January 04, 2018 at 04:58 PM EST

Cover your eyes, Gleeks. Darren Criss, who played squeaky clean, bow-tie aficionado Blaine Anderson on Fox’s Glee is about to shed that image.

The actor has his darkest and most challenging role to date as serial killer Andrew Cunanan in FX’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, premiering Jan. 17 on FX. Cunanan not only killed the titular designer, played by Edgar Ramirez, but also four other men in 1997. Portraying the sociopath, Criss vacillates between being charming, pathetic, ruthless, and psychotic.

“I did as much research as humanly possible,” says Criss. But, “there’s not a whole lot of preparation you can do. The only thing you can really do is being available to all emotions at all times. At any point, he’s ready to fire off in any direction.”

Executive producer Ryan Murphy was adamant that Criss play Cunanan after seeing the actor on Broadway in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. “I just knew he could do it,” reveals Murphy. “More than that, I knew that he was super hungry and ambitious. I think people thought of Darren as a musical comedy star first. But, when I saw Hedwig, I knew he was capable of great darkness.”

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story premieres Jan. 17 at 10 p.m. on FX.

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