In 2016, American Crime Story showed us the O.J. Simpson trial as we’d never seen it before. The Ryan Murphy anthology series returns in January 2018 to explore the cultural impact of another infamous crime: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story will tell the story of the events leading up to the July 1997 murder of the iconic designer.
Here are the five things you need to know about the upcoming series:
The story will begin at the end.
Critics gathered at the Television Critics Association Press Tour were treated to the opening scene of the 10-episode series. The harrowing clip features limited dialogue, stunning music and moves between Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) and Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez) on the morning Cunanan shot and killed Versace on the steps of his house. “We shot exactly on the exact step where he died,” Murphy says. “The first episode obviously deals with the literal murder, assassination itself. And then we tell the story in reverse. So we really get into how [Cunanan ] had that motive, and why he wanted to do what he wanted to do.”
The series will explore a seminal moment in our culture.
Much as The People v. O.J. Simpson looked at race relations and the dawn of the relentless celebrity news cycle, The Assassination of Gianni Versace will reflect on a time when the designer was one of the few openly gay celebrities. Ellen DeGeneres had just come out, with the famous “Puppy” episode of her sitcom, three months before. “Nobody was out. There were no out celebrities. There was Elton John. There were no out fashion designers,” executive producer Brad Simpson says. “Versace had given an interview with his lover, and chosen to live openly as a gay man, and that was part of the reason why he was targeted and killed. Andrew Cunanan was a serial killer who killed other gay men.”
Versace was Cunanan’s last victim. “He really did not have to die. Part of the thing that we talk about in the show is one of the reasons Andrew Cunanan 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 says.
It’s a docudrama—not a documentary.
Just as The People v. O.J. Simpson was based on the book by Jeffrey Toobin, this series is based on Vulgar Favors by Maureen Orth. “She has a definite point of view in that book, and we’re true to that point of view,” Murphy says. “So there’s always certain things you take liberty with… wanting to move towards something emotional.”
We will get to know Andrew Cunanan.
The former Glee star talked to 50 people who knew Cunanan and discovered he was so many different personalities to so many different people. “We see him at his best; we see him at his worst; we see him at his most charming; we see him at his most hurt,” Criss says.
Simpson notes that people who kill celebrities become infamous. “Their names will be intertwined forever with that celebrity,” he says. I think there is something particularly specific about America with that.”
Versace’s presence will be everywhere.
In addition to filming at Versace’s actual home in Miami, the show will feature many genuine Versace artifacts. The opening scene includes an ashtray Versace designed, for instance. “I really loved hunting those things down and finding them as a tribute to that character,” Murphy says.
And did we mention Ricky Martin?
The “Livin’ La Vida Loca” singer portrays Versace’s longtime partner, Antonio D’Amico. To Martin, it was vital that he convey how special the relationship between the two men was. When he had the opportunity to speak to the real D’Amico, who had been critical of the series, Martin told him, “I will make sure that people fall in love with your relationship with Gianni. That is what I’m here for. I really want them to see the beauty and the connection that you guys had.”
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .