From executive producer Ryan Murphy, the FX limited series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story illustrates what happened when the cross-country path of destruction of spree-killer Andrew Cunanan (chillingly played by Darren Criss) landed on the steps of the 1997 South Beach residence of Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez), where the international fashion icon was murdered. Based on the book Vulgar Favors by Maureen Orth, the series examines how fame, wealth and failed ambition collided with homophobia and prejudice, which ultimately delayed law enforcement’s search for one of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted.
While at the TCA Press Tour presentation for FX, Collider got the opportunity to sit down with Edgar Ramirez for this 1-on-1 interview about the appeal of playing Gianni Versace, why he needed some convincing that he was right for the role, the relationship between Gianni and Donatella (Penelope Cruz), the homophobia that clouded the manhunt, whether he spoke to anyone in the Versace family, working with this incredible cast, and why he’d collaborate with Ryan Murphy again.
Collider: Really fantastic work in this!
EDGAR RAMIREZ: Thank you very much!
What was the appeal of signing on for something like this?
RAMIREZ: Gianni was a disrupter. I have a very strong attraction to characters that somehow consciously or unconsciously change history, and that was the case with Gianni. He changed the time that he lived in and had a huge impact on culture. The culture of fame and celebrity and the obsession with bling and fashion was something that he basically created. We’re living in a time that was partially forged by Gianni. That was very appealing to me.
Gianni Versace also seemed very aware of just how much he was changing things, as he was doing it.
RAMIREZ: Yeah. He didn’t have any choice because he was an outsider and he always lived as an outsider. He had no other choice but to change things because he was always looking in from the outside and he had to force his way in. That was something that had marked him, since he was a kid. He was always ready to fight and to change things because nothing was gonna be given to him or handed to him, and that’s something he had experienced since he was a kid.
It’s interesting that Donatella did seem to initially be as driven as Gianni, and he had to push her out there a little bit.
RAMIREZ: They were a dynamic duo. Donatella was Gianni’s soundboard. And then, later on, she became the force that she is today. At the time, she was his little sister, but she was very important to him.
Did you get to talk to Donatella Versace, at all, or do you know what she thought of you taking on this role?
RAMIREZ: No. I wanted to be as respectful as possible with her and with the family, in general. This is a family that went through a horrible tragedy. I speak on behalf of all of us, that we wanted to be as respectful and compassionate as possible, so we took on this project with the utmost respect for the family and for their loss. Deep inside, I think that one of our greatest hopes is to get some facts right for people. Even today, people who you would think would be informed aren’t informed. People have a lot of facts wrong, based on the prejudice and all of the stigma that surrounded this case. With Gianni, there was victim blaming, at the time. There are still people today that suggest that he had it coming because he invited his killer into his house, and it wasn’t that way. That speaks about a greater subject that I actually think is the theme of the whole series, which is homophobia. Gianni was basically killed because of homophobia. Something that comes back, over and over, when you look into this investigation is the don’t ask, don’t tell element. This is an investigation that was dusted over because all of the victims were gay men. A guy who was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, and who was on national television every night for months and months, was never caught. At the time, which was only 20 years ago, he didn’t represent a public threat because he was only killing gay guys. Even the title of the series, The Assassination, has a political overtone, which is very important because he was targeted. For me, it was very interesting to be a part of that. One of Ryan Murphy’s biggest and most precious talents is the fact that he’s always sensitive enough and sharp enough to find and identify stories that are dramatically gripping, and at the same time, they speak about greater subjects that are going on in society.
What was it like to work with this incredible cast, including Penelope Cruz, Ricky Martin and Darren Criss?
RAMIREZ: Everyone was very committed and very respectful. We just wanted to do the story in the most respectful way possible because we all feel a lot of admiration for what Versace did and for what the family overcame, after his assassination. We had a sense of clarity and a sense of compassion that really played into the story. It’s a love story and a family story.