On Tuesday (Feb. 2), FX premiered their highly anticipated drama series American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. Actor Courtney B. Vance stars as the late Johnnie Cochran, who played a significant role in the defense and acquittal of the retired football star. In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, Vance discussed mistakes made in the Simpson murder trial and how the show explores race issues in America.
The star-studded 10-episode series surrounds the horrific murder of O.J.'s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and restaurant waiter Ronald Goldman. Deemed a prime suspect in the investigation, O.J. was later exonerated of the murder charges in a highly publicized trial in 1995. Cochran acted as a vital attorney in O.J.'s legal "Dream Team," helping them win the case.
While many people, including prosecutor Marcia Clark (played by Sarah Paulson) were shocked by the verdict, Vance was not. The Tony Award-winning actor believes Clark didn't comprehend the bigger picture surrounding the murder trial. According to Vance, Clark failed to strip O.J. of his like-able image, which could have possibly changed the outcome and the minds of the jurors.
"She didn't understand what the case was about," Vance told Huffington Post. "The jury consultants told her it was about celebrity, image and most of all race. She didn't believe it. "She thought she was putting away a monster. Yet at the time he was one of the most likable people in America. She needed to negate that image, and she never did."
That wasn't the only flaw, according to Vance. The 55-year-old Detroit native insists Clark and her prosecuting partner, Christopher Darden, completely missed the one factor in the trial that could have given them a victory: race. Despite swearing under oath on the witness stand that he had no bias against black people, a tape of LAPD Mark Fuhrman (played by Steven Pasquale) using an excessive amount of racial slurs surfaced.
He believes Cochran used the evidence to make the trial about race instead of the actual murder crime. Vance, who's married to actress Angela Bassett, hints the tape exposes a reoccurring problem within America, involving the relationship between law enforcement and African-Americans.
*Warning: the video below may contain explicit language*
"African-Americans see the police differently than whites. In their eyes, the police treat them as animals." "If that policeman had just talked to him the way he would have talked to a white kid," Vance said. "Take a little more time. Tell him to raise his hands, put down the knife. "But he didn't, and that's why black people, when they see a policeman, think differently."
The series director, Ryan Murphy, is also looking to open up dialogue about race in America. Murphy kicked off the show with the infamous footage of Rodney King being beaten by four LAPD officers after a high speed chase. All four officers were later acquitted of assault charges, which helped trigger the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Today, police brutality against African-Americans still makes headlines on a repetitive basis.
For more on American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, viewers can catch the series every Tuesday at 10 p.m. on FX.