just thought it was a little weird she’d think anyone would feel sorry or sympathetic for Linda Tripp, regardless of whether she or anyone else is playing her. I don’t think the assessment of her, in particular, is likely to change. Tripp probably makes everyone else look sympathetic though.

    Also, does it matter if you feel sympathetic to a character, at least in this instance?

    What she did was so lacking in character I guess it never even occurred to me that Tripp was overweight. I think of her as the middle-aged lady from the 90s (where the aesthetic wasn’t exactly J-LO at the time) who conned the younger woman.

    • GrnieWnie says:

      yeah I never thought of Linda Tripp as overweight either, just thinking back to when this happened eons ago. She just looked ordinary to me.

      Idk, I think there’s a discussion to be had about what an actor — a specific actor — can bring to a role. Could Sarah Paulson bring something to the role that other actors couldn’t? Perhaps. Idk, I’m not an expert on acting.

      I think there’s a separate discussion to be had about employability in Hollywood, casting, and whether actors with many choices for roles need to think twice about the roles they take (of course they should).

    • Chaine says:

      She and Monica were both skewered in the media then for their weights. That was back when the ideal was skeletal Ally McBeal and Terry Hatcher. Remember John Goodman played Linda on SNL? Looking at the photos now, I realize Linda was actually pretty average size for her age and some of her bulky appearance was just those awful 1990s giant blazers.

      • lucy2 says:

        My first thought was John Goodman playing her on SNL. I just looked at pictures too, and agree she looks fairly average.

    • iconoclast59 says:

      Tripp’s ugliness came more from her character (or, more accurately, her lack thereof) rather than her physical appearance, IMHO.

  5. Nanny to the Rescue says:

    SP: “I don’t think falls on the actor for choosing to do something that is arguably — and I’m talking about from the inside out — the challenge of a lifetime.”

    This excuse is sooo bad. Anyone can then say the same thing, ScarJo with her roles, all other trans-played-by-cis, all race-washed characters.

    I think Sarah here showed her real face. She’s all about fairness and justice on social media, but as soon as HER career can benefit from unfairness, she embeaces it without question. Disappointed.

    • ElleV says:

      totally agree – if your defense can also be used to justify white-washing / blackface I don’t think it holds up

    • Sunday says:

      Completely agree. Also, playing Linda Tripp is the “challenge of a lifetime”? Give me a break. If that’s the challenge of a lifetime then maybe you’re not a very good actor. It almost makes her excuse more dehumanizing – “sure Linda’s just another ambitious middle-aged blonde woman, but she’s FAT! It’s so CHALLENGING!”

      • GrnieWnie says:

        well to be fair, she is saying “from the inside out” (meaning she sees the challenge as due to Linda’s internal psychology or whatever, not external appearance). Not sure why she thinks Linda is so fascinating, though.

      • questions says:

        I thought her characterization of Linda Tripp as the “role of a lifetime” was a bit strange too. I’ve never thought of Linda Tripp as fascinating or unique. Immoral (or is it amoral?) maybe, but not someone who would hold my interest beyond the parameters of the role she played in this story. And even then I’m not sure I’d want to know more about her. Immoral or amoral doesn’t automatically mean interesting.

        Because I don’t find this character remotely fascinating, I suppose my first assumption would be that Paulson got the role because no one else wanted it (I don’t really see other thin actresses finding this specific character fascinating enough to fight hard for it, as you sometimes hear in the case of other castings). The role would be an opportunity for a chubbier woman to find employment, but then I can’t imagine a chubby woman really dying to play Linda Tripp either. My normal assumption would be that she’d take the role just to get paid, but I’m also not sure if a less famous, chubby person would be paid the same amount as Sarah Paulson.

        Someone mentioned Kathleen Turner down below as a potential choice, and even then I’d probably be thinking “Would Kathleen Turner actually find her fascinating enough to want to play her?”

        So, yes, I did go “huh, why” when Sarah Paulson called this “the role of a lifetime.”

  6. Sankay says:

    So no actors to be used only lookalikes. Got it.

    • OriginalLala says:

      we’re are having a nuanced conversation here about age, weight bias etc in Hollywood, but please, go on purposely misunderstanding the actual issues here…

    • ElleV says:

      @sankay nope, that’s not what people are saying. what you’re doing there is an example of reductio ad absurdum.

      when the character is young, white, thin and pretty casting directors cast young, white, thin and pretty *types*, not lookalikes. yet when the character is older, a person of colour, heavier etc they still cast young, white, thin and pretty types. that’s hypocritical nonsense.

    • Meg says:

      I would initially agree with you but theres way too many talented actors not working who have the physicality of Linda Tripp who could do this role justice. This industry tries to say ‘we’re not diverse because theres just not talented people in those demographics’ which is flat out BS. A few years ago the grammys president tried to say only one woman won that year in the televised show because women needed to ‘step up’ more. Yeah, uh huh

  7. Tom says:

    Kathleen Turner as Linda Tripp, for example.

  8. Darla says:

    I don’t watch Ryan Murphy shows. He is so insular, this entire show will be offensive, just thinking about it offends me. And he always hires his (white) faves. I can’t stand him sorry.

    • Lena says:

      I agree. This whole miscasting of Linda Tripp happened because probably Ryan Murphy brought this project to Sarah Paulson and said any role you want is yours. That’s not how casting is supposed to work. She took this role instead of, say, Hillary Clinton because she wanted a more central, ‘meaty’ role.

    • Green Desert says:

      Agree with all of this.

    • lucy2 says:

      I think his shows are pretty awful too, he gets a good idea and then manages to make a mess of it every single time. The only except was the OJ series, because that story was already in existence and he couldn’t write it differently.

      I love Sarah as an actress, but yeah this is a mistake on her part, and I have no interest in seeing it. I often wish she would do more away from Murphy, but I imagine that’s hard when he’s constantly writing stuff for her, and it usually leads to awards.

    • North of Boston says:

      Agree! I’m trying to think of something of his I liked in the last 5+ years. It’s tends to be style over substance, shocking and extreme for the sake of shocking and extreme and a limited company of players. Even before this I’d see promos for his stuff with Sarah Paulson and think … she can be such an interesting actor, but I really wish she’d stop working with Ryan Murphy, because it’s like the same note again and again – arch, high contrast, over stylized.

  9. questions says:

    Sounds like she got picked because of friend-besties-nepotism, not necessarily because she’s pretty and thin.

    The nepotism/favoritism issue probably adds another layer.

    The actress playing Monica Lewinsky is less technically pretty than the real Monica, imo. That struck me when I saw the trailer. ( People probably made fun of Monica for her weight and not being Kate Moss, but when you look at her face properly she is prettier than the actress playing her. Maybe Monica was actually less chubby than her portrayer).

    The actor playing Bill Clinton also seems to be wearing prosthetics for his face. Maybe it’s a thing for this movie. Though body-wise he looks slimmer or more in shape than Bill Clinton in his pre-vegan phase. Go figure.

  10. CROOKSNNANNIES says:

    S

  11. Hyrule Castle says:

    I don’t like SP, never have.

    I came to say we just finished The Chair & Holland Taylor is wonderful.
    I don’t know what she sees in SP 🤷‍♀️

  12. Granger says:

    “I do think to imagine that the only thing any actor called upon to play this part would have to offer is their physical self is a real reduction of the offering the actor has to make.”

    Yeah, actresses are called upon to play parts ALL THE TIME based on their physical appearance alone, often regardless of their ability. The part can call for a mousy 35-year-old housewife and all the directors and producers want is a thin, white, 23-year-old with big tits and plump lips — no acting experience required.

  13. Concern Fae says:

    I know actors have to find the positive to play a character, but if you don’t realize Linda Tripp was an objectively horrible human being, I don’t know what to do.

    As to weight and fat suits. Previously, Paulson would have just played Tripp as thin. We’re moving forward, but not evenly or all at once. Hollywood knows things have to change, but haven’t worked out that this means not hiring the same sorts of people you always have.

    • questions says:

      I also thought it was strange that she thought Linda Tripp could be viewed sympathetically (with the right actor in the role). I don’t think an actor could change the perception of her, regardless of whether she’s authentically fat or not. And why would you be surprised that reporters don’t like Linda Tripp? I came away more baffled by that than her decision to play the role.

  14. candy says:

    I excitedly watched the preview but was sorely disappointed. None of the cast seemed convincing. And trailers usually make a project look better than it actually is. Kaiser, if you want a good view into this story, check out the ABC documentary on Hulu.

  15. Tiffany says:

    These are a whole lot of words for, ‘I knew I was gonna get smoke for this but who cares, I want another Emmy’.

  16. MrsF2u says:

    Not watching it. I was first an intern and then worked for a Democratic Congresswoman in the mid 1990s.

    BTDT – over Monica. Been over her for 25 years

  17. Meg says:

    i remember miranda lambert lost 20 lbs and it made the news as if it was 100lbs. The nitpicking of womens bodies in the entertainment industry is sick

    • OriginalLala says:

      oh man I remember when she lost weight the media (and her in interviews) talked about her pre-weightloss body as if she was hugely obese, it was really something….

  18. Lala11_7 says:

    I am looking FORWARD to NOT watching this…as I’m STILL traumatized about what went down during that WHOLE situation whose blowback cost me the POTUS of my dreams….Just like I couldn’t watch his O.J. Simpson series …I’m officially OVER Ryan Murphy…

    • Amy T says:

      TBH, I’m still salty about having to explain to my tweener daughters back then, who didn’t understand why talking about sex was a problem, that that wasn’t what “oral sex” meant.

      No interest at all in revisiting that particular episode, tho props to Monica Lewinsky, who has worked damn hard to make sense of and grow beyond what happened all those years ago. She was young and trusted the wrong people and suffered mightily as a result.

  19. vivian says:

    I’m commenting here when there are already 54 comments, and not one mentions the ubiquitous failure to hire actors with disabilities, or non-normative physicality– for anything, even to play characters who share their physical characteristics. There are lots of very fine actors with visible disabilities who are unemployed and want to work.

  20. IMARA219 says:

    When I first heard of the concept I was intrigued. I really loved the OJ series Ryan Murphy created; however, now I’m kinda over it. I just knew Sarah Paulson was going to play Hilary or some other role, never in my wildest dreams did I think she would play Linda Tripp. That’s just so many Nos.

  21. Catherine says:

    I now view all Ryan Murphy projects with the knowledge that he was aware of and enabled Lea Michele’s toxic behavior on Glee because she was his muse/favorite for that show. So there is no question in my mind that he would engage in “fat drag” and fat phobia just so he could cast another one of his favorites. I thought Sarah response was very rehearsed. They knew they were going to get called out on this and had their talking points ready.

  22. Jessica says:

    I’ve been watching AHS and she bugs me in EVERY season. She’s not a great actress and I don’t understand why people think she is. The only thing she does is cry! What is she gonna bring to the role that no one else could? An ocean of tears?

  23. Anne Call says:

    The only thing she should regret is being part of this sh*tshow and dragging Hillary thought it once again. Give me a break-this is part of his American “Crime” series? Yeah, maybe do a series about Ken Starr and all his illegal underhand activities. This is give a big pass to.

  24. questions says:

    Edie Falco is not overweight but she kind of looks more like Linda Tripp than Sarah Paulson does.

  25. L4frimaire says:

    This show looks so poorly cast. Is it really that hard for an established actor like Paulson to turn down the role? Tripp wasn’t the star of this story, they could have hired a character actor who physically looked more like Tripp and was the right size. I don’t like the casting of Hillary and Lewinski either.Physical casting is just as important as acting skills when it comes to portraying real, contemporary people. Sometimes some directors get so stuck on a particular actor they want to use over and over again, even if they’re not right for the role. The whole Clinton/Lewinsky thing was so sordid then and not sure if this will give any new insight or perspective in this post Me-Too age.