The O.J. Simpson murder trial, which, for better or worse, captivated the American public 20 years ago, is getting a reboot of sorts, with a new dramatized anthology series co-starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and John Travolta.
Dubbed the “trial of the century,” the Simpson trial was a pop culture phenomenon but also one of the most racially divisive stories of the 1990s. Simpson was acquitted in the killings of his ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. A poll conducted last year showed that a majority of African-Americans now believe Simpson was guilty in the case. Simpson himself remains behind bars for a Las Vegas robbery attempt. Still, the murder trial continues to fascinate after all these years. To this day, some people consider the trial to be the first true reality TV blockbuster.
The first edition of “American Crime Story” will star Gooding, Jr. as Simpson and Travolta as his high-priced attorney, Robert Shapiro. “Friends” veteran David Schwimmer has been tapped to play the late Robert Kardashian, a Simpson friend who wound up spawning one of the most successful reality TV show franchises in history starring his daughter Kim. “12 Years a Slave” actress Sarah Paulson will play prosecutor Marcia Clark, and the project is being produced by the brains behind “American Horror Story,” “Nip\Tuck” and “Glee,” Ryan Murphy.
“That trial sort of gave birth to a new kind of media coverage,” Murphy told the Associated Press at Fox’s upfront presentation on Monday. “It felt like an origin story of something that was the first and now we’re still dealing with the reverberations of that so it feels very modern to me.”
The series, which is based on a book by legal journalist Jeffrey Toobin, will recreate the drama of the trial and the unrelenting media circus around it – which made unorthodox household names out of witnesses like Mark Fuhrman and Kato Kaelin, and inspired one of the more memorable gags from Jay Leno’s tenure as a “Tonight Show” host – the dancing Itos – a spoof of the trial’s judge.
Following the near publication of a memoir entitled “If I Did It,” Simpson’s guilt became a forgone conclusion for some Americans. But Gooding, Jr., an Academy Award winner for “Jerry Maguire” doesn’t believe “American Crime Story” will be about re-litigating the contentious case.
“People keep asking me whether I think he did it or not, and I don’t think that’s the goal here, to prove his innocence or his guilt,” Gooding said at the upfront event. “I think it’s more us putting the judicial system under the spotlight … We try to find a truth in the moment so that we can find answers. I think this 10 hours of television is gonna be very powerful, and I think a lot of people are going to learn a lot.”