FX’s new miniseries The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story has an all-star cast including Sarah Paulson, David Schwimmer, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Connie Britton, and Courtney B. Vance.
But the biggest star in the series was also the hardest to lock down: John Travolta. The actor, who last appeared in a major TV role on 1975’s Welcome, Back Kotter, was unsure about signing on to play Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro. “I had been approached a number of times [to do TV],” Travolta tells EW. “I spent so many years doing film. I admired television and its evolution. I was in love with Mad Men and a couple of other series. I thought they were doing the quality of good film, of a great feature film. I decided it was worth a gander to at least hear what [executive producers] Ryan Murphy and Nina Jacobson had to say about it.”
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So the Pulp Fiction star met with Murphy and Jacobson. “I was trying to do the unexpected piece of casting,” explains Murphy of chasing Travolta. “We never in that meeting talked that much about the project. I think he wanted to feel us out. I just talked to him about the movies I loved that he did. I remember we had a 15-minute talk about my obsession with Perfect and I think he thought that was funny. Then, he read the scripts and was obsessed with them. Once he said yes, creatively it was a lot about points. I gave up points to get him. I just wanted him. I think it was a smart decision because I think he adds some great piece of sizzle to it.”
Adds Travolta, “The thing that sold me finally was not the sensationalism of the piece but more that it was going to be an echo of how it changed society.”
The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story debuts Feb. 2 at 10 p.m. ET on FX.