How will American Crime Story follow up The People v. O.J. Simpson? With a story about an equally sensational murder that you might not know quite as well.
The second installment of FX’s Emmy-winning franchise — The Assassination of Gianni Versace, slated to debut in January — centers on the 1997 murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez) by serial killer Andrew Cunanan (Glee‘s Darren Criss). And at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Wednesday, reporters got a sneak peek at Versace‘s first scene, which depicts the infamous murder, with a frenzied Cunanan ambushing Versace at the gates of his Miami mansion and shooting him dead in cold blood. But according to executive producer/director Ryan Murphy, Versace is about much more than the murder itself.
“More than why he was killed, it’s sort of why it was allowed to happen,” he teased, adding that “Versace… really did not have to die,” blaming the crime in part on “homophobia at the time” and noting that local police “refused to put up ‘wanted’ posters, even though they knew Andrew Cunanan had probably committed many of these murders.” The use of the word “Assassination” in the title is deliberate, Murphy says, because the word “has a political overtone… someone killed to make a point.” (Cunanan was found to have been targeting gay men.)
The Versace season starts out on the day Gianni Versace was killed, Murphy hints, and then goes back to fill in the backstory of both Versace and Cunanan: “We’re telling this story backwards. The first episode deals with the murder itself, and then we go in reverse.”
Is it daunting to follow up a runaway success like O.J., though? “You’re never going to do O.J. again,” Murphy admits. “To sort of chase that ghost is insane.” He says Versace is a much different show, stylistically: “That was a much more interior show. We spent so much time in that courthouse. Here, we really go across the country. It’s a manhunt season… it has a great breadth and a great scope.”
Plus, Murphy says he appreciates the flamboyant sense of style this new season is allowed to have: “It was a real relief for me not to have to shoot boxy wool suits. I was like, ‘A pink robe… yes!'”