Orange Is The New Black fans watching American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace (executive producer: Alexis Martin Woodall) will be treated to a familiar face. Dascha Polanco, who plays Daya on OITNB, exists on the other side of the law this time, but fans will be wondering how accurate her portrayal in the FX really is. So, is American Crime Story: Versace's Detective Lori Weider a real person?
It seems as though Detective Wieder was indeed a real Miami Beach police officer who had first-hand experience with the Versace murder, but details are scarce surrounding her, and some conflicting reports exist. Decider.com reports that the character is completely fictionalized — made up solely to provide more faces to represent the police force in the show. But, Wieder is mentioned in Maureen Orth's book, Vulgar Favors, on which this season of American Crime Story is based. Orth's book, according to the Washington Post, was based on hundreds upon hundreds of interviews with people who had some knowledge of the Versace case. So despite reports stating otherwise, it appears that Wieder was a real detective on the Miami police force.
What makes Polanco's character on the show so intriguing is that there really isn't much information on her out there, aside from the mentions in Orth's book. A Google search for the name brings up several woman — it seems to be a common name — and searching for Wieder along with "Versace" seems to just return information about ACS, not the real life case. Polanco and showrunner Ryan Murphy also haven't spoken about the role, or its real-life inspiration, much at all in interviews. While this makes it unclear what exactly a real-life Wieder would and/or does think of the show, it does open up some interesting storytelling opportunities.
Polanco has already proven herself an impressive actor during her time on Orange Is The New Black, and she's shouldered some pretty heavy storylines on that show. She would be more than capable of doing the same with American Crime Story, and it'd definitely add some nuance to the story if she has a real-life inspiration to go on. Murphy himself has long hailed the show as as historically accurate, while also still noting that the business of television requires some dramatization and invention. Versace's family has spoken out several times, condemning the work as a piece of fiction, but Murphy has stood by the show.
"We issued a statement saying that this story is based on Maureen Orth’s book, which is a very celebrated, lauded work of non-fiction that was vetted now for close to 20 years," Murphy told Variety at the American Crime Story premiere event. “That’s really all I have to say about it, other than of course I feel if your family is ever portrayed in something, it’s natural to sort of have a ‘Well, let’s wait and see what happens’ [stance]."
The show's executive producer, Brad Simpson, echoed Murphy's sentiments. "This isn’t authorized [by the Versace family], and we don’t make any pretense at it being authorized,” Simpson told Variety in the same piece. “This is based on Maureen Orth’s book. She’s an incredibly respected journalist. It’s a non-fiction bestseller. And also, we’re not just telling the story of Versace. We’re telling the story of all the lives that were affected by the murders of Andrew Cunanan. They’re entitled to feel how they want to feel, but we stand by the veracity of the show."
A show based on real lives is bound to cause some controversy, but Murphy and his crew seem to believe they have the accuracy locked down. Though information on Lori Wieder seems scarce, it just gives Polanco all the more opportunity to make the role her own.