12 Things You Need To Know About The Year's Most Addictive New Show

The stars of The People v OJ Simpson offer their thoughts

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​American Crime Story: The People v OJ Simpson reached UK screens this Monday, a couple of weeks behind its Stateside debut, and in case you haven't heard yet, it's very, very good.

At last month's TCA Press Tour, cast and crew - including powerhouse exec producer Ryan Murphy, Cuba Gooding Jr, David Schwimmer and John Travolta - were on hand to offer up some behind-the-scenes details on the series, which depicts "the most famous event in American history that has never been dramatised".

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So if you've got withdrawal symptoms following episode one (and trust us, we feel your pain), here are 12 tidbits about the show to tide you over.

1. None of the real people involved in the case were contacted by the writers.

"We adapted Jeffrey Toobin's book, which we greatly appreciated for its attention to character and context, and we weren't seeking to make a docudrama," said executive producer Nina Jacobson, adding that they were very conscious of how the murder victims were portrayed. "We never showed the victims in life, and we were honestly very mindful of what Fred Goldman [father of the murdered Ron Goldman] said about the injustice that the victims ended up being a footnote in this trial. It ended up being about everything but them."

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2. The show hinges on questions about the American justice system.

Murphy said this is what's really driven the post-Serial true crime renaissance. "Great true crime stories aren't about a crime, they're about some sort of rupture in society, some underlying issue, and ways in which the justice system might be broken."

"This is a story about everything that obsesses the American people," added lawyer and author Toobin, who wrote the book upon which the show is based and served as a consultant throughout production. "This is a story about race, sex, violence, sports, Hollywood, and the only eyewitness is a dog. This was the most famous event in American history that had never been dramatised."

3. David Schwimmer sought help from Kris Jenner in preparing to play Robert Kardashian.

"She was incredibly generous and very open about her relationship with Robert," he said, "and the single greatest thing I got from her was the insight about how religious he was. He had a very personal relationship to God, he prayed several times a day, and for me, that really informed the character and helped me understand the decisions he made."

4. Cuba Gooding Jr has not met OJ Simpson.

Nor does he plan to. "I had no desire to visit him in his present condition, being incarcerated, being a shell of a man. I have friends who are incarcerated and it breaks a man's spirit. At some point you start to believe whatever reality, even if it's not truth. If Ryan wants to do next season about OJ today, and cast me again, then I'll sit with him every day. But I knew that this portrayal should be of a flamboyant, charismatic movie star."

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5. The central question of the series isn't "Did OJ do it?" but "How did OJ get acquitted?"

Episode one depicts an open-and-shut case with seemingly insurmountable evidence against Simpson, and the rest of the series will depict the gradual, stranger-than-fiction process by which every single piece of evidence was undermined, leading ultimately to Simpson's wildly controversial acquittal. "It's about the unraveling of certainty - you could just see it kind of slipping through the prosecution's fingers," said co-writer Larry Karaszewski.

6. John Travolta found it easy to slip right into playing Simpson's defence attorney Robert Shapiro.

"I was already very familiar with legalese… Over the last 40 years, I've had quite a bit of dealings with lawyers."

7. Some of the key locations seen on screen are the real thing.

Specifically the Kardashians' home, where in episode one Simpson threatens to shoot himself in Kim Kardashian's childhood bedroom. "It was Kardashian's actual home that we were filming in, and that brought it all home to us in a way that was chilling," revealed Schwimmer. "It was a harrowing scene."

8. Though the story is 20 years old, its racial tensions remain eerily relevant.

"We never imagined three years ago that the show would feel so torn from the headlines," said Karaszewski. He knew from the first pitch that episode one would begin with the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which broke out after four white police officers were acquitted of assaulting black taxi driver Rodney King. "This case was so polarising, and you could only see it through your own prism," added EP Brad Simpson. "It was a shock for a lot of white people when the verdicts came out, and there was some celebration among black people, and I think African Americans were confused as to why white people chose this case to be so angry about. Why this injustice?

"20 years later we saw Ferguson, and all these protests and the issue of police brutality came forth again. I hope what people take away from it is that we're in this endless conversation. Your experience of the criminal justice system and police is very different based on the colour of your skin, and based on where you are economically."

9. Kardashian is the hero of the piece…

"Robert was not a criminal defence lawyer, he was a business lawyer," Schwimmer explained, "so he was really only on the defence team to babysit OJ, and represent him and look out for his best interests. For me, the appeal of the role was Robert being the heart and the conscience of the whole thing. He's the only key player who has nothing to gain from this."

10. … But don't expect to see much of the Kardashian Klan.

Though little Kim, Khloé, Kourtney and their little brother Rob do make appearances in the series, the creators were eager to minimise their roles. "We thought it would be valuable to have them there just for a little sprinkling," said executive producer Scott Alexander. "There were a lot of themes that we wanted to hit in the scripts: the beginning of the 24-hour news cycle, the beginning of reality TV. And they were sort of emblematic of the beginning of this era, where someone like Kato Kaelin or Faye Resnick could become famous, and no one was really sure why they were famous."

"In the 10 episodes, there are over 400 scenes that were written, and of those 400 scenes, only four or five of them involve the Kardashian children," added Murphy. "So I think that gives you a grasp on how important we felt they were to the story."

11. Schwimmer and Travolta both have a strange relationship to the Simpson trial

Because it gripped Los Angeles in 1994, just as both actors were enjoying surreal and unprecedented success. "It was a dichotomy," said Travolta. "I was in the middle of the Pulp Fiction resurrection, I had a new career, we'd just won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and meanwhile my father was just obsessed with the case, he was on the sofa watching every second of it from the car chase onwards, so I would check in."

Schwimmer, similarly, was "very aware of the tension around the trial, it was palpable in the city, and then this crazy career break of a lifetime happened [with Friends]. I was in this strange, dizzying space of my own first flush of celebrity, and shooting this wonderful show with this wonderful group of people, and at the same time really working hard to stay connected to these events that were unfolding."

12. OJ Simpson is the hardest character Gooding Jr has ever played.

In part because he had to avoid thinking too much about whether or not he was guilty. "It's part of the process not to judge your character - I have to give him a blank slate and let [the directors] paint it in the editing room, so you want to give him as many choices as you can. There is a little bit of fear when I hear something definitive one way or another because I don't want it to influence my psyche too much.

"This was probably the hardest character I've ever played, it was six months of emotional and physical... I go back and forth from week to week. Each script that would come in would give me more information - stuff that was admissible or not admissible - and I'd go maybe he did it, maybe he didn't do it."

American Crime Story: The People v OJ Simpson is on BBC2 (Monday, 9pm)

From Digital Spy