The all-star cast of FX’s “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson” came together for a screening of the finale episode and panel at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on Monday night. Jeffrey Toobin moderated the panel, which served mostly as a lovefest and affirmation of how much this group enjoyed working together.
On the red carpet before the screening, the cast and creatives shared reflections on the impact the miniseries made now that it’s aired. Variety also asked if they’re going to be part of the second season, which will focus on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, keeping in mind no official announcements have been made yet — but Ryan Murphy has a history of drawing from the same talent pool season to season. Finally, the cast members shared what they might have asked their real-life counterparts if they had spoken to them.
“Reading the first script with the bible of all the rest of the scripts, it was clear the intentions were multifaceted, to enlighten,” John Travolta said of the series. “This was not intended for a guilty pleasure. It was to address race issues, journalism, 24-hour news, the broken judicial system. It was intended to address all that and reveal truths that hitherto had not been revealed.”
Cuba Gooding Jr. also expressed his pride in the series’ quality. “It was my desire to work with a real filmmaker in Ryan Murphy and I knew he would bring a level of excellence to this that I’d be proud of even if only four people saw this.”
“Ryan Murphy is a master at tapping into the zeitgeist and really creating things that hit a nerve,” Connie Britton said. “He’s just a genius at it. Knowing that about him, and seeing the way the culture is now, seeing how relevant so many of the issues in the case are now, I certainly had an idea it might hit a nerve.”
Gooding Jr. also defended his choice not to meet with Simpson ahead of filming.
“I could’ve talked to O.J. but I didn’t want to sit with him and have his mindset, with this man, sixtysomething years old, in prison, reflecting on his life because I needed the mindset of O.J. Simpson when he was 40 and he was vibrant and the charismatic guy,” Gooding Jr. said. “My research was more about studying the footage and talking to people who knew him back when.
Courtney B. Vance, who plays Johnnie Cochran, praised his real-life counterpart.
“If he was alive, he’d still be in motion doing wonderful things,” Vance said of Cochran. “Who knows? If he was still alive, we may not even be here, with all the troubles we’re having.”
All of the assembled cast members indicated they’d jump at the chance of participating in the next season.
“If Ryan Murphy asked me to read the phone book, I’d read it for him,” Sterling K. Brown said.
Toobin reflected on the series now that it has aired and he’s heard so many reactions: “I was beyond thrilled with the intelligence and the passion. The word I always use with this series is ‘complicated’; these characters are complicated, not the cardboard figures many people thought they were during the trial. I think that’s most evident with Sarah Paulson’s brilliant portrayal of Marcia Clark. But it’s true of all of them. You see the richness and complexity of these people. The finale to me was melancholy. Obviously, it’s not a cliffhanger. What was so impressive was that you saw how much was lost by everyone; of course the Browns and the Goldmans more than anyone, but also all the characters who realized their lives would never be the same.”