That’s the best word that Ryan Murphy, his creative team and cast had to describe their labor of love, the 18-Emmy nominated The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.
While the LGBT community was making strides against social adversity during the ’90s, the murder of Italian fashion designer Versace left a hole; not just in the downfall of a beloved icon, but in the fact that his killing, as Murphy has mentioned previously, was at the hands of someone, that being Andrew Cunanan, “who specifically went out of his way to shame and out people…He was having a form of payback for a life he could not live.” Meanwhile, institutionalized homophobia by the Feds and local police are to blame as to why Cunanan wasn’t stopped sooner in his killing spree.
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“It’s a contemporary period piece, but it feels so modern to me, the things we were grappling with then, we’re still grappling with,” said Murphy at Deadline’s Emmy FYC event at the LACMA Wednesday night.
Murphy said he was “haunted by” the Versace murder when it happened, “There was a shock and pain that we moved through (then).”
“American Crime Story at its best is something that tackles social issues and explores them, it’s not just really about a crime, it’s about something more societal at its best.” added the four-time Emmy winner of Glee, The Normal Heart and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
“It was extraordinary to have this experience and to shine a light on this older man and younger man and people from Minneapolis and Chicago, whose lives I knew nothing about who had struggled to find their existence in America despite being gay,” said Tom Rob Smith, who is Emmy-nominated in the limited series writing category, about Cunanan’s victims, former U.S. Navy officer Jeffrey Trail and 72-year-old real estate developer Lee Miglin.
Edgar Ramirez, who as Versace received his second Emmy nomination (this time in the supporting actor limited series category) admired the series’ portrayal of complex familial relationships: “You see how two families, one which was able to stick together and deal with adversity and all the punches of life that were given to them, and how they overcame it (the Versaces). Even when the sun of that universe, Gianni, disappeared, this horrible vacuum didn’t suck any member of the family; they were able to manage. Then you had the Cunanan family who couldn’t work out their shortcomings and frustration in the end; they created somebody who would destroy so much.”
Darren Criss had the bold opportunity to portray Cunanan, a role which Murphy always knew the former Glee actor had the dramatic chops to pull off.
Criss, who is nominated in the lead actor limited category, savored the role’s complexity, especially in how it illustrated the sensitive nerves and inner-workings of a broken young man: “The story is a coming-of-age tragedy. We are looking for so many reasons to like this person, even though we have every reason not to.”
“We spoke about that, you and I,” Murphy told Criss last night, “No one is born a monster. Monsters are created. I thought that was an important part of the show.”
No more is The Assassination of Gianni Versace more cathartic than for Ricky Martin, who beamed in via satellite at last night’s panel, after Judith Light. Both are respectively nominated as limited series best supporting actor and supporting actress. Martin was taking off during the ’90s as a pop singer when the Versace murder occurred, and struggled with coming out. For him, the second season of American Crime Story is an anthem to those in the LGBT community who continue to struggle.
“We need to be loud and be very specific, and very aggressive about telling a story that really makes a difference, in everyone,” said Martin about being cast in the series as Versace’s lover, Antonio D’Amico. It was D’Amico who found the fashion designer’s bloody body, and was ultimately cast out of the House of Versace following the icon’s death. Martin met with D’Amico in prepping for the role, and told the crowd that there were “no easy scenes in this series; every scene was complicated, was traumatic, intense and painful.”
Murphy, who moderated last night’s session, asked Martin about replaying and echoing a tormented part of his life during the ’90s on camera.
The Grammy winner said, “It was very healthy for me to relive everything.”
“You felt it was a catharsis, in many ways?” asked Murphy.
“It was cathartic for me in many ways. When we shot the scene where Gianni comes out to the media and introduces my character as his partner, I remember when I had to hide my partners, my boyfriends, because I wasn’t ready to accept and share with the world my sexual identify, so it was very moving,” said Martin.
“I know this conversation (tonight) will make an impact for a lot of people who are struggling, who are dealing right now with the level of injustice, not just in America. But I just came back from Dubai and people were asking me what it was like to play Antonio,” said Martin, “And for me, Dubai, such a conservative country, that they were open to talking about this –man, Ryan– we made a difference. This is something to celebrate.”
Also at last night’s panel were Emmy nominated supporting actor Finn Wittrock (who plays Trail), and EPs Brad Simpson and Alexis Martin Woodall. In the video above, Murphy, the cast, and EPs recall their experiences shooting in Versace’s actual Miami mansion.
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