In 2011, Ryan Murphy returned to FX not long after his break-through smash hit Nip/Tuck ended its six season run. This time around Murphy decided to try another format that was equally as non-traditional as his plastic surgeon drama; the anthology miniseries.
American Horror Story was a radical experiment that proved to be a massive success. Now, Murphy is spinning off his own brand to create American Crime Story, where each season would focus on a different true crime case.
First up is the O.J. Simpson trial, which captivated the nation just over 20 years ago. A ten-episode mini series, the star-studded affair is generating a lot of buzz. As we inch closer to its February premiere date, here’s a look at 11 Things You Need To Know American Crime Story.
11. It’s A Spin-off of American Horror Story
American Crime Story is the spinoff series of FX mainstay American Horror Story with the twist being that these events actually happened.
Series creator Ryan Murphy will again oversee the limited run miniseries where each season will focus on a different true-life crime. The program will kick things off with the so-called trail of the century – “The People vs. O.J. Simpson.”
We all know the details. Former football star/occasional actor O.J. Simpson was accused of brutally murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in June 1994.
The trial engulfed the country right up until October 1995, when the one-time sports star was acquitted of all charges. American Crime Story does not plan to take one side over the other as Murphy and his team aren’t trying to paint a picture of innocence and guilt.
10. It Has An Amazing Cast
Like American Horror Story, Crime will also be an ensemble which has assembled some seriously big names to revisit this fascinating tale.
The most bold-faced name is that of John Travolta. In his first starring TV role since his break-out debut on Welcome Back Kotter, Travolta will play Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro.
Joining the two-time Oscar nominee is Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran, Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, Nathan Lane as F. Lee Bailey and Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson.
9. It Has A Stellar Team Behind It
It’s not just a stellar cast The show has compiled a talented group people behind the scenes as well as in front of the camera.
Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the Golden Globe winning pair of scribes behind The People vs. Larry Flynt wrote a handful of the episodes, plus the over-arching “Bible” that keeps track of all the series details.
Joe Robert Cole, who Marvel just hired to write its Black Panther film, is also among the show’s multiple writers, as is Maya Forbes. Forbes is the woman behind Infinity Polar Bear, which was loosely based on her childhood.
The miniseries will also feature episodes directed by two-time Oscar nominee John Singleton and The Wire’s Anthony Hemingway. Of course, Murphy himself is the lynchpin and uber-producer and long-time collaborator Brad Falchuk will also be heavily involved.
8. It’s A Story That Hasn’t Been Heavily Adapted
Believe it or not there have been only a handful of projects about the Simpson trial. Given how the case galvanized the nation (for better or worse), you’d expect more networks or studios would have tried to adapt it in some way.
The most mainstream attempt was by CBS in 2000, with the miniseries American Disgrace. The drama was headlined by Ving Rhames as Cochran and also featured Ron Silver, Christopher Plummer, Bruno Kirby and Raymond Forchion as Simpson.
While that miniseries may be forgettable, everyone remembers Simpson’s attempt to capitalize on the crimes with If I Did It, the Simpson-penned book in which he explains how he would have “hypothetically” committed the crimes.
The outcry from the book and the companion Fox network special was so loud that both were shelved. The book eventually made it to shelves after the rights had been awarded to the Goldman family in a Florida bankruptcy court, with new comments from the Goldmans.
7. It Almost Didn’t Get Made
Some may ask why now? Why would a book that came out in 1996 be turned into a TV miniseries 20 years later?
The book was actually originally optioned much earlier by Fox executives looking to turn it into the network’s first foray into “event” programming (i.e. 24: Live Another Day, Wayward Pines). The problem was that Kevin Reilly, who was the head of the network for years, left and that put the project back into purgatory.
It wasn’t until after Ryan Murphy finished his HBO adaptation of The Normal Heart did that status change. Murphy specifically asked for promising scripts that were stuck in limbo, and one of those came from Toobin’s book.
6. It’s Not Just About The Trial
The series is not a slanted look at Simpson’s guilt or innocence. It tells the facts as they were presented but does so with the underlying question of how race played a role. Travolta has said in interviews he was hesitant to take on the project because of the possibility of it being sensationalized.
Before Murphy’s involvement, the idea was to make the book adaptation as a stand alone single-season miniseries. Race wasn’t a main theme so much as the coming-of-age of the 24/7 news cycle. Yet after the rise in police shootings and the protests that followed, the two themes dovetailed and threw the topic of America’s racial conflict back into the public eye.
Producers wanted the miniseries to be a key player in that debate, and went back to make adjustments. Specifically, the character of Johnnie Cochran was enhanced so audiences knew exactly who he was and what he believed from the start. Viewers had to know this was a man who knew about race relations and that the Simpson case wasn’t his first exposure to the matter.
5. Most Of The Cast Talked To Their Counterparts…Except One
With any bio-pic project, the question comes up if the cast had any contact with any of the people they are portraying. Across the board the answer was usually yes, except in the case of Cuba Gooding Jr.
Gooding Jr. wanted no part in meeting Simpson, as he believes the former football great is now “a broken man.” Back in 1994 Simpson, carried himself differently and still had a certain charismatic allure. That’s the character Gooding Jr. signed up to play and he doesn’t think meeting the current version of Simpson, who has gone bankrupt and written a tell-all novel about the case, wouldn’t have helped him in his performance.
The other actors, however, did talk to their counterparts. Courtney B. Vance had previously met Cochran and his widow, Sarah Paulson ended up befriending Marcia Clark and David Schwimmer talked to Robert Kardashian’s ex-wife Kris Jenner over the phone. While John Travolta never reached out to Robert Shapiro, the lawyer’s team did send producers a note expressing his support.
4. The Kardashians Are Involved…Sort Of
Speaking of the Kardashians, the famous family will be portrayed in the miniseries; though not in the way you might expect.
Robert Kardashian and Kris Jenner’s kids were very young at the time, and thus didn’t have a big role in the story. However, they will pop up from time to time. It’s partly because they were not really heavily involved in the action that Schwimmer declined to meet them prior to the start to production.
The other reason that Schwimmer passed on the meet and greet was because producers of Keeping Up With The Kardashians reportedly wanted it on tape, which turned off the former Friends star.
Schwimmer’s also said he was surprised by what he learned about the late Kardashian patriarch. He has described Kardashian as a “man of faith” and someone who had a genuine friendship with Simpson, which is why he always stood by him.
3. FX needs American Crime Story to work
It’s no secret the network recently lost two of its biggest shows in Sons of Anarchy and Justified. In addition to that, Kurt Sutter pulled the plug on his latest show, The Bastard Executioner.
That’s enough to give any network a case of insomnia. The network does have some bright spots with The Americans, Fargo and American Horror Story, but FX needs more breakout series to help them year round.
While Tyrant, The Strain, Archer and Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll are reliable bench players, they haven’t transcended pop culture in the same way. It also doesn’t help that lead comedy Louie is on another indefinite break, which further taxes the network’s roster.
2. Season 2 Is Already Being Planned
Expectations are high for American Crime Story, so it makes sense that FX already has its eye on a second season. But instead of taking on a new trial, Murphy revealed that a sophomore season might go in different direction.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the next installment will take place in New Orleans and look at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The current plan would be to follow a group of people after the storm, giving audiences a full glimpse of the devastation left in the storm’s wake.
In terms of the crime itself, Murphy has been very vocal he believes the people of New Orleans were treated unfairly in their most vulnerable moment. In the interview with the entertainment trade, Murphy said:
“And in my opinion, Katrina was a f—ing crime — a crime against a lot of people who didn’t have a strong voice, and we’re going to treat it as a crime. That’s what this show is all about.”
1. The Case Still Is A Hot Topic
Even though we haven’t seen a lot of O.J. adaptations in the past, the 20th anniversary of the trial last year brought out new specials. A&E and Lifetime Movie Network also announced projects promising to shed light on the mystery, with new tapes and interviews.
This year, in addition to the FX series, ESPN will showcase the trial under its 30 For 30 banner. O.J.: Made In America will debut a five-part miniseries that will look beyond just the trial and at Simpson’s life prior to the case.
The special will also boast interviews with key players, including Marcia Clark (who has notoriously remained silent for years) and F. Lee Bailey.
Are you going to watch the miniseries? Did the producers cast the right actors? Leave a comment and let us know.
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