Edgar Ramirez doesn’t look much like Gianni Versace in person. But after he gained 20 pounds and spent hours in the makeup chair, his resemblance to the iconic fashion designer was uncanny. In FX’s limited series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, the 41-year-old Venezuelan actor plays the Miami-based designer who’s busy building his fashion empire (with the help of his sister, Donatella Versace, played by Penelope Cruz) when he’s murdered by a serial killer (played by Darren Criss). The actor, nominated for supporting actor in a limited series, spoke to THR about taking on the iconic role, working with Ricky Martin (who plays Versace’s longtime lover) and the other nominated shows he loves.
How did you feel about the Versace family not participating?
It was completely understandable and expected for the family not to be involved. We have to remember that the Versace family went through one of the most terrifying experiences that a family can ever go through, and it all happened in the public eye. And it never really crossed my mind to try to reach out to them. But I wanted to try to get some firsthand input, and I was lucky that some of his best friends were willing to talk to me. I was happy that I somehow gained their trust. I will never say who they are because we agreed to that.
What is one surprising thing you learned about him?
He was rather reserved and shy. He was very extroverted, meaning he would speak easily, but the difference was that he was very shy and very private. It was surprising because you would imagine that, because of the images and the culture that he created — his dresses, all the exuberance — that he was a party animal. It was more about an artistic expression than a personal need to be surrounded by people.
What did it feel like the first time you were in full Versace makeup and costume?
In the beginning, it felt very strange because I’d never worn prosthetics before. When they first did the bald cap, and then the robe, it felt to me a little bit too scary — I was scared that it would look fake. But that was more the shock of seeing myself like that and not recognizing myself. But when I was doing the last scene and had on the whole look, with prosthetics and the wig and the clothes, I went to Ricky [Martin], and when I opened the door and when he saw me, he started crying, and he said, “I can’t believe it.” That was very reassuring at the beginning.
You’re nominated in the same category as two of your co-stars, Ricky Martin and Finn Wittrock. Is it awkward to compete against them?
No, I think it’s great. Everyone is so great, even the smallest roles are played by such talented, talented people. I’m very happy to have Ricky nominated next to me — we became such close friends. The recognition that we got from the Academy is a sign in a way that everybody is being recognized. Because it takes a village, so I hope that they will see that their work is reflected in the nominations that we got.
What other Emmy-nominated shows have you enjoyed watching this year?
I loved The Looming Tower. It’s a great show. And Godless is great as well. We’re living in the golden era of television right now. We’re even more proud that we got this recognition because there’s a lot of great things happening out there. I’m very moved by this.
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.