Actor Darren Criss is playing one of the fascinating characters of his entire career and he gave an insight into a difficult and challenging role.
American Coming Out Story
Before The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story hit screens, series creator Ryan Murphy promised a deep dive into the homophobia of the 1990s. Thus far, he hasn't really delivered, focusing instead on serial killer Andrew Cunanan's life as it unfolds in reverse chronological order, relative to each of his victims.
At the midpoint of the series, episode 5 titled "Don't Ask Don't Tell," finally lived up to Murphy's promise. The series took a major swerve by cleverly juxtaposing the coming out stories of two of Cunanan's victims, Jeff Trail and Versace himself, against the moment the killer unravels.
Two very different experiences of coming out are offered, as Versace prepares to pose for his Advocate cover while army man Jeff Trail gives an interview to CBS News about gays in the military, with his voice and identity kept obscured, in order to protect his career.
Up to now, Criss, who is most famous for his squeaky-clean Glee character, has shown serious range in tackling arguably the most challenging character of his entire career as Cunanan. As for the decision to showcase both sides of the coming out coin, Criss considers it a genius move.
"Two different worlds are trying to face the same obstacles and being met with very different resistance is really interesting because you can see this very harrowing world that Jeff is in constant conflict with versus this very ... glamorous side ... There's a real heroism to both," explained Criss.
Playing An American Psycho
As for what audiences will learn about Andrew in upcoming episodes, Criss was hopeful his past wouldn't impact the audience's reading of the character too much.
"When you know somebody has done something as terrible as Andrew did, you connect every moment of their life to those actions. ...I couldn't wait to get him as a teenager because I really wanted to confuse people's senses of who and what you're rooting for," he said.
When it comes to empathizing with the killer, Criss believes it's possible to do so.
"Any time Andrew [was] ... exposed to the real world around him or the truth, it's a very unpleasant thing for him. So the first one [murder] - "no one wants your love" is the line that Jeff says. And that's enough to turn a cog in Andrew's brain. To hear that from the one person that he's given everything to, you can't help but feel bad for the guy, even though hopefully most people wouldn't do what he did," Criss added.
Criss is widely considered to be doing the best work of his career on the show, and will surely be a shoo-in once the Emmys roll around.
Catch The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.