News

Darren Criss Is the Male Sarah Paulson and 6 More Things To Know About American Crime Story Season 2

The series’ star and producers give a behind-the-scenes look at The Assassination of Gianni Versace.

by | January 16, 2018 | Comments

American Crime Story made The People Vs. O.J. Simpson a phenomenon all over again, over 20 years after the actual verdict. The Gianni Versace murder was not as sensationalized a case, so the FX anthology series took a different approach on The Assassination of Gianni Versace.

Based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History, the show opens with Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) pulling the trigger on Versace (Edgar Ramirez) and flashes back to events that explained how Cunanan and Versace collided in tragedy.

Cunanan killed four men before Versace, and Criss portrays the serial killer’s growing homophobia and escalating delusions. The show unfolds in reverse, with Cunanan and Versace crossing paths, but mostly existing separately.

Criss spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, after the Television Critics Association winter press tour panel, during which creator Ryan Murphy revealed details about the series and its stars. Producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson also weighed in. Here are seven things they shared about the second season of the series.


1. RYAN MURPHY HAS CALLED HIM THE MALE SARAH PAULSON

“Darren was, to me, the male version of Sarah Paulson,” American Crime Story creator Murphy said to reporters after a panel, invoking his muse who played Marcia Clark in The People Vs. O.J. Simpson. Murphy saw her as a lead actor and gave her that role to show the world. He sees that for Criss in the role of Andrew Cunanan.

“Well, I think that’s an insult to Sarah Paulson,” Criss modestly joked. “Poor Sarah, who’s had an amazing career, done amazing work, spanning all kinds of places.”

Ultimately Criss accepts the challenge to live up to Murphy’s go-to star.

“Hey, I’ll take it,” Criss said. “I realize what he means. The person in the roster that is doing a project with a lot of eyes on it. If my name is uttered in the same sentence as her at any point, that’s a thrill.”

If anything, Criss has some catching up to do to live up to Paulson’s ongoing legacy.

“It always blew my mind that after O.J., people said that was a real turning point for her,” Criss said. “I think it has less to do with her ability and more about the visibility of the shows that Ryan touches.”


2. CRISS UNDERSTANDS CUNANAN’S LIES

We all know people who embellish their stories to make themselves sound more important. That behavior may be annoying, but most of them won’t kill us over it. Cunanan’s lies, unfortunately, turned deadly. Criss saw a parallel to some of the more harmless white lies we all commit.

“I think his lies, his stories, his delusions of grandeur were an effort for him to be in control of the way he was viewed, just the way any of us curate our lives with filters on Instagram, with selfies from a certain angle,” Criss said. “These are obviously on a smaller scale and much more socially acceptable. But if you took that to an extreme, that’s what he was doing.”

According to the show, Cunanan lied to Versace to try to make himself a closer acquaintance. Then he lied to others about how close he was to Versace.

“He needed to be in control of all the things that he didn’t have, which is to pretend they were a reality and tell other people they were,” Criss said. “Because he was such a narcissist, by telling people and telling himself, he could ipso facto make them true to himself. And if he couldn’t have it and it couldn’t be true, then he’d have to destroy it.”

Orth’s book suggested that lying was Cunanan’s way of crafting new personas, and Simpson elaborated on the killer’s pathology.

“In some ways, I think it was trying on identities and trying on personalities,” Simpson said. “I think he was taught though. His dad was a scam artist who abandoned the family when Cunanan was 18 and made them all go bankrupt. I think that idea that the truth is elastic was something he was taught by his family.”


3. CUNANAN WANTED TO BE SOMEBODY ELSE

Simpson believed Cunanan lied to craft a new identity.

“I also felt like he wanted to be somebody else,” Simpson said. “He wanted to be different. He didn’t want to be that half Filipino kid from a working-class background. He wanted to be the guy in Vanity Fair.”

If Cunanan wanted to be someone else, it was important to cast someone who could embody who he was. Criss’s heritage was a factor; the actor is actually half Filipino on his mother’s side, like Cunanan was.

“The idea of not whitewashing the half Filipino side and casting a white dude was important,” Jacobson said. “Darren had Ryan’s endorsement and understanding of him as an actor, great look for the part, and then was authentically half Filipino like Andrew was.”


4. CUNANAN’S OBSESSION EVOLVES VICTIM BY VICTIM

Three of Cunanan’s four prior victims get their own episode to explore their relationships with Cunanan. The fourth, William Reese, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, as Cunanan stole his truck. Criss explained how each killing builds off the prior one.

“It escalates,” Criss said. “This was somebody whose crimes were a crime of passion in the beginning. He crossed a certain threshold, and there was a change of his pathology.”

His third victim, Lee Miglin, was a Chicago real estate mogul who’d hired Cunanan as an escort. Miglin was married at the time. His wife Marlyn discovered his body, staged by Cunanan.

“It became less something personal to people around him, more about proving a point on a larger scale to hurting someone like Lee and hurting someone like Versace,” Criss said. “Yeah, there’s a differentiation between each of the murders for sure.”

Each victim was also a step towards Cunanan’s ultimate target, the title of the show.

“The throughline of Andrew’s obsession with Versace, once he snapped, he’s on this mission,” Jacobson added. “Really, the shock of killing people who are dear to you, I still get very disturbed by. The idea that he’s not somebody who has one moment; it’s these sequential moments of calculated choices from a guy that was not a murderer born. I think there are people who are born missing the empathy gene, missing the fear gene. That wasn’t him.”


5. THE SHOW IS GRAPHIC. CUNANAN MADE SURE OF THAT

The show portrays murders like Lee Miglin’s as they must have happened to end up where they did. Miglin’s body was bound with wounds from a screwdriver and saw, ribs broken, throat slashed, and stabbed.

“We’re always trying to strike a balance of you know what the crime scenes look like so you can glean what the murder was,” Jacobson said. “You don’t want to be exploitive and at the same time, you don’t want to shy away from the horror of it.”

The show spends time on Cunanan’s psychological torture of his victims leading up to the murders.

“The Lee Miglin murder was staged to shame and embarrass him,” Jacobson said. “The way he manipulates David by saying, ‘This is what they’ll find. You’ll be assumed to be guilty.’ Those things all seem very important to cover.


6. IT GOES ALL THE WAY BACK TO CHILDHOOD

Episode 8 ultimately shows Cunanan as a child and in high school, exploring motivations and warning signs that early. It was important to Criss that the show try to explain this tragedy.

“It all has to add up,” Criss said. “It all has to connect together, otherwise there’s no point in showing the horrible stuff, because then it’s just exposing something horrible that we already know is horrible. We have to keep having every moment beforehand connected to it in some way so it’s not just gratuitous.”

Learning of his father’s scam was certainly a turning point for Andrew.

“I think finding anybody when they’re younger tells a bit of an origin story as it were,” Criss continued, “of not only where this guy came from, a better sense of how and why it went wrong, how it went astray.”

Criss still plays Cunanan at 18, by the way.

“For the first half we have a great young actor, Edouard Holdener who plays young Cunanan,” Simpson said. “For the rest of it, it’s Darren because Darren is very youthful looking and can still play an 18-year-old luckily.”


7. CRISS WILL BE BACK FOR MORE RYAN MURPHY SHOWS

If he is going to be the male Sarah Paulson, that means Criss will have to come back for every show Murphy does. Criss is on board, but isn’t aware of any future roles just yet.

“Who knows what the future holds,” Criss said. “Ryan is a dear friend, a true collaborator, and he’s been a champion for me. So f— yeah, if I can keep doing what we’ve been doing, I should be so lucky.”

Criss’s dream was to be part of a theater company where the same troupe performed different shows. Murphy’s managed to keep most of the same cast together across American Crime Story, American Horror Story, Feud, and Glee.

“I always grew up with this notion, I idolized repertory theater companies,” Criss said. “I had no idea that in my life I would be able to do that in the television world with someone like Ryan Murphy. [Sarah and I] are both lucky enough to have stumbled somehow into Ryan’s repertory player situation.”


American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace premieres January 17 at 10p.m. on FX.

Tag Cloud

Thanksgiving game show Teen tv talk Creative Arts Emmys Holidays Hear Us Out cancelled TV series First Reviews comedies Lucasfilm vampires Showtime The Arrangement romantic comedy GLAAD DGA teaser TCA 2017 ID Infographic Marvel Cartoon Network NBC Reality CNN facebook TCA A24 A&E 2020 Universal zero dark thirty cops American Society of Cinematographers TLC laika critics Pet Sematary Mary poppins Marvel Studios spy thriller TV cartoon video Pop TV Peacock halloween tv Holiday YouTube Red Fox Searchlight Nominations CMT Biopics Winter TV australia kids Super Bowl 71st Emmy Awards crossover Spring TV LGBT free movies The Purge justice league universal monsters Apple TV+ Disney Channel MTV Baby Yoda Brie Larson ESPN History Anna Paquin singing competition BET DC streaming service Ghostbusters zombie Marathons historical drama First Look Polls and Games what to watch Western obituary Amazon Studios nfl Ovation werewolf Mary Tyler Moore video on demand dogs canceled Emmy Nominations toronto rotten TIFF fast and furious a nightmare on elm street Mystery Syfy name the review 2018 Tumblr cancelled television FX on Hulu Columbia Pictures Disney streaming service criterion Black History Month news Drama technology comics Superheroe Sundance OneApp Disney adventure rotten movies we love sitcom dragons AMC children's TV TV renewals E! HBO Max spain slashers Masterpiece HBO Sundance TV Amazon Prime screen actors guild NYCC Funimation See It Skip It crime thriller green book Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt south america anime indiana jones Cosplay travel romance japanese Set visit 99% Musical Spectrum Originals Hulu 21st Century Fox Election Action Avengers Reality Competition cults ABC child's play parents Rocketman hollywood Valentine's Day Pop venice psycho Interview Sony Pictures Summer VOD all-time RT21 PBS Nickelodeon mission: impossible archives joker TBS DC Universe foreign Arrowverse 2019 spinoff witnail thriller APB Fall TV based on movie boxing 72 Emmy Awards USA best discovery christmas movies TruTV casting Emmys GIFs Quiz latino dark cars ratings Trivia Acorn TV Family Disney Plus true crime Food Network natural history WarnerMedia Apple dceu Walt Disney Pictures transformers hist ITV BET Awards renewed TV shows Rom-Com GoT Lifetime Christmas movies Box Office finale Extras Tubi Ellie Kemper SXSW documentary cooking Fantasy Discovery Channel Television Academy TCA Awards police drama crime drama streaming war PaleyFest remakes Hallmark quibi television Tarantino Comedy Christmas Superheroes DirecTV revenge reboot Countdown worst movies IFC Films Television Critics Association jamie lee curtis series scary movies Lifetime worst scorecard award winner Toys Comic Book football Apple TV Plus composers YouTube 2015 game of thrones doctor who animated festival mockumentary Film Festival Shudder X-Men space harry potter BBC America BBC Bravo sequels twilight Netflix Christmas movies Schedule talk show Endgame Lionsgate chucky films richard e. Grant cats TNT Heroines satire adaptation Star Wars movies Video Games Pirates indie directors Music Comedy Central Film Trailer BAFTA National Geographic MSNBC CW Seed fresh The Walking Dead blaxploitation halloween Netflix Premiere Dates The Witch dramedy New York Comic Con FXX Mary Poppins Returns biography Sci-Fi El Rey mutant Turner sequel versus Pixar SDCC USA Network Academy Awards Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Watching Series FOX spanish language spanish IFC supernatural Sneak Peek Amazon medical drama Vudu TCA Winter 2020 Writers Guild of America Country Sundance Now WGN Calendar Logo Year in Review independent political drama diversity cancelled TV shows Mindy Kaling concert Turner Classic Movies 2016 deadpool binge Starz Binge Guide TV Land Certified Fresh unscripted superhero asian-american 2017 Cannes Mudbound comic books serial killer strong female leads breaking bad Grammys Rocky Shondaland MCU Travel Channel The Academy Musicals aliens VH1 45 Horror Martial Arts die hard Hallmark Christmas movies Oscars ABC Family emmy awards The CW politics sports canceled TV shows boxoffice 20th Century Fox 24 frames hispanic Tomatazos docudrama stop motion President rt archives social media classics Captain marvel anthology stoner cinemax TCM OWN Marvel Television Song of Ice and Fire Freeform festivals Star Trek zombies Adult Swim screenings book Epix period drama 4/20 ghosts Crunchyroll comic E3 Women's History Month cancelled Dark Horse Comics franchise Spike YA Elton John Black Mirror Britbox stand-up comedy Animation PlayStation Opinion psychological thriller FX crime Fox News Pride Month Amazon Prime Video golden globes Awards Tour Awards black movie HBO Go blockbuster documentaries Chernobyl Winners YouTube Premium CBS Photos DC Comics dc Comics on TV robots french Paramount Crackle italian LGBTQ San Diego Comic-Con nbcuniversal Best and Worst science fiction Red Carpet Disney+ Disney Plus Paramount Network Alien CBS All Access Nat Geo Esquire sag awards Warner Bros. Character Guide RT History miniseries Kids & Family disaster Classic Film elevated horror toy story reviews BBC One SundanceTV Podcast 007 Trophy Talk nature james bond spider-man comiccon Stephen King Rock VICE theme song batman