NEW YORK – Like many people, John Travolta remembers where he was when O.J. Simpson was riding in a white Ford Bronco in that infamous slow-speed pursuit in 1994 before he surrendered to police and later faced murder charges in the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman.
“I had just gotten back from the Cannes Film Festival where we won the Palme d'Or for ‘Pulp Fiction.’ I was on this kind of high with a new (revived) career and then this American tragedy was happening,” the actor said Monday at a red carpet for Fox’s Upfront, where networks debut their new TV shows for advertisers.
Travolta, along with Cuba Gooding Jr., David Schwimmer and Sarah Paulson have signed on to star in a new true crime anthology series coming to FX called “American Crime Story.” Season one will focus on the O.J. Simpson trial and is based on a book by Jeffrey Toobin who covered the trial extensively for The New Yorker.
Travolta plays Simpson’s attorney Robert Shapiro. Ryan Murphy is directing the series, now about one week into filming.
“That trial sort of gave birth to a new kind of media coverage,” Murphy said. “It felt like an origin story of something that was the first and now we’re still dealing with the reverberations of that so it feels very modern to me.”
Gooding plays O.J. Simpson.
“People keep asking me whether I think he did it or not, and I don’t think that’s the goal here, to prove his innocence or his guilt,” Gooding said. “I think it’s more us putting the judicial system under the spotlight. … We try to find a truth in the moment so that we can find answers. I think this 10 hours of television is gonna be very powerful, and I think a lot of people are going to learn a lot.”
David Schwimmer portrays the late Robert Kardashian, an attorney on Simpson’s defense team and a loyal defender of the former pro football player. He says he spoke to Kardashian’s ex-wife Kris Jenner for insight into the role.
“I was lucky enough to speak to (Jenner) for a few hours who was very generous with her time,” he said. “I thought, ‘Who better to tell me who Robert was as a husband and a father than her?' and it’s been a very exciting process so far.”
Jenner will be portrayed by Selma Blair.
Sarah Paulson, who has worked with Murphy in “American Horror Story,” said she’s been analyzing footage to prepare for her role as prosecutor Marcia Clark.
“I’m just trying to take in her mannerisms, and then at the same time let some of it go. At first I thought, ‘Well I have to do her voice.’ And then I thought, ‘Her voice isn’t actually iconic. As long as I’m not doing something weird, you’re not gonna know it’s not her voice.’ ”
Paulson decided to imitate how Clark “listened a lot with her head to the side” and other mannerisms.
“American Crime Story” will premiere on FX in 2016.