If you couldn’t tell, we’re all insanely pumped for Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story. The 10-week miniseries, starring Cuba Gooding Jr., John Travolta, and David Schwimmer, is based on the infamous OJ Simpson trial and will be debuting tonight (!!!).
Naturally, a show like this would require some deep-digging for the actors, both in terms of research and soul searching. To bring to life one of the most sensational crimes and trials in American history. . . well, that’s a lot of pressure. So how did the actors prepare for their parts? The New York Post chatted to the American Crime Story cast about their methods and feelings about their characters, and it’s *almost* as fascinating as the show itself.
Selma Blair, who will be playing Kris Jenner, did her research for the part by becoming close to the woman herself. “[Jenner] offered to lend me her clothes from the 1990s. She still has them,” Blair told New York Post. “I would have liked to wear them, but we had a costume designer.”
Even though she didn’t end up borrowing from her closet, Blair and Jenner did become fast friends, even spending holidays together. “[Jenner] was wonderful. I didn’t expect that,” Blair continued. “I spent Christmas Eve at her house. I really, really enjoy her and Khloe. I consider [Jenner] a friend.”
Blair also tried to understand the depth and range of emotion Jenner was feeling after the death of her best friend:
Sarah Paulson also met with the character she is portraying, chief prosecutor Marcia Clark. “Meeting [Clark], to me, was like meeting the president,” Paulson said. “I spent so much time having such an intimate relationship with her in my mind, in terms of creating … this real, flesh-and-blood person.”
But it wasn’t just talking with Clark that did the trick for Paulson. She did some in-depth research — reading included. “I read Marcia’s book [Without a Doubt]. I watched every interview I could find. I watched the long speech she gave at the Press Association when her book was coming out, just to watch her talk,” she told The Post. “Every time we would shoot, particularly courtroom things, I would rewatch her.”
However, David Schwimmer, who plays Simpson’s defense attorney and friend Robert Kardashian, didn’t have the luxury of talking to the man he’s playing, as Kardashian passed away after losing his battle with cancer back in 2003. But Schwimmer is still using what he knows about the attorney to best do the character justice. “He was a man of great faith. I didn’t know he was such a religious man,” Schwimmer explained. “I think that informed a lot of his choices.”
Courtney B. Vance also couldn’t speak to defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, who died of a brain tumor two years after Kardashian. However, he was struck by the dissonance between Cochran’s professional success and his truly wounded personal life, which was portrayed in The Run of His Life, the Jeffrey Toobin book off which the series is based.
“In a lot of the show, [we’re] looking at the lawyers’ lives behind the scenes,” Vance told The Post. “All of them, their paths were very human. I had no idea about Cochran’s extramarital carryings-on. That’s life.”
John Travolta also delved into books and court proceedings for his own personal research on defense attorney Robert Shapiro, but he also drew from his own personal experiences — including Shapiro’s thirst for fame:
Sterling K. Brown, however, attempted to reach out to prosecuting attorney Christopher Darden, but was snubbed. “He left me a message: What the f**k and who is this?” Brown said. “I texted him and said I would love to have a cup of coffee with him. He didn’t want to have anything to do with this.”
But Brown could understand why Darden would reject him. “After walking a few miles in his shoes, I wouldn’t be eager to relive that part of my life,” he said. “. . . What I learned was . . . how naive Darden and Marcia Clark were. They thought the jury [would be] able to come to a logical conclusion that O.J. was guilty. They didn’t understand the [racial] unrest. The verdict should have been about the murder of two innocent people, but it was an indictment of the LAPD.”
But although the majority of the actors reached out to their IRL characters (if they were alive), Cuba Gooding Jr. did not contact the infamous OJ Simpson. Why? Because he “didn’t want a definitive opinion of his guilt or innocence.”
But those who knew Simpson ended up reaching out to Gooding Jr., including one particular man that was something like “Kardashian’s therapist.” “There are people in the [movie] business that knew him,” Gooding Jr. told The Post. “People that worked in some of the bars and restaurants in his neighborhood. Some of those people reached out to me.”
As for Gooding Jr.’s opinions about the trial, they’ve been in flux, especially since he started playing the part of Simpson. “When that verdict came out [in 1995] not guilty, . . . I was yelling and screaming [with joy] . . . It all hit me [on set] with that scene, the Goldmans, the Browns — their children are gone,” he explained. “If you believed he did it or not, that was something that I personally didn’t care about. I felt guilty about that.”
American Crime Story debuts tonight at 10 p.m. EST.
(Images via 20th Television.)