‘The People vs OJ: American Crime Story’: Powerful TV About A 20-Year-Old Case

The People vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story is currently one of the most anticipated series. It’s scheduled to begin airing on FX in just over two weeks, on February 2, and is based on the book The Run for His Life by Jeffrey Toobin, which takes a look at the 1994 murder trial of OJ Simpson. Variety reports that at the recent Television Critics association press tour, Cuba Gooding Jr. called the role of O.J. Simpson “the hardest character I’ve ever played. It was six months of an emotional roller coaster.”

Neither the producers nor any of the actors in The People vs OJ Simpson contacted the real-life people portrayed in the series. The Simpson defense attorney passed away in 2003, and was married to Kris Jenner. David Schwimmer portrays Kardashian in the series, and spoke with Jenner about him. He has said that she portrayed a man to him who was religious, praying several times a day. He found that a defining characteristic that said a lot about who he was and he tried to bring that to his portrayal in The People vs OJ Simpson. Courtney Vance portrays Johnnie Cochran, who passed in 2005. Vance’s portrayal is based on his own research.

The People vs OJ
John Travolta will appear in The People vs OJ as another of Simpson’s attorneys, Robert Shapiro. Initially reluctant to take the role, he was given the title of producer in order to convince him. He never did any production in the series, however. Mr. Travolta commented on taking the part, saying the following.

“I was only doing it as an insurance method to assure that the product would be going not in a sensationalist way, but in a way that communicated something to an audience that was enlightening and at the end of it, they would understand why the verdict ended up the way it did.”

Although producers are clear that this is a drama, not a documentary, they did a great deal of legal vetting, having every script reviewed by at least five lawyers.

The People vs OJ will feature Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, who commented that the research that the production team did in the creation of the series revealed things about the case that she did not know about the very public case. One of these revelations that impacted her role was the constant sexism to which Clark was submitted.

The People vs OJ
Cast members describe the filming of The People vs OJ as an emotional experience, partly because they all have memories of the real case playing out in the public eye over 20 years ago. They spoke with TV Guide about those memories. John Travolta reported that he was in the middle of Pulp Fiction at the time, but checked in regularly with his father, who was obsessed with the case. Friends was just taking off for David Schwimmer, and he recalls trying to keep up with the trial as a way to stay in touch with the world outside the one associated with the “dizzying” success that came with his role as Ross Geller.

Those who have had a sneak peek at The People vs OJ say it is riveting television, in spite of the fact that the case happened over 20 years ago. Celebrity, sports, and wealth are all things that made it a fascinating case. But what Executive Producer Brad Simpson says makes The People vs OJ such great TV is that it involves racial issues that are as relevant today as they were in 1994, saying that the color of your skin and your wealth mean that “criminal justice is very different.”

[Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]