‘American Crime Story’ Season 2 dramatizes the Gianni Versace murder

Ryan Murphy-produced FX anthology starts Season 2

Edgar Ramirez plays the title role in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” premiering Wednesday, Jan. 17, on FX.

Just as executive producer Ryan Murphy has told a different tale with each season of “American Horror Story,” the same is true of his “American Crime Story.”

That stands to reason in the latter case, since that series is telling finite, true stories. First was the nine-Emmy-winning “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” and though Hurricane Katrina was envisioned as the second subject, that has turned out instead to be “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” which begins its 10-episode FX run Wednesday, Jan. 17.

Opening with an elegantly staged sequence directed by Murphy and detailing the actual 1997 crime in Miami Beach, the drama stars Edgar Ramirez (“The Girl on the Train”) as iconic fashion designer Versace, Penelope Cruz as his sister Donatella, singer-actor Ricky Martin as Versace’s longtime partner Antonio D’Amico, and Murphy-show veteran Darren Criss (“Glee”) as serial killer Andrew Cunanan.

“I think the thing about ‘American Crime Story,’” says Murphy, “is that we’re not just (dramatizing) a crime. We’re trying to talk about a crime within a social idea. This was always interesting to us because the idea was that Versace, who was the last victim, really did not have to die. Part of the thing that we talk about in the show is, one of the reasons Andrew Cunanan was able to make his way across the country and pick off these victims — many of whom were gay — was because of homophobia at the time.

Darren Criss is among the stars of “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” premiering Wednesday, Jan. 17, on FX.

“Homophobia (factored in),” Murphy maintains, “particularly within the various police organizations that refused in Miami to put up ‘Wanted’ posters, even though they knew that Andrew Cunanan had probably committed many of these murders and was probably headed that way … all of which we deal with in the show. I thought that that was a really interesting thing to examine, to look at again, particularly with the president we have and the world that we live in.”

Ramirez explains his principal interest in playing Versace “has to do with (his) being haunted. Both being haunted and hunted. And I think that is something that I really connected to, a character that basically came into the States to change everything, forever. The world that we live in is a world, aesthetically, that basically Gianni Versace created. For the first time, he combined sexiness and glamour and opulence, like no one has ever done before. He could see the sexiness of the ‘70s, and then all the opulence of the ‘80s, and he sensed that in the ‘90s. And he combined it, and everybody went crazy. So I think that it’s a disrupter, and I was very attracted to that.”

Criss equally was intrigued about portraying Cunanan, and he reports that in preparing, he found “an overabundance of information.” Still, he notes there were “a lot of blanks to fill in, which has been a very interesting ride. People have come out of the woodwork to talk to me about Andrew, which has been a delight for me.

“Andrew was so many different personalities to so many different people,” Criss adds, “so in a way, for me, that makes things a bit easier because we’re not just following what we would assume to be a murderous, horrible person all the time. We see him at his best; we see him at his worst; we see him at his most charming; we see him at his most hurt. And it’s all over the place. We really do get to know him as a person.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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