Hollywood producers Ryan Murphy and Nina Jacobson are producing The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, premiering Feb. 2 on FX, according to The Hollywood Reporter (THR).
Based on Jeffrey Toobin's book The Run of his Life, the 10-episode series is, as THR puts it, a "meticulous blow-by-blow of the case, illuminating all the ways it inflamed racial politics, presaged the reign of reality TV, set the gold standard for saturation news coverage and tainted everyone involved as a tabloid caricature."
The first installment in an anthology that will take on a different real-life crime story each season, The People v. O.J. Simpson stars John Travolta as Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro, Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran, David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, Sarah Paulson as prosecutor Marcia Clark, and Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J.
Gooding had once rooted for Simpson's acquittal: "Back then, I was just so relieved that another black man got away from the injustice that was the LAPD. I was just so relieved that they didn't screw us over again." But in his preparation for the role of O.J., the Oscar winner says, "There was one day after filming that I went to my trailer and I couldn't stop crying because I realized I never [even considered the loss] for the Goldman or Brown family."
As THR notes, during the course of O.J.'s eight-month murder trial, Cochran, the flashy leader of the"dream team" of attorneys, successfully transformed the case into a referendum on race. With a jury of nine blacks, two whites and one Hispanic, he got the verdict he wanted in less than four hours of deliberation. Actor Vance, who plays Cochran, says,
"Unlike others, who got surprised by the moment and found themselves trying to catch up, Johnnie recognized that this case was absolutely about race and not about anything else, and his whole professional life to that point had been about that."
The tale of Simpson at the center of all that racial madness was what inspired New Yorker legal writer Toobin to publish his book in 1996, and what prompted Jacobson and her producing partner Brad Simpson to option it and sell it first to Fox and then to FX nearly 20 years later. They believe it has greater relevance now than ever, thanks to the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, and Michael Brown, not to mention the Black Lives Matter movement. As Brad Simpson noted,
"As those things happened, we started to realize, 'Oh, we're not going to have to be telling people why the race story is important.' It was intense to be working on a show and watching the news come out and feeling like we're not making a historical piece anymore."
Toobin, a consultant on the project, even described it as a "10-hour trailer for Black Lives Matter." Really? But the Black Lives Matter movement claims to be about the targeting of innocent blacks at the hands of racist police, so Toobin's reference is a curious one for a project that insists it doesn't take a stand on O.J.'s guilt or innocence.
Time will tell whether The People v. O.J. Simpson truly aims for objectivity or shapes up to be Hollywood's attempt to whitewash the butchery of which O.J. was acquitted.