FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story is a straight-up revelation when it comes to casting. Not only did boss Ryan Murphy get the likes of John Travolta and Cuba Gooding Jr. to come to TV, but the actors all pretty much perfectly embodied their characters. Here, the O.J. cast tells E! News exclusively how they became their real-life counterparts...
"Never in my life before had anyone told me that I looked like [Robert Kardashian]," David Schwimmer admits with a laugh. "But then I put the hair thing on, and then I guess I started to see it!" Co-star Malcolm-Jamal Warner (who plays O.J.'s best friend A.C. Cowlings) says David's transformation is the one that blew everyone away. "The most surreal was seeing David as Robert. We were all like, 'WOW, he looks just like him. Who knew?!'" Schwimmer adds that he spent most of his time making sure to get Kardashian's emotional resonance right, and spent hours on the phone with (ex-wife) Kris Jenner asking questions. "Most important to me was getting his spirit, and I hope I got it right."
"When we were on the set," reveals Cuba Gooding Jr., "we had a wonderful lady who had video footage constantly…We had that throughout the whole six months. I did get a little obsessive about his five o'clock shadow and different facial expressions, definitely with his walk. But it's my job to bring that emotional core to the character because no matter what, when you see Cuba Gooding Jr…it's my job to make you forget that it's me." And based on the billboards that have been plastered all around town, it appears to be working. "Everywhere I go now, people shout 'O.J.!!'" Gooding says. "At least it's not 'Show me the money.' [laughs] I'm ready for a little break!" Still, Gooding admits that playing O.J. did take its toll on him personally. "I knew it was going to be an emotional roller coaster, and it was. It was an interesting six months of my life, and then it took another month or two to finally release him."
Sarah Paulson, who was simultaneously filming O.J. and American Horror Story: Hotel, went through about an hour of makeup each day to get the Marcia Clark look just right. "Doing two shows, I didn't need any help to have undereye circles as an overworked, underappreciated mother of two," she jokes. She also had four Marcia wigs, all of which she named. "My favorite one was the shortest one, the most unflattering." When Sarah met Marcia Clark in real life, "the first thing she said to me was, 'I want to apologize for the hair!'" Paulson recalls with a laugh. "I said you were already my favorite person and now you're definitely my favorite person."
"It helped having all that video on him, and reading the book was a tremendous help," John Travolta says of becoming Robert Shapiro, O.J.'s defense attorney. "They called me the vampire because of my arms being crossed all the time," he adds with a laugh. "I like that, it helps me. If I feel like I look like the guy, I can become him a little easier. When I did Hairspray, I wanted to look like a woman. When I did Pulp Fiction, I wanted to look like a hit man. It just helps, it's a visual medium, so if you have the illusion of that, it gives a step up to your performance."
Even before being cast as the Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner, Selma Blair says she had been told by people she looked like her. "I had been told. We're both brunettes," she tells E! News. "But Kris has these really beautiful eyes and eyelashes and you know, I can't compare. That Kardashian face and that Kris Jenner face, it's pretty incredible." Blair, who is now 43, also adds that she's a few years older than Kris was at the time (she was 40). "I'm a little longer in the tooth than she was then...But she still looks younger than me!" Selma and David Schwimmer both credit Kris Jenner with being extremely generous with her time in helping them to connect with their roles. Blair refers to Jenner now as "a friend I really cherish, I do."
"I cut all my hair off cause he was bald," Sterling K. Brown, who plays co-prosecutor Chris Darden, says with a laugh. "And I grew my beard out in a sort of not-stylish way because that's the way he rocked his hair." Beyond that, Brown focused on what he felt was important, which helped him nab this much-coveted role among a cast of well-known actors. "I watched a lot of footage of [Chris] as far as his vocal patterns and his cadences, etc. And I tried to not do an aping of that but sort of suggest an essence of that and just sort of fill it. Because it's really easy to get caught up in the caricature without filing in the content. So I wanted to make sure the content was there so that the form felt filled out." Jury has reached a verdict on this one: It worked.
A little hair-shaping and mustache-growing and Courtney B. Vance had become defense attorney Johnnie Cochran. Unlike some of his co-stars, he also chose not to watch too much old footage, despite there being an endless supply on set at the ready. (Vance actually had met Cochran years ago, before his death.) Still, he tells E! News he got a real kick out of seeing everyone all dressed up. "When you add in the wigs and the mustaches and the costumes...we had fun. When I first saw John [Travolta], I was like, 'No! Who are you?!'" he adds with a laugh.
This ain't Tami Taylor, y'all! Connie Britton, the quintessential mother of the century every Friday Night Lights fan wants to have, has taken on a very different role in Faye Resnick, the friend of Nicole Brown Simpson's who sold a bestselling book filled with salacious details. And while the role didn't require much altering of her appearance (just a lot more makeup that we're used to seeing on Connie), she nailed it when it came to Faye's attitude. "Instantly funny, she is such a talented woman," quips Selma Blair, who shared her first scene together with Connie. She's just so, so good."