From the televised white Bronco car chase to Kato Kaelin’s highlights, no detail from the most infamous crime in modern history has been spared in the making of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, set to debut Feb. 2 on FX. Based on the book The Run of His Life by Jeffrey Toobin and adapted by screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander (The People vs. Larry Flynt), ACS is an epic 10-hour event that aims to take viewers behind the scenes of the 1994–95 case, as well as into the lives of its most famous players — including assistant district attorneys Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) and Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown), defense lawyers Robert Shapiro (John Travolta), Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance), Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer), and of course Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr.). A bizarre mixture of tragedy, celebrity, and sleaze, the case both enraptured and polarized the world as it played out in real time in the media for 16 months until Simpson was eventually acquitted.
“When we say we’re doing O.J. Simpson, the first thing you hear from everybody is where they were [when it happened],” says executive producer Brad Simpson (World War Z). “It’s a unifying event. There are few events in culture that are like it, where for people of a certain age you remember where you were.” It’s also a case rife with relevant and provocative themes well suited for a miniseries. “Doing it over 10 hours allows us to explore all the interesting topics that make the case what it is: the LAPD and race, women in the workplace, the birth of media culture, and 24-hour television,” says Karaszewski. Adds Gooding: “When you see these 10 episodes, you will come to the realization of ‘Yeah, I understand now why it was a not-guilty verdict’ — it’s because of the insanity of what went down.”
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The people behind ACS hope that wherever you fall on the verdict (or the players), the series will give you another perspective into history. “Whether you think O.J. did it or not was never what fundamentally interested us,” says executive producer Nina Jacobson (the Hunger Games franchise). “What interested us was to understand how that verdict was reached and what it meant to the people involved.” Adds executive producer Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story), “It really shows you how we got to the place we are now in our culture. It changed the world in a very big way.”
This week’s EW also has a deep-dive into this year’s Oscar race including interviews with the nominees, an oral history of the classic Ordinary People, a profile of former Best Actress winner Glenda Jackson (Women in Love), and a discussion of this year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy.
For more on The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and the Oscar nominations, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday.