How 'The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story' Maintained Accuracy, According To Star Angel Parker
The much-anticipated true crime series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story is set to reignite interest in one of the most talked about crimes of the century. In 1994, people became obsessed with the "first real reality show" that was the trial of O.J. Simpson for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, of which he was found not guilty. One person following the O.J. Simpson trial closely was Angel Parker, a Los Angeles native. Little did Parker know that 22 years later she would be portraying one of the lawyers apart of "The Dream Team," the legal defense team representing Simpson during the trial, on The People v. O.J. Simpson, which premieres Tuesday night at 10 p.m. "Everyone remembers watching the Bronco chase," Parker tells Bustle in an interview anticipating the FX series premiere. "It's part of our culture... the world stopped."
Parker plays Shawn Holley (nee Chapman), a lawyer from Johnnie Cochran's firm at the time. To this day, Holley is a celebrity lawyer, representing very famous names over the span of her career. "You just Google Shawn Chapman," Parker says, "and a lot of pictures of Lindsay Lohan come up." That was just the beginning phase of Parker's research into her character. "You can watch the entire trial on YouTube," Parker says, admitting she did. "It's incredible that this was documented so well and so many people wrote books... almost every [person involved] wrote a book."
The show itself is based off of Jeffrey Toobin's book The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson, which Parker says is what the cast and creators really fought to portray, despite the endless amount of first-hand knowledge from the real life people. "The show really encouraged us not to meet with [those involved] until we had already gotten into shooting, so we're not basing it off of them, we're basing it off of the book."
But, that doesn't mean that Parker didn't get to meet the woman she would be portraying. Because there was so much research Parker could do online regarding the trial itself, Parker says that meeting with Holley was more so she could get to know her. "It was really cool to hang with her and get her essence and just get her to tell me how she felt during that time..."
Parker says that one of the specific things that Holley told her during their time together was the placement of the Goldman family (Ron Goldman was the second victim along side Nicole Brown Simpson) in the court room during the trial. "'You're trying the case and I had the Goldmans over my right shoulder the whole time,'" Parker recalls Holley telling her. When the cast finally got to that part of the trial, and Kim Goldman famously sobbed when the verdict was read, Parker thought, "Oh, that's what [Holley] meant."
The series' accuracy goes beyond placement in the courtroom and down to the documentation used on set. "A lot of times our props were the actual legal documents — well, copies of them, of course — from the trial," Parker says. "We're reading the exact file during the scene, so there was a wealth of information."
Overall, Parker says that the series, specifically creator Ryan Murphy, does an excellent job at capturing the fascination with the trial, all while "honoring all sides of every story."