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When it came down to casting the real-life characters of FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson, finding the right fit for O.J. wasn’t the biggest hurdle, according to the show’s producer Nina Jacobson. Rather, it was finding the perfect actor to play prosecutor Christopher Darden.
During The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual Drama Showrunner Roundtable, Jacobson shared the difficulties of casting for not-so-likeable roles.
“The character that was hard to cast was Chris Darden because there were a lot of black dudes who were like, ‘No way — I’m not playin‘ that guy. I hate him,'” she said, explaining that bias against Darden’s involvement in the O.J. Simpson murder trial had a strong impact on the casting process. “Not to mention the fact that you had to get somebody who could on one hand be charismatic and sexy enough that you were rooting for him and that you really cared about him but on the other hand let himself be bowled over by Johnnie Cochran.”
She continued, “A lot of actors would walk in and couldn’t do it: They were either so charismatic and alpha that they couldn’t be the guy who got overwhelmed, or they were so beta they couldn’t be the guy you rooted for.”
On choosing Sterling K. Brown to play the role, Jacobson recalled being shocked at how perfectly Brown was able to embody Darden in his initial audition.
“I was like, ‘God, he’s so great, but is he sexy enough?’ And then, I go and look at all of the other work and I realize this is a show that he’s put on!” she said. “He’s come in, with the glasses and the bottled rage, and he’s pretending to be this guy … [But] he is sexy, charismatic — he is a hottie! I had no idea, based on his audition, that he was that guy until we went and looked at all the other work and we were like, ‘OK, we have him.'”
Read the full roundtable discussion here.
The new season of The Hollywood Reporter‘s Roundtables debuts on THR.com on Monday, May 16th with our Emmy Drama Actress Roundtable. Full episodes of Close Up with The Hollywood Reporter debut on Sundance TV beginning Sunday, June 27th.
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