After tapping into the zeitgeist with The People v. O.J. Simpson, FX’s American Crime Story is shaping up to look very different in its likely second iteration.
FX hasn’t formally greenlighted the anthology series for a second season yet, but the order is all but inevitable given the critical (and ratings) buzz the first installment generated. Plus, showrunner Ryan Murphy has already landed on a theme, which is more than he can say for his other FX miniseries, American Horror Story.
Here’s what we know so far about season two of American Crime Story:
1. It will be about Hurricane Katrina.
Murphy revealed in The Hollywood Reporter’s January cover story that the upcoming season will center on Hurricane Katrina and its devastating aftermath. In a subsequent interview, FX chief John Landgraf offered up a little more about the draw of the subject matter: “[Katrina] is a big, epic story,” he said. “On one level, it’s a disaster story with all the sort of human scale and tragedy and interest that any story might have, but then inside it there are all these other fascinating sub-stories. Why were the levees flawed? How did they get that way? Why were there hospitals where life-support systems were being turned off? How did a bunch of people end up inside the Superdome, essentially living here in squalid conditions?”
2. The show will broaden its definition of “crime.”
When asked about the Katrina theme not being a clear-cut court case like People v. O.J. Simpson, Landgraf told THR that the cabler wasn’t the least bit concerned about it. “It’s not a singular crime in the way that there was a murder or two murders in O.J., but there were a series of pretty serious crimes that took place in and around Katrina,” he said. Murphy, for his part, added: “I want this show to be a socially conscious, socially aware examination of different types of crime around the world. And in my opinion, Katrina was a f—ing crime — a crime against a lot of people who didn’t have a strong voice, and we’re going to treat it as a crime. That’s what this show is all about.”
3. The writers are just getting started on the script.
American Crime Story producing director Anthony Hemingway said the writers’ room was recently assembled for season two. “The stories are being broken now so no one knows the specificities of what we’ll be doing,” he said. Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who wrote the script for season one based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book, The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson, are not among the writers working on the upcoming season. Also, the source material for the Katrina story has yet to be announced.
4. The season will follow a small group of people.
In January, Murphy told THR that the working plan is to follow a group of six to eight people in an attempt to examine all sides of the tragedy, from the Superdome to the hospital to those who were put on buses and dropped off with babies who were forced to wear trash bags for multiple days.
5. Unlike O.J., the main characters likely won’t be modeled after real people.
When asked whether that group of people will involve any recognizable faces, Hemingway said he hopes not. “Though I’m not sure what the decision will become, part of what I’d like to see is real people,” he said. “I think when you actually have real people, not iconic or celebrity people, it makes it more relatable. Then we, as viewers, can see ourselves and understand it. You can allow yourself to be a part of that ride.”
6. No new or returning castmembers have officially signed on yet, but John Travolta is game for season two.
The Pulp Fiction actor, who played Robert Shapiro in O.J., told THR that he was “interested” in the upcoming installment and that it was up to Murphy and fellow executive producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson. Part of his interest, Travolta said, is that the events of Katrina hit close to home. “I’m very interested in the Katrina story because [his wife, Kelly Preston] and I were actually a part of that in real life,” he said. “We went with a planeload of medics and supplies and went deep into the parishes to help people, so I have a personal feeling about that. It touches me deeply.”
7. Travolta has already pitched an idea for the upcoming season.
Inspired by his own experience of aiding victims, Travolta even has a scene in mind for the writers. He recalled the encounter that he hopes makes it into a future script: “These men had lost their families and lost their homes, and yet they were still looking for [other] survivors because no one had arrived at the scene yet,” he said. “Then this big brute of a guy looked at me and started sobbing. He held me and I held him, and I didn’t even know him. It was because I was a familiar face, and in this chaos it was the first sign of help. If I had arrived there, it meant that help was on its way. I love that moment. I don’t know what they’re going to write, but that moment alone is equivalent in this last episode to when [attorney Christopher Darden] hugs the Goldman family. It’s that kind of thing, and at some point that has to happen.”
8. Cuba Gooding Jr. wants to reteam with Murphy — but is mum on whether that means more American Crime Story.
Like Travolta, the Oscar winner who portrayed O.J. is eager to collaborate with Murphy in the future. “I have an immense interest in working with Ryan Murphy again, so if he calls me for something, you know my phone will be on,” he told THR when asked about a potential role in season two.
9. It won’t be Treme.
Hemingway — who was also a director and producer on HBO’s post-Katrina drama Treme — has made it clear that the upcoming season of ACS will approach the Hurricane Katrina aftermath in a new way. “Treme was a different part of the story, in that it highlighted the people of that city coming home and trying to revive life, and I think American Crime Story will really focus on the beginning of that and the awful crime and tragedy that happened when it first started,” he said. “I think it will have as much of an impact and be as effective as O.J., but untraditionally. There are so many crimes that are committed that aren’t in the courtroom.”
10. The show likely won’t serve as an indictment of President George W. Bush.
When asked if the drama will delve into the political realm, Landgraf offered this: “I think there was some question about the federal government’s reaction to the tragedy and I suspect that Katrina will deal with that … but I don’t know enough about it yet to know whose feet the blame for various things get laid at. … I never heard anybody suggest that the Bush administration was responsible for the breaking of the levees. To me, it’s not a political administration or certainly not a federal party that can be held accountable for that.”
It’s unclear whether Bush will be a character, and if Travolta will play him.