The debut season of American Crime Story has kept everyone on the edge of their seats.
Exploring what’s often thought of as the case of the century, FX delves into the O.J. Simpson case and its cast of characters. Of the team of lawyers, the most well-known was Johnnie Cochran who is played by the brilliant Courtney B. Vance. We got a chance to speak to Vance about his reaction to the O.J. verdict, his opinion on the lack of diversity in Hollywood and much more.
Check out our exclusive with Courtney B. Vance below.
The Urban Daily: How did you get the part of Johnnie Cochran?
Courtney B. Vance: “It basically started with two meetings. And I spoke to the directors about O.J. and Cochran and what was going on in the world at that time. Each meeting lasted about an hour and a half. I took the role because I had a great, great feeling for what they were trying to do. Meetings like this are normal, but sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Luckily, it did this time.”
TUD: How did it feel to portray one of the most notorious attorneys of all time?
CBV: “I wouldn’t look at him as notorious, but he’s definitely one of the most famous attorneys of all time. He was very much a man of the people, especially with all of these police brutality cases. You have to remember that for the longest amount of time African-Americans had no recourse for justice. We knew that if we went through the courts and did things the right way we wouldn’t get justice. We have a different idea of what justice means. The system broke down for people of color. That’s why people of color cheered. They didn’t cheer for the verdict, they didn’t cheer for O.J., they cheered for Johnnie.”
BG: Was justice served?
TUD: “No, I don’t think justice was served because there were two people that were dead, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. If O.J. did it and he was guilty, or not these people were still murdered. There were no clear winners here.”
TUD: Did you have a thought on his verdict before or after the show?
CBV: “That wasn’t important. It wasn’t about me and what I thought. It didn’t matter. The defense attorney’s point of view is to poke holes in the prosecution’s case, to prove beyond the point of reasonable doubt.”
TUD: Do you remember where you were when news of his acquittal broke?
CBV: “I remember for the verdict I was in Toronto doing a piece called Boys Next Door with Tony Goldwyn at Nathan Lane’s trailer. I screamed ‘Yes!’ and Tony screamed ‘No!’ And we then sat there and spoke about why we felt that way.”
TUD: In doing the show, did you learn anything you hadn’t previously known?
CBV: “Everything was new to me because I didn’t follow the trial because I was overwhelmed by it. I was overwhelmed by everything. O.J. Simpson, my hero was on trial for a double murder. I was just in shock. I purposely didn’t follow the case. So I knew that this was an opportunity for me to fill in all those gaps.”
TUD: How do you feel the show will impact the black community now?
CBV: “I hope it impacts everyone, not just black people in the sense that we start to talk about our differences. If we continue to talk about our difference then our differences won’t be there anymore or at least minimized. We gotta talk about it. We can’t just say ‘we’re one.’ No we’re not. We were raised differently. We see the world differently. There’s no shame in admitting that we’re raised to see police as less than our friends. But the police need to know that so they can say, ‘You know what we need to change our approach.’ But we also to realize that the police are not our enemy. We have to reboot ourselves and narrow the gap between our dreams and reality. But the reason these things happen with greater rapidity is because we refuse to deal with it. We refuse. All of these situations that come up, they’re simply opportunities to sit down and talk.”
TUD: What do you think we can do to address diversity in Hollywood?
CBV: “It’s work, it’s not going to happen over night. We have not begun. On both sides. When our films come out, people of color gotta go see them. We can’t say we gotta make more films about black people and not go see them. Nobody went and saw Malcolm X. If you don’t vote, you’ve got nothing to complain about. If someone you don’t like gets into office you send out a mass email. Don’t sit around and complain if you don’t even vote. People say “it doesn’t matter” Yes it does matter. People died for us to have the right to vote. Stop complaining and get our there and do something about it. It’s right there at our finger tips.”
TUD: Do people have a right to be outraged by the lack of diversity?
CBV: “Maybe we could complain back in the ‘50s. If all those people in Montgomery can get together without a computer, and do a bus boycott and walk 7 or 8 miles each way, for a year or more than we can do this.”
TUD:How do you feel the trial would play out today with social media?
CBV: “I can’t say the trial would be tried fairly. It would be even bigger chaos if something like the O.J. trial happened today. Everyone has an opinion. Anytime you put something on television it becomes a nightmare. I don’t think it should have been on television. It’s not reality TV it’s a trial.”
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.
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