“People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” which has been showered with Emmys, is a prime example of feature film talent flocking to TV in order to take on the kind of material that doesn’t play much at the multiplexes these days.
“People v. O.J. Simpson” marked the first-ever TV project by veteran film producers Brad Simpson and Nina Jacobson, whose credits include “The Hunger Games” films.
The 10-hour miniseries also was the first time screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Kazaszewski turned their efforts to the small screen. The same is true for D.V. DeVincentis, who won a writing Emmy for his work on the show.
“We are totally spoiled by TV,” Simpson said, noting their good fortune with the success of “People V. O.J. Simpson.” The pair shepherded the adaptation of Jeffrey Toobin’s nonfiction tome for some time before they were paired with uber-producer Ryan Murphy by FX.
Simpson and Jacobson’s initial interest in taking on the project “was driven by creative jealously toward TV. There’s a great wealth of TV storytelling,” Simpson said. “That’s where the talent is going right now to be able to tell a multi-layered story. To deal with difficult issues is not something that’s happening in features right now.”
Jacobson said they recognized that the passage of time allowed writers and viewers to take a new look at the characters “in a way that allowed people to have access to both sides” of the Simpson story. “That’s part of why it became such a vibrant conversation” about racial issues and the criminal justice system, she said.
“People” star John Travolta echoed Simpson’s sentiment regarding TV vs. film. “Important artists are attracted to freedom of expression. TV is more liberal than movies are right now. You’re limited in movies right now,” he said.
Murphy emphasized that the “People” team went into the project focused on raising larger social issues that are relevant today.
“In the wrong hands it could have been very tabloid-y,” he said. “We worked hard to make it about something deeper and more serious and more modern.”