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As FX closes chapter two in its American Crime Story franchise, attention will now shift to the third season — Katrina.
While season one of the Ryan Murphy-produced anthology used the O.J. Simpson trial to put a spotlight on racism, season two — Versace — explored internalized homophobia as Darren Criss shifted from Glee to become Andrew Cunanan, the man who would kill the legendary designer (played by Edgar Ramirez).
After originally envisioned to be the follow-up to The People v. O.J. Simpson, the Hurricane Katrina-themed season shifted to become the third season in the Emmy-winning franchise. Douglas Brinkley’s book The Great Deluge originally was identified as the source material for Katrina, which was to feature season one Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Courtney B. Vance as well as franchise newbies Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick and Dennis Quaid. That was scrapped in August 2017 as producers shifted the focus of Katrina to be based on Five Days at Memorial, by Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink. Murphy acquired rights to the book from Scott Rudin, who previously bought the rights to the book after its debut in 2013. Rudin is now attached to executive produce alongside Murphy, Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson. Fink also is involved.
“We decided to do a more intimate version of that story that I think is much more interesting than topical,” Murphy told reporters, including THR, in January at TCA. “[It’s] a look at the health care industry and disasters and global warming.” Added Simpson: “We realized as we were approaching Katrina, we had a really good first script, but then the storytelling was too big beyond that. We were taking on too much, and we realized this show needs to be contained and precise, even when we’re telling an epic story. We were trying to deal with too many characters.”
Here are all the details, so far, about the Katrina-themed season of American Crime Story. Bookmark this page as THR will continue to update it as more information becomes available.
Five Days at Memorial explores the aftermath of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina at the New Orleans Memorial Medical Center, as well as the decision by staff — including Dr. Anna Pou — to euthanize critically ill patients after being trapped in the hospital for days without power. The book explores the attempts to prosecute Pou and two nurses for homicide after an investigation revealed elevated levels of morphine and other drugs in 23 patients who died at the hospital. Fink won the Pulitzer for a story she did in 2009 for ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine.
Murphy has said that he hopes the new source material will help tell a “different, more intimate story as opposed to the whole story” of Katrina. Added Simpson: “Our best scripts were about Memorial Hospital and the people who were trapped there. Doctors who started out trying to save lives, ended up euthanizing patients. It tracks everything that happened in Katrina. There’s people of different classes and races, all in that hospital. There are people that feel like they’ve been abandoned by their government, and there are people who are making decisions about triage — who lives and who dies — that outside of that bubble look horrific.”
Frequent Murphy collaborator Sarah Paulson will return to the ACS franchise after earning an Emmy for her role as Marcia Clark in season one. Paulson will play Dr. Anna Pou. Additional casting has yet to be announced but as of late 2017, producers were hoping to find new characters for the original Katrina‘s key cast, including Quaid (who was to play President George W. Bush), Bening (as former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco) and Broderick (as former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael D. Brown) as well as other franchise favorites.
A new writer for Katrina has yet to be formally announced. Exec producers include Murphy, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson and Scott Rudin. Fink is also expected to be involved.
WHAT TO EXPECT
“If O.J. was a courtroom drama, and [Versace] is a thriller … [Katrina] will, in a lot of ways, have aspects of medical thriller to it,” Simpson said. Added Jacobson: “As well as disaster.”
As for season four, THR exclusively reported that Murphy had acquired the rights to A Vast Conspiracy, the Jeffrey Toobin book that explored the Monica Lewinsky scandal. As of January, Murphy was still interviewing writers and indicated he wanted to meet with Lewinsky and have her involved. “That’s a very tricky one and I’m not in any rush to do anything now unless it’s done right,” he told reporters in January, noting he would want Paulson to play Linda Tripp and a newcomer to portray Lewinsky. “I’m working on having dinner with Monica Lewinsky because I feel that it’s very important that her point of view is presented. I want to make sure that we do it right. Particularly now, in this era, we have an obligation to do a lot of research. … I’m interested in who Monica Lewinsky, if we do do it, who she’s interested in [for casting as herself].”
A formal return date for the American Crime Story franchise has not been determined as all involved — including FX president John Landgraf — would rather get the creative right.
Jean Bentley contributed reporting to this story.
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