Emmy nominations may be four months away, but the campaign season kicked off on Monday night, when the cast and producers of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story reunited for a For Your Consideration event at the Directors Guild of America theater in Los Angeles.
After a screening of the season finale, “Alone” (March 21 at 10 p.m. ET on FX), stars Darren Criss, Edgar Ramirez, Ricky Martin, Cody Fern, Max Greenfield, Judith Light, and Jon Jon Briones, as well as executive producer Brad Simpson, EP/writer Tom Rob Smith, and Vulgar Favors author Maureen Orth, talked openly about the challenges of bringing the story of Andrew Cunanan and his victims to the screen, the most difficult scenes to film, and, of course, which wardrobe pieces they really wanted to steal.
Here are a few highlights from the event:
Playing Versace’s partner was ‘very painful’ for Ricky Martin
To portray Antonio D’Amico, Gianni Versace’s longtime partner, Martin had to revisit a time in his own life when he was not yet publicly out as a gay man, and the actor told the crowd that dredging up those memories was “very painful, to be quite honest.” Martin added that shooting episode 5, when Versace talks openly to a reporter about his sexuality for the first time, was particularly moving. “When I was in the closet, I unfortunately made a lot of my partners lie. So I was reliving that,” he explained. “I’ll always be so thankful to [executive producer Ryan Murphy] for allowing me to tell this story with everyone on this panel, because it’s been so therapeutic for me.”
The hardest scene Darren Criss had to film did not involve murder
Though he murders five people onscreen as killer Andrew Cunanan, Criss said the most difficult scene for him to film was the intense encounter in episode 3 between Andrew and his third victim, Chicago real estate mogul Lee Miglin (played by M*A*S*H star Mike Farrell). “People always ask me what the hardest thing to shoot was, and I think they want to hear the violence, the aggression — but those are simple things,” said Criss. “Violence is a base act from a very accessible place — it’s easy to get angry. But what is truly twisted and heartbreaking is looking into Mike Farrell’s eyes [as he’s] playing this deeply closeted man who loves his wife, and is truly a good man who is fighting a demon he can’t escape — and then me having to drive the car as somebody waging psychological warfare on this person. When I would leave those scenes, I’d feel like, Ugghhh,” the actor continued. “I think people on set maybe thought it was because I was getting intimate with Mike Farrell — it wasn’t that, it was having to, like, penetrate a man’s soul who was trying so desperately to keep it together.”
Jon Jon Briones might actually be the hardest working actor in Hollywood
Veteran stage actor Briones gives a star-making performance as Andrew’s father, Modesto “Pete” Cunanan, a fast-talking, truth-stretching Filipino immigrant who had big dreams for his favorite son. Maureen Orth, who wrote the book this season of Crime Story is based on, marveled at the accuracy of Briones’s portrayal. “I interviewed Pete Cunanan,” said the author. “And when I saw Jon Jon, I thought I was watching [Pete] on the screen.”
Briones’ performance is all the more impressive considering that during production on Crime Story, he was also working another job — all the way across the country. “While we shot that episode, Jon Jon was performing in Miss Saigon as the lead on Broadway in New York,” said exec producer Brad Simpson. “So often he would shoot with us, take a red eye, then arrive in New York and do a matinee and evening performance.”
Fortunately for the actor, he had a very supportive director: American Horror Story star Matt Bomer, who made his directorial debut with “Creator/Destroyer,” Briones’ breakout episode. “I would recommend it to every actor — on your first big break, get another actor to direct you,” Briones said with a laugh. “Because [actors] are the most insecure people in the world. And every single take we’d cut, and he’d come to me and go, ‘That was amazing. Let’s do another one.’ He kept telling me during filming, ‘You know, if you don’t succeed, I don’t succeed.’”
Everyone loved the wardrobe…
Naturally, a show about renowned fashion designer Gianni Versace is replete with beautiful costumes — and naturally, the cast and creators coveted some of those exquisite pieces. Exec producer Brad Simpson recalled how Ryan Murphy was so enamored of the long, flowing pink robe Versace wears in episode one, costume designer Lou Eyrich had a replica specially made for him. Ramirez told the crowd that he still has the keychain bearing Versace’s Medusa head emblem, which his character uses in the premiere, while Martin admitted that he considered sneaking off with another actor’s costume: “I wanted the wings on the male escort that was dancing at the club.” As for Andrew’s pink Speedo, which made its debut in episode 2, Criss joked, “I’m wearing it right now.”
…with one key exception
Martin, who talked with his real-life counterpart during production, said that Antonio D’Amico took issue with a “shocking green” shirt Martin wore during a scene where Antonio and Versace are walking on the beach. “I talked to Antonio, and he goes, [in thick Italian accent] ‘But Reeeky, Reeeky, you have to understand I would never wear a green shirt in my life! I wear black.’”