'American Crime Story' star Darren Criss on playing serial killer Andrew Cunanan

PHOTO: Darren Criss appears on "Popcorn with Peter Travers" at ABC News studios, Jan. 31, 2018, in New York City.PlayMaryellen McGrath/ABC
WATCH 'American Crime Story' star on his role as serial killer Andrew Cunanan

Former "Glee" star Darren Criss is proving his acting range reaches well beyond that of dynamic singer and dancer.

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In his newest role, Criss plays notorious serial killer Andrew Cunanan, best remembered for taking the life of famed designer Gianni Versace.

Criss was hand-selected for the role on FX’s "American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace," by award-winning director Ryan Murphy, who was also the creative force behind the hit series "Glee."

PHOTO: Darren Criss in American Crime Story.FX Networks
Darren Criss in "American Crime Story."

"I’ve been kind of waiting my whole life for an opportunity like this," Criss said in his interview on "Popcorn with Peter Travers." "I was sort of on the sidelines being like, 'Alright, put me in coach.' So the fact that Ryan believed in that, I’m very much indebted."

PHOTO: Edgar Ramirez in American Crime Story.
FX Networks
Edgar Ramirez in "American Crime Story."

Criss has received critical acclaim for his portrayal of the cunning madman who went on a killing spree that ultimately took the lives of five people. Travers asked Criss if getting deep into the nerve endings of the character scared him.

"No, I think we’re all closer to somebody like Andrew than we care to admit,” Criss, 31, told Travers. “Everybody’s the hero of their own story. It doesn’t matter where their morality lies. Or where their lifelong emotional arc is. We’re all the heroes of our own tales."

He said understanding his characters' emotions is part of the job.

"I’m in the business of empathy, that’s my livelihood and I try and apply that to my day-to-daylife," Criss said. "But particularly when you’re playing characters -- and this was a real person -- we all focus on the worst, most horrible, deplorable things, which is obviously he took lives. He was a murderer.

"I’m not asking people to forgive him or exonerate him," he added. "But I am challenging people to question their own senses of empathy and see how many common denominators they may find with somebody that they might immediately pen as ... very distant from themselves."

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Criss said when he took on the role of Cunanan, he knew the story of how Versace was killed, but not much about the killer.

"I didn’t know much about Andrew and his backstory, which is exciting to me, I guess, as a storyteller," Criss said. "This is something, unless you’re in the fashion world living in Miami, it might be something a little more distant from you. And the American crime here other than the murders is ‘How come I didn’t know about this?’ And we kind of explore that."

Watch the full interview with Travers and Criss in the video above.