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Though he may not bear much of a physical resemblance to the real life Orenthal James Simpson, Gooding does an excellent job of bringing nuance to a character about whom the majority viewers will have a fully-formed opinion before the opening credits even roll. Though most viewers will probably remember the calm and collected O.J. we observed during his trial, Gooding is at his best during the chaotic chase scene in Episode 2, showing us the utter panic that governed Simpson's questionable actions once he realized he was the prime suspect in a double homicide.
Lead prosecutor Marcia Clark got a bad rap thanks to her team's bungling of Simpson's criminal trial, but Paulson makes her a more empathetic character here. The American Horror Story actress is a frequent muse of Ryan Murphy's, and with good reason. With just a sideways glance or tap of a cigarette, she able to convey Clark's utter disdain for Simpson, a documented spouse abuser who managed to evade punishment thanks to his status as a national celebrity. American Crime Story also doesn't shy away from the misogyny that Clark faced in her career, both before and after the trial.
It would be almost too easy to make the late celebrity lawyer into a caricature, with his flashy suits and memorable catchphrases, but Vance's approach to the defense attorney is more nuanced. Sure, there are a few one-liners and sly visual gags thrown in for good measure (his closet would make Carrie Bradshaw green with envy), but Vance errs on the side of humanizing Cochran, showing his initial reluctance to take on Simpson as a client because he was certain the case was a non-starter.
Travolta is at his campy best as Simpson's smarmy lawyer Robert Shapiro, who plays the tongue-wagging Hollywood media like a violin (and boasts an eyeball-grabbing, horrific spray tan/wig combination to boot). Thankfully, Travolta isn't holding back here, turning Shapiro into such an outsize villain that it's almost comical.
It's hard to believe that there was once a time when the world didn't keep up with the Kardashians' every move, but back in 1994, Robert Kardashian was a little-known lawyer raising four small children. Schwimmer plays Kardashian, Simpson's best friend who was persuaded to join his defense team, with a wide-eyed naivete that's almost endearing.
She doesn't have the biggest role on American Crime Story, but Selma Blair as Nicole Simpson's best friend and O.J. Simpson's lawyer's wife Kris Kardashian is pitch-perfect casting. Blair gives a winking performance, playing the then-unknown Kardashian as a cool, calculating socialite -- who's simultaneously grieving her murdered friend and figuring out how she and her husband can use the case to elevate their own profiles.
In the O.J. Simpson legal charade, one might say that Kato Kaelin served as the court jester. The aspiring actor, who was staying in Simpson's guest house the night of the murders, was straight out of central casting - a perpetually dazed pretty boy who became a celebrity in his own right thanks to his bizarre testimony. Magnussen fits Kaelin to a T, playing him as a deer in headlights who's in way over his perfectly coiffed blonde head.
Ito, who presided over Simpson's murder trial, made television and legal history by allowing cameras into his courtroom during the proceedings. In the FX version, Choi (Sons of Anarchy) brings an appropriate sense of detachment -- sometimes giving the appearance of boredom -- to the judge.
As LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman, whose racial prejudices did as much to damage the case against Simpson as anything else during the trial (and also resulted in a perjury conviction), Pasquale is all furrowed brow and a clenched jaw. We get the sense that Fuhrman has a personal investment in the case that goes beyond wanting to see a killer put behind bars, and his character anchors Murphy's thesis that the racial implications of the Simpson trial are still playing out today.
L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti struggled with whether to charge Det. Mark Fuhrman with perjury, after audio tapes contradicted Fuhrman's testimony about his use of racial slurs. As a politician, Garcetti tried to play both sides of the fence and eventually handed the responsibility over to the attorney general's office.
Who better to play blustering defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey than scene-stealer Nathan Lane? Both inside and outside the courtroom, Bailey was always in performance mode -- right down to keeping a silver flask on the table in front of him. His infamous cross-examination of Det. Mark Fuhrman was a legal tap dance for the ages, and watching Bailey and Johnnie Cochran tussle for the media spotlight was one of the more entertaining aspects of the circus that was the O.J. Simpson trial.
Brown portrays prosecuting attorney Christopher Darden as a moral compass of American Crime Story, a level-headed voice of reason who resisted allowing emotions to influence his judgment. Darden's standout moment during the trial was asking Simpson to try on the infamously ill-fitting bloody glove.
Deputy District Attorney Bill Hodgman, one of the more experienced lawyers on the prosecution, raised so many objections during Johnnie Cochran's opening statement that he looked like a jack-in-the-box. In contrast to the rest of the lawyers on his team, Hodgman's emotions continued to get the best of him throughout the trial, and he was hospitalized with chest pains at one point.
Representing everyone who believes O.J. Simpson got away with murder, Denise Brown made it her life's mission to give her sister's death meaning in the aftermath of the trial. Brown told anyone who would listen about Simpson's physical abuse of Nicole, and continues to work as an advocate for victims of domestic violence.
Come for Selma Blair as Kris Kardashian, stay for Connie Britton (and her hat/sunglasses) as Nicole Brown Simpson's best friend/future Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Faye Resnick. It's a treat to see Britton bite off scenery as the recovering addict Resnick, for whom Brown organized an intervention days before her death, without the maudlin gravitas that weighs down her scenes on Nashville. She clearly hasn't had this much fun onscreen since Season 1 of American Horror Story.
Simpson's friend and fellow NFL alum A.C. Cowlings was behind the wheel of Simpson's white Ford Bronco during the infamous police chase on the L.A. freeway. Even though we all know the outcome, Warner brings a heightened sense of tension to the car chase, thanks to Cowlings' inexplicable, insane devotion to his friend even in the face of extreme physical danger.
Celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz acted as a special advisor to Simpson's defense team and later wrote a book about the case. The New York native offered a new perspective on the case -- that of someone living outside the confines of Hollywood.
The late journalist covered the Simpson trial for Vanity Fair and was also a CourtTV commentator. In the days before a 24-hour news cycle, he was one of the more prominent voices in a media pool that couldn't write enough about the proceedings to satisfy the scandal-hungry public.
A member of Simpson's defense team who was an expert in DNA evidence, Scheck planted the seeds of doubt, suggesting that perhaps Simpson had been framed by a racist police department. In picking apart, piece by piece, investigators' handling of the initial evidence, he also dismantled the prosecution's entire argument.