Will Darren Criss earn his first Emmy for American Crime Story: Versace? Judging by the trailer, the odds are in his favor.
For all the flack I give Ryan Murphy about American Horror Story, I’m the first to admit that he has a knack for making great television. The first few seasons of Glee, Nip/Tuck, and even most of American Horror Story are nothing short of television’s best.
But his two most recent ventures, American Crime Story and Feud, top them all. The awards only drove home the point that Ryan Murphy knew what he was doing within the constraints of limited-event television based on actual events.
There is no season 2. No pressure to build in convoluted loopholes to tie this series to another.
The trailer for the second installment in the American Crime Story series showcases what appears to be Murphy’s second Emmy submission sizzle reel. And instead of the Sarah Paulsons and Jessica Langes of the Murphy catalogue, another person steals the spotlight this time around – Darren Criss.
Watch ‘American Crime Story: Versace’ trailer
Goodbye hair gel, hello Emmy?
There’s a lot more going on in the American Crime Story trailer than Darren Criss.
Take a look at Penélope Cruz as Donatella Versace!
Édgar Ramírez as Gianni Versace!
The casting, as it was for The People v. O. J. Simpson, is inspired. The set design and costumes transport you to 1997.
As the trailer and the title of the book the series takes its cues from reveal, this is not about the fashion. Just as Feud did not focus entirely on What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, ACS: Versace tackles Andrew Cunanan on his path to murdering Versace.
Which brings us to the man of the 10+ hours of content to come – Darren Criss.
There is no shortage of Darren Criss footage in the trailer, revealing that the inner workings of this killer’s head are far more interesting than the fashion empire of the assassinated mogul.
Last we saw Darren Criss on television, he was manipulating space-time on The Flash and Supergirl as the Music Meister. Before that, he was eating cat food and being cut to pieces by Kathy Bates’ AHS: Hotel character.
Cast as Andrew Cunanan in February, Criss’ transformation into the serial killer who, like Criss, was half Filipino, caught the eyes of social media as he filmed on location in cutoff shorts, his hair free from gel. But fans of Criss know that those shorts are nothing new. The actor wore much less during his turn in the Broadway revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Which is the exact production that led executive producer Brad Simpson to see Criss as the only person for the role.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in June, Simpson recalled, “Once every night he jumps into somebody’s lap and makes out with them…It was very charming and a very Cunanan thing to do, to be a little devilish. Cunanan charmed people and then turned them off. We’re talking about a serial killer people liked.”
In the same interview, Criss noted, “Actors are only as good as the parts they get. You can only be as good as those moments you get. This is one of those ship-coming-in moments where Ryan has really given me this massive opportunity, and I’d like to think I am up for the challenge. There’s zero anxiety.”
And Criss showed up to work. In the minute and half we see his character go to work, lying, seducing, coming unhinged, and murdering Versace. He is truly captivating. You hang on his words, find the slight shifts in his facial expressions. Note the moments he is working hard to get someone right where he wants them. The see how quickly it switches to a scene where he is alone in the aftermath.
Just as he took you inside Marcia Clark’s personal trial as she prosecuted O. J. Simpson, Murphy prepares to take you into the world of a killer that earned a smile and a nod as he slipped under the radar of a manhunt.
It’s going to be an exciting and wild ride to watch Criss explore this character. It will be even better in the fall watching Criss smile at the camera as the nominees for best actor in a miniseries are announced at the Emmys.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story premieres January 17 on FX.