From one crime case to another
TV’s Ryan Murphy, above, explores Gianni Versace’s death on the next “American Crime Story.”
The semiannual Television Critics Assn. press tour — during which various networks and streaming platforms present their new and returning shows to the media — has finished in Beverly Hills. This week’s presentations included panels from Fox and FX.
Versace ‘did not have to die’
After hooking viewers with a look back at the machinations inside and outside the so-called Trial of the Century in “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” heavyweight TV producer Ryan Murphy explores the chilling 1997 murder of fashion design icon Gianni Versace.
During an appearance Thursday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour on the Fox lot in Century City, Murphy spoke of his intentions for the second installment of the anthology series, titled “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” premiering in January.
“I think it’s more than why [Versace] was killed; it was sort of why it was allowed to happen,” Murphy told reporters.
Versace was gunned down in July 1997 in front of his Miami Beach home. The designer’s death was the fifth slaying in four states that police attributed to Andrew Cunanan. (Cunanan, 27, killed himself days later.)
Murphy said the show, which uses Maureen Orth’s “Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History” as its source material, will aim to examine Cunanan’s motives and the larger theme of homophobia. (Versace was one of the few openly gay celebrities of the time.)
“We’re trying to talk about a crime within a social idea,” Murphy said. “Versace, who was [Cunanan’s] last victim, did not have to die. One of the reasons he was able to make his way across the country and pick off these victims, many of whom were gay, was because of homophobia at the time.”
Murphy was joined onstage by stars Ricky Martin, who plays Versace’s longtime partner, Antonio D’Amico; Darren Criss, who plays Cunanan; Edgar Ramirez, who plays Versace; as well as writer-executive producer Tom Rob Smith and executive producer Brad Simpson.
Among the topics discussed were the intricacies of examining a true story through a dramatized lens — and the deftness required in telling that story while also being respectful to Versace’s family.
One reporter brought up how Orth’s book makes the case that Versace was HIV-positive — a detail that never has been confirmed by the family. A preview of the drama’s opening scene screened for reporters ahead of the panel showed Ramirez’s Versace taking medication.
“The Versaces,” Murphy acknowledged, “will like some of what they see, and some of it they will be uncomfortable with.”
Murphy also was asked about D’Amico’s denouncement of the drama, spurred when photos from the series leaked online.
“It’s very hard to judge anything that you’re watching based on a paparazzi photograph,” said Murphy, who told reporters that he recently spoke to D’Amico by phone and had a positive discussion.
“You’re not doing a documentary — you’re doing a docudrama,” he continued. “My response to that was I think that you have to see the show, and then comment. But I think he understands that now, and he’s certainly allowed his opinions.”
RYAN MURPHY, producer of “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” attributes the killer’s ability to travel and slay multiple people in 1997 to homophobia.
RICKY MARTIN, left, plays Versace’s partner, and Darren Criss stars as Andrew Cunanan, the killer.