The complicated web that makes up the story of alleged serial killer Andrew Cunanan is slowly unfolding onscreen in The Assassination of Gianni Versace (executive producer: Nina Jacobson), the second installment in the FX series American Crime Story. In bringing Cunanan's story to light, the show explores who he was, what made him tick, and the people who were significant presences in his life. One of those people is the character Ronnie, played by New Girl (creator: Elizabeth Meriwether) star Max Greenfield. But is Ronnie based on a real person?
Greenfield's character is based on Ronnie Holston, a real person who was, at the very least, an acquaintance of Cunanan's during the two months that he was in hiding in Miami before killing Versace. Cunanan had already allegedly embarked on a killing spree across the country before arriving in Miami Beach, as law enforcement suspected he was allegedly responsible for the murders of Jeffrey Trial, David Madson, Lee Miglin, and William Reese, according to Newsweek.
After fleeing to Florida, Cunanan lived in the Normandy Plaza Hotel in Miami Beach, which is where he first met Holston, according to CNN. Holston, at the time a 43-year-old retired florist, was also a resident of the hotel. Maureen Orth, a journalist and author of the book about Andrew Cunanan that inspired the FX series, Vulgar Delights, spoke with Holston over the course of her reporting. Megan Walsh from Romper reports that Holston claimed to Orth in the book that he helped Cunanan allegedly engage in sex work in order to make money while he was living at the hotel. "He never said where he was from," Holston shared with Orth. "I set him up with a few old men, old rich guys around here. They would use my room. I got money that way."
This perhaps explains why, when Cunanan pawned a gold coin, he listed his address at the Normandy Hotel but gave Holston's room number. When a SWAT team arrived to capture Cunanan, they were surprised to find Holston's girlfriend at the time, Fannie Redmond, in the room instead of Cunanan, per the Washington Post. Despite admitting to Orth later that Cunanan often used his room to meet clients, Holston told CNN at the time that he had no knowledge of why Cunanan would have listed his room number on the pawn ticket.
Holston also claimed to Orth in Vulgar Favors that Cunanan was possibly addicted to drugs. "This guy comes out every day in his baseball cap and sunglasses, at all hours," Cunanan said. "I would always speak: 'Hey, how are you?' He finally came up and said, 'Where can I get some rock [crack cocaine]?'" Romper reports that Holston claimed to show Cunanan where to pick up drugs, and would often purchase crack cocaine for him in exchange for money, according to the book Vulgar Favors.
Though Cunanan and Holston were more than casual acquaintances, Holston claimed he had no knowledge of Cunanan's past crime spree, per Romper. He indicated that he knew that Cunanan was in hiding, but the connection the two shared as gay men established a baseline level of trust between them. "For people who are straight, the gay world is like any other," Holston told Orth. "What the gay world is, is if you take care of me, I'll take care of you. In the gay community we are all a close-knit people. We don't reveal."
And now Greenfield is tasked with bringing this complicated relationship to life on American Crime Story. The actor seems to have taken to heart Holston's claims that he didn't believe at the time that Cunanan could have done something violent, and brings that good faith and naïveté to his performance. "So when [Holston] meets Andrew there’s a friendship. For somebody who is so completely on their own in Miami, living minute by minute, still confused and bewildered by everything that has happened over the past 15 years, to find any sort of friendship, was so important for him," Greenfield shared in an interview with AM New York. "He didn’t want to believe Andrew could’ve done something very harmful." Yet, over the course of the show, Greenfield's character will come to learn what his friend had allegedly done.
This is certainly a new role for Greenfield, who is best known for portraying the affable Schmidt on the comedy series New Girl. But as Greenfield proved during his first foray into the world of Ryan Murphy as Gabriel on American Horror Story: Hotel, he is certainly a versatile actor who can take on comedic and dramatic roles with equal skill. Viewers can expect that he will deftly bring to life the complexities of the relationship between Cunanan and Holston throughout the course of this season.