‘American Crime Story’ Forces Prosecutor Marcia Clark To Relive ‘A Nightmare’

American Crime Story debuted last night, and while critics and viewers are applauding the new Ryan Murphy series for its compelling storytelling and visually stunning cinematography, not everyone is singing the show’s praises. For prosecutor Marcia Clark, who is played by Sarah Paulson in the series, the first O.J. Simpson trial is better left in the past. She says that being forced to relive it every week is just like experiencing the real trial all over again. Just like that first time, Americans are again glued to the television, rehashing old arguments over American Crime Story‘s re-enactments, as though it were the real event.

American Crime Story rehashes the People V. O.J. Simpson

Ryan Murphy’s The People v. O.J. Simpson comes just one year after the the 20th anniversary of the real trial, which had been labeled the Trial of the Century, due to the high-profile celebrities involved in the case. Simpson’s own high-speed chase across California’s freeways certainly didn’t do anything to lessen media or public interest in the case, either.

Now, American Crime Story is exploring the trial from a new perspective, that of the attorneys responsible for trying the case. Based on the book The Run of His Life by Jeffrey Toobin, the 10-episode event explores O.J. Simpson’s case and the legal maneuvers that took place behind the scenes. The series, much like its source material, doesn’t sugarcoat anything, as is evidenced by the opening riot scene. Going even deeper into the series reveals that American Crime Story places blame (and gives credit) where it’s due, but, for some, none of that matters. It was a time best left forgotten and bringing it back to life now only serves to re-open old wounds.

Just ask the real Marcia Clark

For Marcia, the American Crime Story retelling produces conflicting emotions. She says watching the show and even just knowing it’s airing force her to relive a nightmare, but she also feels drawn to the Ryan Murphy series, because it’s such excellent storytelling.

“I can’t watch it the way most people do,” she said. “It’s a painful experience, and yet I have to tell you it’s a measure of how good it is that it hurts that much because that tells you they’re getting the big stuff so right.”

Ms. Clark credits creator Ryan Murphy for handling the big issues far more responsibly and openly than they were handled in the actual O.J. Simpson trial. The prosecutor says that issues of race and sexism were ineptly handled at the time of the trial and that, while racism was eventually addressed, sexism remained hidden.

Marcia couldn’t be more pleased that Sarah Paulson is portraying her in the American Crime Story series, revealing that she has long been a big fan of Paulson’s throughout her career. She says that, if she’d had no interest in watching The People v. O.J. Simpson, she would still watch for Sarah’s “phenomenal” performances. Clark thinks the best part is the way the actress is really nailing the wide range of emotions she experienced at the time of the trial. Marcia adds that, as an attorney in the case, she had to keep those emotions in check and appear completely unaffected, so it was refreshing to see Ms. Paulson express those feelings.

To Marcia’s delight, the series provided an opportunity for Ms. Clark and Ms. Paulson to meet.

“I was actually a little afraid. You know they say, ‘Don’t meet your heroes because it can really be disappointing.’ She surpassed all expectations,” Clark said. “She’s the funniest, sweetest, nicest, most brilliant person. We closed the restaurant down. It was a wonderful experience. She’s phenomenal. It’s great to meet somebody who’s beautiful on the outside and the inside.”

The next installment of American Crime Story airs Thursday, February 4, on FX.

[Image by Jae C. Hong-Pool/Getty Images]