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The utterly magnificent one-off season of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story conclude...

'The People v. O.J. Simpson' Finale Postmortem: EPs Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski on Balancing 'Drama With Absurdism'

By 18:45:00

The utterly magnificent one-off season of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story concluded this week with “The Verdict,” an inevitably downbeat and elegiac ending for one of 2016’s most watercooler-worthy series. When FX’s American Crime Story anthology was first announced it had all the hallmarks of a Ryan Murphy spectacle, from the branding of the title to the audacious casting, and of course its high potential for tastelessness. But over ten weeks The People v. O.J. Simpson proved to be as thoughtful and relevant as it was weird and hilarious.


The surprising greatness of this series has been due in no small part to head writers and executive producers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the seasoned screenwriters behind similarly ‘based on a true story’ classics like Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and the recent Big Eyes. In adapting Jeffrey Toobin’s juicy book The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson, the pair had the difficult task of making a truly insane real life event feel emotionally charged and compelling. This week they took time to chat with Yahoo TV about our favorite thing on TV in recent memory.

This season was a timely, thoughtful exploration of race and injustice, and it was also a timely, thoughtful exploration of perms and '90s references. How difficult was it to maintain the seriousness of one while embracing the camp of the other?

LK: I think it’s difficult but it’s what we do. If you look at the biopics that Scott and I have done, I think what makes them different than the straight-ahead Richard Attenborough-style biopic is that we manage to mix tones rather successfully. We feel that comedy and drama coexist with each other in real life and we try to capture that in our projects. And the O.J. Simpson trial was probably the most extreme version of that, in that at the center of this was the death of two innocent people, and we never wanted to make anyone feel that we were in any way making fun of that or doing anything that would be harmful to the Goldmans or the Browns.


But that being said, the reason to do a story about the O.J. Simpson trial was about all the elements around it. The issue of race, the issue of gender, the issue of media that this case exposed. And for us the intersection of drama with absurdism is what drew us to the project and what we love about it.

In your film work, you tend to find redemption for mocked or derided outsiders. Who in particular were you hoping to redeem in this case?


SA: We didn’t go into it with any agenda, but somewhere during the last three years of working on this we found ourselves liking the key lawyers a lot more than we did during the trial. And so, it wasn’t intentional but I think we ended up sort of offering redemption to Marcia, Chris, and Johnnie, who had all been turned into caricatures by the coverage of the trial. By looking at their personal problems and then how much those three cared about the trial personally, I think it makes us like them and care for them in a way we didn’t 20 years ago.

LK: My favorite thing that people say to us after an episode is, “Wow, 20 years ago I really couldn’t stand Marcia Clark, and now I really feel for her,” or “I thought Johnnie Cochran was just a flashy guy who did rhymes in the courtroom, but my gosh, he really stood for something.” So allowing people to have a new take on these people that they thought they knew so well has really been something that we take great pride in.

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