“Movies originally attracted the artist because of the freedom, and now all that freedom is on TV,” said The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’s John Travolta, holding the show’s Emmy for Outstanding Limited Series. In addition to playing Simpson legal meister Robert Shapiro, and being nominated for the supporting role, Travolta also served as a producer on the FX program, which took home five Emmys tonight, to go with its four at the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend.
“Artists are more attracted to the freedom of expression, and TV is more liberal than movies now,” Travolta said.
People v. O.J. Simpson director and EP Ryan Murphy exclaimed that the first installment of FX’s American Crime Story is centered on “interesting and socially relevant stories, that’s what we started here tonight.”
The creators had discussed at various TCA panels that the current era was prime to tell the People v. O.J. Simpson story, as time heals all wounds. Scribe/EP Scott Alexander said of the show, which was based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Run of His Life, “We were trying to show everyone’s side, level the playing field, but to also show the personalities of the trial that wound up being two-dimensional on Court TV — to show them as human beings. Hopefully it didn’t seem black and white.” Said writer Larry Karaszewski, “The social issues that the trial brought us — race, gender and media — all these things are still relevant today.”
The People v. O.J. Simpson‘s Emmy-laden rep company were inundated with questions about bringing their court celebrities to life.
Commenting on his portrayal of Shapiro, Travolta said: “I had such joy in portraying him. He entertained me as equally as he entertained the audience. I found out two things in playing him: He was more family-oriented than I realized, and he worried about the big picture at various times.” Travolta lost out to his castmate Sterling K. Brown tonight in the limited series supporting actor category.
Brown, who played prosecutor Christopher Darden, was beaming backstage after the show. “The Emmy stage was a surreal experience,” he said. “I think I floated out of my body. The actor said he initially was “on the side of the defense” in the real Simpson trial but admitted to having a change of opinion after being “entrenched on the side if the prosecution and recognizing what they were working with and working against.” But what most concerned him about the case was the injustice faced by the black community. “Not everyone feels as though they are protected.”
Courtney B. Vance, who won his first Emmy for playing defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, shared that he was a big O.J. Simpson fan during his Hall of Fame football career. As a young actor, Vance also met the real Cochrane. When the murder trial happened, “I blocked it out; I didn’t follow it,” he said. “This [show] was an opportunity for me to educate myself as to what happened.”
While Murphy insisted that the actors, in preparing for their roles, not meet the people they were portraying on the series, Sarah Paulson — who won the first Emmy of her career is her sixth nomination — delved into a number of books that lead prosecutor Marcia Clark wrote. But one piece of research stood out that showed Clark’s vulnerability: “I found footage of her on the way to the courtroom when she didn’t know she was being filmed that was kind of my favorite stuff to watch.” Paulson added there was “a failing of women” to acknowledge Clark. “I think an apology was in order.”