Chris Darden, Sterling K. Brown, American Crime Story

Getty Images; FX

Is there anyone out there whose heart isn't broken for Christopher Darden after that knockout episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson?

In tonight's episode of the FX hit, the trial of the century finally got underway, with Darden's (Sterling K. Brown) old friend Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) throwing the prosecutor under the bus as he effectively made the O.J. Simpson trial all about race and not about the lives of the two individuals actually murdered that fateful night. 

As the lone African-American prosecutor on the case alongside Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson), what Darden went through at the hand of Cochran in court and in the press, at the hand of Simpson in that gripping moment in his backyard, at the hand his own colleagues who demanded he interrogate Mark Furhman (Steven Pasquale) to downplay the witness' poor race relations—all in the quest of justice—was heartbreaking to watch. And as Brown told E! News' Kristin Dos Santos, it had far-reaching implications for black prosecutors. 

"I think they came up with a term recently, after the case, called the Darden Dilemma, which was about black prosecutors prosecuting black defendants and whether or not that was a moral thing to do," he explained. "Being crabs in a barrel, why are you going to pull this brother down when he's made it to such an incredible level in his life in terms of fame, reputation, etc. All he was trying to do was his job based upon the evidence with which he was presented, and the evidence led him to a verdict of guilty. And so he was trying to prosecute."

Our hearts aren't the only that retroactively broke for Darden after discovering what he truly went through to do what he believed to be the right thing. "I mean, I can remember doing a scene and reading in his book, talking about all the death threats he got and all the letters about being an Uncle Tom and a sellout, and all he wanted to do was be an excellent representation for his community," Brown said. "He was working in the Special Investigations Division so he that could prosecute crooked cops, cops who were trying to prey upon his people, his community. So, to see the response he got, my heart broke for him, and I sincerely hope if he watches, or the people that watch it have a different interpretation of his character 20 years later than they did then."

People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story


And if you thought that moment between Darden and Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr.) when the jury was touring his house—which had been completely overhauled prior to remove anything that would show the defendant in a negative light—was intense, the reality of the situation was even worse. As Darden wrote in his 1996 book, In Contempt, Simpson didn't stop with the bench remark. 

"As evening approached and the viewing ended, all the lawyers gathered in a circle outside. Marcia was trying to lodge objections on the record. I leaned forward, into the circle, to hear what she was saying.

And then I felt a nudge. I looked up. Simpson was standing next to me, his hands in his pants pockets. He bumped me again.

A--hole! I nudged him back. Then we sort of locked shoulders and bumped each other back and forth, leaning on each other like horned sheep. No one else seemed to notice. I got the message. I could see right through him, right to the evil, and he didn't like it. The battle was just beginning."

Of course, a riveting story—even one as riveting as this one—only succeeds in engrossing the audience if the people telling it are masters at their craft—and ladies and gentlemen, it's safe to add Brown to the master list after this week's episode. A relative unknown prior to The People v. O.J. Simpson, Brown had appeared in Army Wives, Person of Interest, and Supernatural in the last decade, but his work here is a quiet revelation. Watching his face as Darden watched his mentor denounce his involvement in the case as a mere racial ploy on national television was all we needed to understand how heartbreaking this would all become.

For more from Brown, including some extremely eloquent thoughts on what it took to transform into Darden and where he was when the verdict was read, be sure to press play on the video above.

The People v. O.J. Simpson airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.

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