The O.J. Simpson case captivated audiences everywhere as it unraveled on television, and now it’s about to do it again 21 years later in the new series “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
John Travolta and Courtney B. Vance, who star as attorneys Robert Shapiro and Johnnie Cochran, respectively, in the new FX series, recalled on “Good Morning America” today exactly where they were while watching the infamous white Bronco chase occurring on live television.
“I was in Carmel, Monterey, California,” Travolta, 61, said. “My dad was glued to the television. I was celebrating my rebirth of my career with ‘Pulp Fiction.’ It had just won the Palme d'Or in the Cannes Film Festival so I had this duality going on where I was celebrating my career but experiencing this American tragedy. It was a real dichotomy.”
Vance, 55, said he couldn’t grasp what was happening in the beginning because he was such a Simpson fan.
“I was in Sacramento. We were doing ‘Panther,’ and the Bronco chase preempted the NBA Finals,” the actor explained. “And I was like, ‘What is going on here? I want to see my teams play.’ And then all of a sudden I realized what was going. I was a huge O.J. Simpson fan from the USC days and the Buffalo Bills, and so I was really in a state of shock that this was happening.
“And because it was so new, we had never seen something where the whole world was captivated since the Kennedy assassination. That’s why I really couldn’t, I didn’t engage in the trial, during the middle portion of it in the year-long trial, until the end.”
Travolta added, “My dad was a football player, a coach, and kept us informed every day.”
He admitted being a bit reluctant at first to take on the role, worrying it could be “too sensational.”
“Initially, I thought, ‘Why are they doing this?’ Is it a guilty pleasure, is it sensational and it was anything but,” he said. “I was even offered a position as a producer to ensure the quality of the project if I wanted to. But with Ryan Murphy and Nina Jacobson, these people only do high quality things.
“I did take a while, I surveyed a lot of my top friends in the industry to see what they felt and they felt like TV was really coming around to be the place where adults go to watch things. More kids for movies and adults for TV. And it’s multilayered. This is about racism and it’s about classism, the judicial system being broken, fame, celebrity, and when I saw that it was hitting so many subject matters so brilliantly, then it was, ‘Why wouldn’t you do this?’”
"The People versus O.J. Simpson" premieres tonight on FX.