‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’: Recreating the ’90s Vibe and Racial Divide (Emmy Watch)

'The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’: Recreating the '90s Vibe and Racial Divide (Emmy Watch)


The most unforgettable moment in "The People v. O.J. Simpson" occurs during "The Race Card" episode when Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) redecorates the Juice’s (Cuba Gooding Jr.) Brentwood estate with more racially appealing African artwork, crucially replacing a Norman Rockwell print above the fireplace depicting two Caucasian boys in leather helmets playing football with his own Rockwell portraying African-American schoolgirl Ruby Bridges. It was a brilliant stroke of genius by production designer Jeff Mossa, which summarizes "the trial of the century" and brings it eerily full-circle today.

"It was something I found [during the research] and the writers [Joe Robert Coe and Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski] responded to it and liked it," Mossa recalled. "We know that Johnnie redecorated O.J.’s house, we know the kinds of things he replaced. Most of the research that I have of O.J.’s house shows family pictures on the wall. Of course, we had to take license occasionally. John Singleton [who directed the episode] recommended using the Patrick Nagel prints."

But it almost didn’t happen as planned. The football print, even though it was still within the Rockwell estate, was managed through another licensing company. "We didn’t know if we were going to have permission to actually film it, so we had a backup piece, and I think it was 45 minutes before filming began that we actually got a signed release," Mossa added.

For Mossa, the design challenge was not only about period authenticity with regard to LA in ’95, but also filling in the gaps of what we didn’t know and making it relevant to our own racially divisive zeitgeist. "I had a police technical adviser who was very helpful to me," he said. "And we discussed what was going on nationally while we were making it with Ferguson and it just snowballed from there."

And Mossa found the best way into the backstories of flamboyant "Dream Team" leader Cochrane and beleaguered prosecutor Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) was through their homes. Indeed, some of the juiciest scenes take place in Cochrane’s Beverly Hills mansion while Clark often appears constrained by her claustrophobic surroundings.

"We weren’t making a documentary but wanted to be true to the spirit and aware of contemporary sensibilities," Mossa continued.  "And certainly within the research you come across wardrobes and hairstyles and decor that make you buckle. And my theory on this is that because it’s more recent history, that stuff will make you laugh more than a ’70s piece."

The production designer had to be particularly wary of cars and TVs (scrapping a very dated-looking Circuit City sequence) and craftily covering parking meters rather than paying the extra expense to have them removed or digitally erased.

But conveying the contrast between public and private lives is what Mossa strives for. "If an actor walks onto one of my sets and reacts with, ‘I know where I am now,’ it only makes their performances better. I want my audience to see my set without any of the actors and understand the characters.”

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Comments

MASEO MASSEY

THE UNTOLD STORY ABOUT THE O.J. STORY ….. IS THAT O.J. DID NOT DO IT. THE POLICE WANTED HIM SO BAD THAT THIS CASE CAUSE THEM TO "BED-WET". YES …. DID MESS WITH THE BLOOD EVERDENT. THAT WAS WERE THEY DID GET COUGHT. FOR YOU COULD SEE FROM THE OUTSIDE THROUGH THAT WINDOW WHEN THEY GAVE IT TO THAT POLICE WOMAN. WERE THEY WENT WRONG IS THAT NEVER LOOK INTO HIS BLACK SON. ALL THE CUTS WERE ON HIS SON. A FEW MONTH LATER ….. JET MAGAZINE ….. WERE HIS SON HAD ALL THE CUT AND BRUISE THAT THEY WERE LOOKING FOR ON O.J. BODY. THE SAID THAT HE GOT THEM FROM A FIGHT IN A CLUB AGAIN TWO MEN. BUT THERE WERE SOME THING THAT DID NOT ADD UP??? 1. IN THE ARITCAL THEY STATED RGAT ….. "NO ONE SAW HIM COME INTO THAT CLUB". 2. THEY SAID THAT EVERY TIME THAT HE WOULD COME INTO THE CLUB …. "THAT HE WOULD HAVE TO LET EVERYONE KNOW THAT HE WAS O.J. SON. 3. AS I STATED BEFOR NO ON SAW HIM COME IN THE CLUB. 4. NO ON EVEN AT THE BAR NOR THE WAITRESS KNEW THAT HE WAS THERE …. UNTIL HE SOME HOW WANTED TO PICK A FIFGT WITH THE TWO BIGGEST MEN IN THE CLUB??? 5. THEY STATED THATTHE TWO BIG MENDID NOT WANT TO FIGHT WITH HIM …. BUT HE PRESS-IT-ON??? THIS IS THE STATMENT THAT DID NOT MAKR SENCE TO EVERYON IN THE CLUB. THEY STATED THAT EACH IME THEY WOULD TRY WALK AWAY 4 TO 6 TIME …. "HE WOULD STILL CALL THEM TO BACK OUT OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN. EVEN THE WEMEN WERE SAYING THAT HE WAS ACTING AND LOOKING LIKE A NUT-JOB???? IF I HAD ALL OF THE CUTS AND BRUISE THAT THEY WERE LOOKING FOR DURING THE O.J. CASE. I WOULD ALSO PICK A FIGHT WITH THE TWO BIDDEST MEN IN A CLUB TOO. IF YOU GO BACK AND CHECK …. THEY ALWAY SAID THAT THE REAL BLOOD THAT THEY DID FIND WAS ….. "ALMOST LIKE O.J."???? THE CLOSE THING TO O.J. WOULD BE O.J. SON. SURE THE SON LOOK REAL BAD ON THAT PICTURE THAT THEY SHOW OF HIM IN THE JET MADAZINE. BUT HIS BLOOD WOULD STILL BE THAT ALMOST TO THAT OF O.J. O.J. HAD ONLY ONE MICRO IN BETWEEN HIS FINGER. BUT THEY STATED THAT THAT MAN WAS A BLACK BUILT OR ALMOST ONE. HIM AND O.J. WIFE FOUGHT SO HARD THATHIS HAND HAD SWELL UP RREAL BAD. AND THE POLICE WERE LOOKING FOR SOMEONE THAT WAS ALSO BEAT UP LIKE THAT MAN AND O.J. WERE. THEY SAID THAT … HE GAAVE THEM AS GOOD AS HE GOT. THE REASON I BEEN THINGING ABOUT THIS IS …. IS THAT O.J …. WAS NOT COVICTED BECAUSE OF HIS ….. "CLOVE SIZE". AND THE "SHOES SIZE". LET ME SAY THIS ….. "THE SON AND THE FATHER HAD THE SAME ….. "FOOT SIZE" ….. BUT THE SON JUST DID NOT HAVE THE SAME HAND SIZE AS HIS ….. "KNOCKCLE-DRAGON" HAND SIZE OF HIS FATHER. THIS IS WHY THAT O.J. WAS ACTING SO CRAZIES. I WOULD DO THE SAME THING FOR THE COPS TO NOT LOOK AT MY SON TOO. O.J. NEW BEFOR HE PUT ON THAT "GLOVE IN THE COURT THAT THAT CLOVE WOULD NOT FIT" AND ONE HAVE EVER CLEAR UP THAT ONE STATMENT THAT …. THAT REAL BLOOD WAS ALMOST LIKE O.J.????? IF THE CASE HAD WENT TO O.J. SON …. HE WOULD NOT HAVE GOTTEN OUT OF IT. AND O.J. NEW IT. O.J. HAD DONE ALL OF THIS FOR-THE- LIFE-OF-HIS-SON.

MASEO

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