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Ryan Murphy captured lightning in a bottle with the first season of his latest FX anthology series, American Crime Story. Ten episodes devoted to the intimate details of the O.J. Simpson story as well as its larger legal and cultural repercussions earned critical raves, broke FX records and picked up a stunning 22 Emmy nominations. Now, the prolific producer has begun the process of doing it all over again.
One question that’s persisted since The Hollywood Reporter first reported that season two would focus on 2005’s Hurricane Katrina is just how Murphy would make the considerably more recent New Orleans saga as broadly appealing as O.J. had proved. After all, it lacked the many entry points — including sports, celebrity and distance — that drew viewers to season one. What’s more, would it be possible to make Katrina anything more than a seasonlong downer?
Murphy, who’s relying on Douglas Brinkley’s The Great Deluge as source material, is confident that it is as much a story of survival as it is one of devastation. “It’s an amazing tragedy that you cannot believe happened in America. But along with the overwhelming horribleness and sadness, you also have amazing stories of [people] coming together,” he tells THR. “We’re laying into what do you do when you’re in a city and your government has abandoned you? You get out by climbing up and pulling up people with you, and to a large degree that’s what the miniseries is about. It’s not just what happened but heroic stories about people surviving — or in some cases, dying helping others.”
Season one stars Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr. and John Travolta have already publicly expressed interest in returning to the series, but Murphy suggests no formal cast deals have been inked as he’d like to be able to provide these actors with completed scripts before anyone signs on. “I don’t think it’s going to be like American Horror Story where you see almost the entire troupe return,” he says. “You will see some people, but not all of them.” Though no role is as juicy as a Kardashian, he revealed they will cast actors as George W. Bush and other then-officeholders who played key roles in the event including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco.
D.V. DeVincentis, writer of the acclaimed “Marcia Marcia Marcia” episode of O.J., is said to have taken a key position in the writers room — season one head writer-producers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski are off adapting another Jeffrey Toobin book, about Patty Hearst’s kidnapping, for the big screen — and Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson remain intimately involved as producers.
Murphy, who suggests he, Jacobson and Simpson are already sifting through stories for future seasons, anticipates supersizing this one with 13 to 15 episodes. “It’s sprawling,” he says of the story, adding: “You’re following a cast of characters from before the storm hits to its aftermath, and that’s a big story.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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