Darren Criss Is the Male Sarah Paulson and 6 More Things To Know About American Crime Story Season 2

The series’ star and producers give a behind-the-scenes look at The Assassination of Gianni Versace.

by | January 16, 2018 | Comments

American Crime Story made The People Vs. O.J. Simpson a phenomenon all over again, over 20 years after the actual verdict. The Gianni Versace murder was not as sensationalized a case, so the FX anthology series took a different approach on The Assassination of Gianni Versace.

Based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History, the show opens with Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) pulling the trigger on Versace (Edgar Ramirez) and flashes back to events that explained how Cunanan and Versace collided in tragedy.

Cunanan killed four men before Versace, and Criss portrays the serial killer’s growing homophobia and escalating delusions. The show unfolds in reverse, with Cunanan and Versace crossing paths, but mostly existing separately.

Criss spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, after the Television Critics Association winter press tour panel, during which creator Ryan Murphy revealed details about the series and its stars. Producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson also weighed in. Here are seven things they shared about the second season of the series.


“Darren was, to me, the male version of Sarah Paulson,” American Crime Story creator Murphy said to reporters after a panel, invoking his muse who played Marcia Clark in The People Vs. O.J. Simpson. Murphy saw her as a lead actor and gave her that role to show the world. He sees that for Criss in the role of Andrew Cunanan.

“Well, I think that’s an insult to Sarah Paulson,” Criss modestly joked. “Poor Sarah, who’s had an amazing career, done amazing work, spanning all kinds of places.”

Ultimately Criss accepts the challenge to live up to Murphy’s go-to star.

“Hey, I’ll take it,” Criss said. “I realize what he means. The person in the roster that is doing a project with a lot of eyes on it. If my name is uttered in the same sentence as her at any point, that’s a thrill.”

If anything, Criss has some catching up to do to live up to Paulson’s ongoing legacy.

“It always blew my mind that after O.J., people said that was a real turning point for her,” Criss said. “I think it has less to do with her ability and more about the visibility of the shows that Ryan touches.”


We all know people who embellish their stories to make themselves sound more important. That behavior may be annoying, but most of them won’t kill us over it. Cunanan’s lies, unfortunately, turned deadly. Criss saw a parallel to some of the more harmless white lies we all commit.

“I think his lies, his stories, his delusions of grandeur were an effort for him to be in control of the way he was viewed, just the way any of us curate our lives with filters on Instagram, with selfies from a certain angle,” Criss said. “These are obviously on a smaller scale and much more socially acceptable. But if you took that to an extreme, that’s what he was doing.”

According to the show, Cunanan lied to Versace to try to make himself a closer acquaintance. Then he lied to others about how close he was to Versace.

“He needed to be in control of all the things that he didn’t have, which is to pretend they were a reality and tell other people they were,” Criss said. “Because he was such a narcissist, by telling people and telling himself, he could ipso facto make them true to himself. And if he couldn’t have it and it couldn’t be true, then he’d have to destroy it.”

Orth’s book suggested that lying was Cunanan’s way of crafting new personas, and Simpson elaborated on the killer’s pathology.

“In some ways, I think it was trying on identities and trying on personalities,” Simpson said. “I think he was taught though. His dad was a scam artist who abandoned the family when Cunanan was 18 and made them all go bankrupt. I think that idea that the truth is elastic was something he was taught by his family.”


Simpson believed Cunanan lied to craft a new identity.

“I also felt like he wanted to be somebody else,” Simpson said. “He wanted to be different. He didn’t want to be that half Filipino kid from a working-class background. He wanted to be the guy in Vanity Fair.”

If Cunanan wanted to be someone else, it was important to cast someone who could embody who he was. Criss’s heritage was a factor; the actor is actually half Filipino on his mother’s side, like Cunanan was.

“The idea of not whitewashing the half Filipino side and casting a white dude was important,” Jacobson said. “Darren had Ryan’s endorsement and understanding of him as an actor, great look for the part, and then was authentically half Filipino like Andrew was.”


Three of Cunanan’s four prior victims get their own episode to explore their relationships with Cunanan. The fourth, William Reese, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, as Cunanan stole his truck. Criss explained how each killing builds off the prior one.

“It escalates,” Criss said. “This was somebody whose crimes were a crime of passion in the beginning. He crossed a certain threshold, and there was a change of his pathology.”

His third victim, Lee Miglin, was a Chicago real estate mogul who’d hired Cunanan as an escort. Miglin was married at the time. His wife Marlyn discovered his body, staged by Cunanan.

“It became less something personal to people around him, more about proving a point on a larger scale to hurting someone like Lee and hurting someone like Versace,” Criss said. “Yeah, there’s a differentiation between each of the murders for sure.”

Each victim was also a step towards Cunanan’s ultimate target, the title of the show.

“The throughline of Andrew’s obsession with Versace, once he snapped, he’s on this mission,” Jacobson added. “Really, the shock of killing people who are dear to you, I still get very disturbed by. The idea that he’s not somebody who has one moment; it’s these sequential moments of calculated choices from a guy that was not a murderer born. I think there are people who are born missing the empathy gene, missing the fear gene. That wasn’t him.”


The show portrays murders like Lee Miglin’s as they must have happened to end up where they did. Miglin’s body was bound with wounds from a screwdriver and saw, ribs broken, throat slashed, and stabbed.

“We’re always trying to strike a balance of you know what the crime scenes look like so you can glean what the murder was,” Jacobson said. “You don’t want to be exploitive and at the same time, you don’t want to shy away from the horror of it.”

The show spends time on Cunanan’s psychological torture of his victims leading up to the murders.

“The Lee Miglin murder was staged to shame and embarrass him,” Jacobson said. “The way he manipulates David by saying, ‘This is what they’ll find. You’ll be assumed to be guilty.’ Those things all seem very important to cover.


Episode 8 ultimately shows Cunanan as a child and in high school, exploring motivations and warning signs that early. It was important to Criss that the show try to explain this tragedy.

“It all has to add up,” Criss said. “It all has to connect together, otherwise there’s no point in showing the horrible stuff, because then it’s just exposing something horrible that we already know is horrible. We have to keep having every moment beforehand connected to it in some way so it’s not just gratuitous.”

Learning of his father’s scam was certainly a turning point for Andrew.

“I think finding anybody when they’re younger tells a bit of an origin story as it were,” Criss continued, “of not only where this guy came from, a better sense of how and why it went wrong, how it went astray.”

Criss still plays Cunanan at 18, by the way.

“For the first half we have a great young actor, Edouard Holdener who plays young Cunanan,” Simpson said. “For the rest of it, it’s Darren because Darren is very youthful looking and can still play an 18-year-old luckily.”


If he is going to be the male Sarah Paulson, that means Criss will have to come back for every show Murphy does. Criss is on board, but isn’t aware of any future roles just yet.

“Who knows what the future holds,” Criss said. “Ryan is a dear friend, a true collaborator, and he’s been a champion for me. So f— yeah, if I can keep doing what we’ve been doing, I should be so lucky.”

Criss’s dream was to be part of a theater company where the same troupe performed different shows. Murphy’s managed to keep most of the same cast together across American Crime Story, American Horror Story, Feud, and Glee.

“I always grew up with this notion, I idolized repertory theater companies,” Criss said. “I had no idea that in my life I would be able to do that in the television world with someone like Ryan Murphy. [Sarah and I] are both lucky enough to have stumbled somehow into Ryan’s repertory player situation.”

American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace premieres January 17 at 10p.m. on FX.

Tag Cloud

Marvel A24 SDCC cancelled TV shows Dark Horse Comics book Winners screenings Chernobyl Lifetime animated miniseries free movies The Walking Dead DC Universe docudrama cults Watching Series Pop Film composers VOD mockumentary disaster Classic Film cancelled dc DirecTV WGN Amazon Prime Video Amazon Television Critics Association USA Starz Columbia Pictures TV renewals Box Office transformers politics VH1 spy thriller blockbuster FOX ABC Family Awards halloween universal monsters Nominations facebook travel video VICE cops science fiction Acorn TV 45 casting Best and Worst Discovery Channel GoT Ellie Kemper Lucasfilm Academy Awards Binge Guide TCM teaser 72 Emmy Awards HBO Go reviews Masterpiece Apple TV Plus superhero emmy awards dogs OWN serial killer classics TV CBS Netflix AMC Baby Yoda romantic comedy finale BBC America Paramount Network Turner Classic Movies Western Year in Review Comedy Central canceled documentary Amazon Studios ESPN Heroines movies Grammys GLAAD Toys true crime south america boxoffice Ghostbusters SXSW zombies Black Mirror crime crime drama war Apple TV+ robots NBC streaming green book justice league YouTube CW Seed El Rey name the review Pride Month quibi worst comic Country Mystery Star Trek scary movies TNT BBC One criterion toy story cooking DC streaming service IFC Films theme song NYCC Sneak Peek TV Land nbcuniversal Apple Schedule Trailer children's TV History news Musicals President crime thriller YouTube Premium space spinoff Ovation adventure tv talk cats critics dark FX Drama Pop TV Amazon Prime discovery Elton John television Hear Us Out cars best rotten Peacock indiana jones Turner WarnerMedia adaptation mutant police drama First Reviews comedies Food Network directors E! The CW Comedy Action APB Opinion thriller PBS renewed TV shows what to watch Red Carpet elevated horror parents CNN harry potter Video Games sports Pirates Horror jamie lee curtis Cosplay festivals HBO Max obituary anime witnail IFC RT21 See It Skip It christmas movies Oscars FXX Reality Rocky Tubi cinemax ABC Warner Bros. FX on Hulu stand-up comedy Music cartoon Sundance TV vampires National Geographic Crunchyroll Sundance Fall TV independent Podcast RT History natural history game of thrones concert PlayStation Arrowverse biography breaking bad die hard E3 Summer Family SundanceTV Animation Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Vudu Polls and Games Disney Plus blaxploitation a nightmare on elm street Esquire American Society of Cinematographers 20th Century Fox singing competition USA Network Trivia MCU TCA 2017 Paramount Disney Channel Anna Paquin Creative Arts Emmys dramedy twilight werewolf Superheroes ratings 24 frames DC Comics Mindy Kaling spain zombie satire romance Netflix Christmas movies The Witch stop motion Star Wars richard e. Grant Calendar Adult Swim Writers Guild of America Freeform Lifetime Christmas movies Mary poppins movie canceled TV shows 2015 71st Emmy Awards dceu Musical Women's History Month Disney streaming service spanish language Cannes Black History Month Pet Sematary CBS All Access reboot game show 4/20 Extras LGBTQ TCA Winter 2020 First Look Marathons 2020 Captain marvel PaleyFest YA historical drama cancelled TV series comiccon Super Bowl series nature documentaries Countdown Emmys The Arrangement TCA Awards binge Sci-Fi Disney+ Disney Plus period drama child's play award winner Showtime Cartoon Network Emmy Nominations Valentine's Day Brie Larson sag awards BET Britbox franchise anthology Sony Pictures Marvel Television Quiz chucky Kids & Family Martial Arts supernatural Walt Disney Pictures Comics on TV Infographic medical drama Film Festival Tarantino political drama X-Men Election Universal dragons Interview Holiday aliens MSNBC technology doctor who Hallmark Christmas movies sitcom Stephen King Photos zero dark thirty New York Comic Con Song of Ice and Fire Christmas TBS BBC hist Pixar films TruTV Marvel Studios unscripted rotten movies we love Logo TCA Certified Fresh TIFF A&E psychological thriller asian-american Winter TV Spectrum Originals YouTube Red Funimation Syfy LGBT Nickelodeon Trophy Talk Crackle ITV The Purge foreign Teen BAFTA strong female leads Mary Tyler Moore Epix Premiere Dates stoner BET Awards Tomatazos Fox News joker TLC Bravo all-time golden globes Reality Competition Disney hispanic Lionsgate OneApp versus Awards Tour kids mission: impossible 2017 Spike Mary Poppins Returns DGA based on movie San Diego Comic-Con laika Sundance Now batman Holidays Fantasy ghosts slashers Set visit video on demand Hallmark 007 screen actors guild sequel MTV Avengers Mudbound latino GIFs hollywood Nat Geo fast and furious social media Superheroe crossover talk show sequels Tumblr spider-man comics Endgame Comic Book Thanksgiving Biopics 2019 cancelled television diversity Television Academy Shondaland Hulu Rom-Com Character Guide Travel Channel Chilling Adventures of Sabrina CMT 2018 HBO Rocketman Spring TV 2016 psycho 21st Century Fox revenge indie Shudder Rock