5:37pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'American Crime Story' Team Discusses 'Katrina' and Split 'O.J.' Viewer Reactions to Verdict
There is a great deal of secrecy around Ryan Murphy's TV series these days.
A few hours after FX chief John Landgraf confirmed Tuesday that the theme of American Horror Story's sixth installment won't be revealed before the premiere, American Crime Story producers kept pretty mum about what to expect from their follow-up to The People v. O.J. Simpson.
But executive producer Brad Simpson, returning for FX's upcoming examination of Hurricane Katrina, did not leave the Television Critics Association's summer press tour crowd completely hanging Tuesday afternoon.
"There's a writers room right now, working on Katrina," he said. " We're just starting to get the episodes in. I'm sadly not going to make any big news, but you will have the famous people. You will also have the people who weren't famous. ... It's going to be about the intensity of what it was like to be there on the ground — and also the bigger crime, that Katrina was something that was predictable."
Simpson described Katrina as "tonally and thematically incredibly differently" and said that, "Like O.J., it turns the lens on America." That was about it, though he did intimate that some of the actors from American Crime Story would be returning. (None are confirmed for the project.)
It's not common for a series that's already run its course to be paneled for the TCA, but The People v. O.J. Simpson has not had a typical lifespan. The team behind the 10-part examination of the trial that rocked the U.S. in the '90s, nominated for 22 Emmys, spent the rest of their Tuesday panel discussing the reactions to the series and the (very few) things they didn't get to do.
A lot of that lingered on the question of Simpson's guilt, a subject that the project never really takes an stance on. Star Cuba Gooding Jr., who still hasn't watched the series, said that the original racial divide over the "not guilty" verdict has flipped for many of the people he's met. He said he's been struck by the number of black viewers who've approached him to say that they now think that Simpson did murder Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman — and the white viewers who said the series made them second-guess their original take.
And while the actor has not watched his own show, he has seen the 30 for 30 documentary feature about his alter ego. "Those five hours really blew me away," said Gooding. "I had forgotten how much he was loved. And how much of an iconic figure he was."
As for scrapped storylines, producer Larry Karaszewski says they originally wanted 11 hours for the series — so that the premiere could focus entirely on the night of the murders. "A complete procedural of how things went down," he said. "We decided you wouldn't meet our cast, so we stepped back and said, "That's ridiculous.'"
His writing partner Scott Alexander added that they wanted to spend more time on the jury selection, like author Jeffrey Toobin did in the source material, The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson, but it ended up being too much minutia.
None of those assembled were eager to really divulge their own options of the acquitted Simpson — except Sarah Paulson, who played prosecutor Marcia Clark. Visibly frustrated by watching the scene where the verdict is read, the actress recalled the day on set.
"It felt like if we did it right, the verdict would be different," said Paulson. "That obviously didn't happen."