In 1995, no one in America could take their eyes off of the O.J. Simpson murder trial. In 2016, FX is hoping the same is true in their new series, "The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story," which premieres Feb. 2 at 10 p.m. EST. However, the show, the first season in a planned anthology series about infamous criminals, does not just tell Simpson's story, it goes behind-the-scenes of the case itself, profiling the "Dream Team" lawyers who helped the former NFL star get acquitted of the June 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
Angel Parker ("Lab Rats," "Grant Theft Auto V"), who plays "Dream Team" lawyer Shawn Chapman in the series, says the "The People Vs. O.J. Simpson" humanizes the big name attorneys many have demonized for allegedly helping a man get away with murder. Parker, who remembers hearing the Simpson verdict announced over her high school's intercom, says the attorneys were just doing their jobs well.
Read the full interview below:
International Business Times: This is an impressive ensemble you are a part of in "The People vs. O.J. Simpson." What was that experience like as an actress?
Angel Parker: At first I was so scared and thought it was so daunting just walking into a room with John Travolta and Nathan Lane and David Schwimmer. It can be daunting, but they are so lovely and make you feel comfortable and made you feel like it was a family. We were a team. We were the "Dream Team" and we needed to be. I feel like I can call them all friends now.
IBT: I like the "Dream Team" parallel there.
Parker: We all kept saying that! We would be like "Come on! Dream Team, let's go!" It was fun and we all took it very seriously. We all did so much research on our roles and our relationships with each other. Those days shooting in the courtroom could be very long, but it was so fun when you had someone like Cuba Gooding Jr. getting up and dancing, or Sarah Paulson rapping, or Nathan Lane just telling stories about his life. And then John Travolta is just a bona fide movie star and makes everyone feel special.
IBT: You play a character who is part of a team of lawyers who has become very vilified in popular culture as the people who helped O.J. Simpson get away with murder. How does the show go about humanizing that team?
Parker: It does that by showing all the moving pieces that it takes to, in some people's opinion, get a person off with murder. It's not as easy job to do. The prosecution did not meet their case and the defense presented a fantastic case. Like or not, agree with or not, they came together and presented an excellent defense. All the players were experts in their fields and knew what they were doing. They also knew how to get in people's heads and establish reasonable doubt and that is all that they needed. You will see how that happened. The prosecution and defense were both exhausted. It was a battle for the ages. That is why, I think, that people are still interested in this case. It went on for over a year and then when the verdict came down in less than 24 hours, people were shocked.
IBT: What happened in the courtroom is all public record, but how were you able to get insight into Shawn Chapman's psychological and emotional state through the trial?
Parker: That is portrayed so well in our show — the feelings behind every move that was made and the feelings of conflict in us, especially David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian who is just brilliant.
It took me a little while to meet Shawn and to have the courage to do that. They didn't really want us meeting our real life counterparts at first because this show is based on Jeffrey Toobin's book, "The Run of His Life," and a lot of the people do not want to talk about this part of their lives. They became famous for reasons they did not want to be.
It was funny for me, though, because I went into my hairdresser and told her I can not cut off too much because I have to look like this woman, Shawn Chapman, and the hairdresser across from me in the salon said, "Oh, I do Shawn's hair!" So, they hooked me up and gave me her number, but it still took me two months to reach out to her because the show had warned us not to reach out to her too early. I could have called her office, but I had her cell phone number burning a hole in my pocked so I texted her and she wrote back right away. She was so warm and invited me to her home and opened up about that time and the relationships. She was so open with me, so I really appreciated that.
IBT: Did you learn anything from meeting Shawn that you would have never been able to pick up from your own research?
Parker: Well, I didn't ask questions that I could find the answers to online, but she did ask me if I could see in the footage from the trial that she cried like a baby when the verdict was read. Sure enough, I looked at the footage and you can see her crying like a baby — her words! I asked her why and she said it was the end of a long journey and it was a visceral reaction to the moment. I didn't ask whether she thought he was guilty or anything like that. I felt that would have been a rude question. She did say the prosecution failed to meet their case, which is a very lawyer thing to say.
She also said she was there in court every day and [victim Ronald Goldman's family] was sitting right over her right shoulder, which made it hard to focus. I didn't understand what she meant until I was sitting there with the actors who were playing the Goldmans literally over my shoulder and I thought, "That is what she meant!" How do you sit there and work that hard and then the family is right there? That makes it so personal, so I can understand why she cried. I personally cried when the verdict was read [while shooting], not because she told me she had, but it was just such a powerful moment.
"The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" premieres Feb. 2 at 10 p.m. EST on FX. Watch the trailer below: