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OJ Simpson is back in the dock in TV drama American Crime Story

John Travolta, Cuba Gooding Jr, David Schwimmer and Sarah Paulson are part of the FX series, which will devote its first season to the O J Simpson trial.
The cast of season one of American Crime Story, which will focus on the O J Simpson trial, from left, John Travolta, Sarah Paulson, Courtney B Vance, Cuba Gooding Jr and David Schwimmer. Getty Images / AFP
The cast of season one of American Crime Story, which will focus on the O J Simpson trial, from left, John Travolta, Sarah Paulson, Courtney B Vance, Cuba Gooding Jr and David Schwimmer. Getty Images / AFP

Like many people, John Travolta remembers where he was when O J Simpson was filmed by TV news crews driving a white Ford Bronco in that infamous slow-speed police pursuit in 1994. Simpson eventually surrendered and faced murder charges over the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

“I had just got back from the Cannes Film Festival where we won the Palme d’Or for Pulp Fiction,” says Travolta. “I was on this kind of high, with a new [revived] career and then this American tragedy was happening.”

The actor was sharing his memories on the red carpet for Fox’s upfront presentation, part of an event at which networks debut their new TV shows for advertisers.

Travolta has joined Cuba Gooding Jr, David Schwimmer and Sarah Paulson in the cast of a new true-crime anthology series coming to Fox’s FX channel called American Crime Story.

Each season will tell the story behind one famous case – and season one will focus on the O J Simpson trial, based on a book by Jeffrey Toobin, who covered it extensively for The New Yorker.

Travolta plays Simpson’s lawyer Robert Shapiro. Ryan Murphy – the creator of Glee and American Horror Story – is directing the series, which has just started filming.

“That trial sort of gave birth to a new kind of media coverage,” says Murphy.

“It felt like an original story; 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 Simpson, the former pro-football Hall of Fame athlete and actor who appeared in the Naked Gun films, among others.

“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,” says Gooding.

“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.”

Former Friends star Schwimmer plays the late Robert Kardashian, a lawyer on Simpson’s defence team. The actor says he spoke to Kardashian’s ex-wife, Kris Jenner, for insight into the role.

“I was lucky enough to speak to [her] for a few hours, she was very generous with her time,” says Schwimmer. “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.

Actress Sarah Paulson, who has worked with Murphy on American Horror Story, has been analysing video 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,” she says. “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 instead to imitate, for example, how Clark “listened a lot with her head to the side” and other mannerisms of the prosecutor.

American Crime Story is due to debut next year.

Updated: May 13, 2015 04:00 AM

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