American Crime Story first came to air in February 2016. Billed as a true-crime anthology series, the show is technically a spinoff of American Horror Story, though really, the only link is that both shows have ex-Glee showrunners Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy on board as executive producers.
For season 1, American Crime Story recounted the infamous trial of The People v. O.J. Simpson, basing their story on the book, The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson, by Jeffrey Toobin. An all-star cast was assembled, including Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. Simpson, John Travolta as celebrity lawyer, Robert Shapiro, David Schwimmer as Rob Kardashian, and long-time Murphy collaborator Sarah Paulson as prosecutor, Marcia Clark.
American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, was met with critical acclaim, both for the writing as well as the performances. In particular, Paulson, along with Sterling K. Brown as fellow prosecuting attorney Chris Darden, and Courtney B. Vance as defense attorney Jonnie Cochran, were highly praised for their turns in the show. American Crime Story chose to recreate a case that gripped the nation when it happened for real, and as it turned out, the public also enjoyed watching the whole thing play out again. American Crime Story went on to win a slew of awards, including a Golden Globe and Emmy for Best Limited Series.
Unsurprisingly, American Crime Story has since been picked up for a further three seasons, and a lot of the outlines for those seasons are already set. As with The People v. O.J. Simpson, each subsequent season will be based on a book documenting a real-life event, and as with American Horror Story, we can expect to see actors appearing in multiple seasons as different characters.
American Crime Story season 2 is currently in development and has the title of American Crime Story: Katrina. It will be based on the book, ‘The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast,’ by Douglas Brinkley, which documents the immediate aftermath (the first week) of hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005.
In many ways it’s a strange choice for the focus of a crime series, since it was a natural disaster, but the season will mainly focus on what happened after the hurricane and intense flooding occurred, specifically how the government failed to act quickly, and in the best interests of the citizens. Themes addressed within the book include the fact that although New Orleans was a prime target for hurricanes, the city itself was massively unprepared for such an event, meaning that necessary strategies to source emergency food, water, and shelter, were not implemented quickly enough. Not only that, but though residents of the city were advised to evacuate, not many people actually had the means with which to escape.
It’s an undeniable fact that many people died in the aftermath of the hurricane; not as a result of the event itself but as a direct consequence of the government's inappropriate response. That said, the U.S. Coast Guard does receive high praise in Brinkley’s book, and deservedly so. One would hope that will be portrayed on-screen, too.
The cast for season 2 has not yet been fully confirmed, but Gooding Jr., Paulson, and Vance are all confirmed, though their characters are not yet known. Travolta has also stated a wish to return to the franchise. One role that is certain, is that of Annette Bening; she will play Kathleen Blanco, Governor of Louisiana. At the time of the disaster, Blanco was overwhelmed by the scale at which things escalated, but she did try to bring in help. However, she found the Bush administration to be lacklustre in their response. It remains to be seen how favorably she will be treated in American Crime Story.
Given that season 1 aired in 2016, and there are three more seasons lined up, it would be reasonable to expect American Crime Story season 2 sometime this year, but apparently that’s not to be. Production on season 2 has been delayed, so Murphy and co. can make sure they’re delivering the best script possible. With so many aspects to the story, it sounds as though they’re having a hard time pinning down the focus of the season, so American Crime: Katrina, is now expected to arrive in early 2018, instead.
It's back to crime again for season 3, which at the moment is titled American Crime Story: Versace, and will focus on the murder of the fashion designer Gianni Versace on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion in 1997. More specifically, the season will center on Versace’s killer, Andrew Cunanan, who had already killed four others before he murdered Versace. Cunanan then killed himself, eight days after the murder, as the police closed in. Since the motive for Cunanan’s killing spree is still unknown, it’ll be interesting to see how American Crime Story decides to have it all unfold onscreen.
Season 3 will be based on the book, ‘Vulgar Favors,’ by Maureen Orth, a former Vanity Fair writer who was already investigating Cunanan’s involvement with the four other murders, when he killed Versace. Her book makes for grim and often disturbing reading, but it is very detailed with regard to Cunanan’s life, providing Murphy and Falchuk with plenty of source material to adapt.
The part of Versace will be played by Edgar Ramirez (Girl on the Train), while former Glee star and another of Murphy’s darlings, Darren Criss, takes on the role of Cunanan; an eerie visual likeness to the killer. For Criss, it’s his first recurring television role since Glee, and will certainly be a departure from the chipper, all-singing, all-dancing Blaine Anderson.
Cunanan grew up in San Diego, with a strong sense of entitlement. Though his father sent him to a private school, he was poorer than the other students, and so concocted different, wealthier identities, and boasted of grandiose adventures. From there, Cunanan’s life descended into drug addiction, prostitution, and casual sex with men. He kept up the ruse of being wealthy and entitled by studying the lives of the rich and famous, and he even crossed paths with Versace at an event, many years before his death.
However, no one knows if that was his motive for murdering the designer, or whether he had gotten wind of the fact that, at the time of his death, Versace was HIV positive and had been known to pay young men for sex; maybe Cunanan felt rebuffed or ignored, maybe he was envious of Versace’s lifestyle? Either way, it still doesn’t explain Cunanan’s other killings, and American Crime Story will have the opportunity to explore all of this and more.
The rest of the season has yet to be cast, but it seems reasonable to once again expect American Crime Story regulars to appear in some way, shape, or form. Cunanan also had a sister; a chance for Lea Michele to cross over into her third Murphy project, maybe? American Crime: Versace, will air approximately six months after season 2.
Understandably, the details surrounding season 4 are still vague; at best, this season won’t make it to air until 2019, so there’s plenty of time for casting to be cemented. What is known, is that it will focus on the infamous Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton scandal that rocked the White House in 1999. It will be based on the book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President, by Jeffrey Toobin (who also wrote ‘The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson’).
Obviously, the book recounts the details of the then-president’s affair with intern Lewinsky, but it also examines the role of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and his office. At the time, Hillary Clinton stated that she believed her husband to be a victim of a “vast right-wing conspiracy to get the president.” Though that was before she was party to the full details surrounding the affair, Toobin broadly reaches the same conclusion in his book, ascertaining that though the whole scandal was “shabby,” it was by no means illegal.
Still, it was hugely scandalous, and resulted in only the second ever impeachment hearing, though Clinton was subsequently acquitted of all charges by the Senate. Undoubtedly, Murphy and Falchuk have a wealth of material to explore here, and given the subject matter not only for season 4 but indeed for all seasons, it seems as though American Crime Story will continue to deliver fascinating drama for a long time to come.