Marcia Clark experienced a massive public defeat in 1995 when she lost the O.J. Simpson murder trial. More than two decades later, Clark is rewriting history with her fictional TV show The Fix, which tells the story of a lead prosecutor for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, who loses a high-profile double murder case against fictional actor Sevvy Johnson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), only to re-try him for a similar crime eight years later. But it's not actually her story that she's telling since Robin Tunney's character in The Fix isn't Clark. But there are surely tons of comparisons to be made to Clark's life and career — so much so that even Tunney wasn't sure she wanted to take on the pressure.
"At first, it was really terrifying. They asked me to do it and I was really reticent cause I just thought there's no way. I'm gonna get compared to Sarah Paulson and she was amazing," Tunney says to Bustle, citing Paulson's Emmy-winning portrayal of Clark in 2015's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. "But when I went in, Marcia was like, 'No, no, no. You're absolutely not playing me."
Tunney admits she was a bit distracted by filming the cult classic The Craft and listening to Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville when the Simpson trial happened in the '90s, but she went back and did her research on Clark for the role of Maya Travis. "I read everything about her and then at a certain point, it was like I just needed to separate myself from [her]," Tunney says.
This was especially true since Clark was present on set as the creator of The Fix. "The idea of being an actor and playing your boss and having them watch you — you don't have ownership of the role, you feel like you're gonna constantly be judged," The Mentalist star says. "Actors are super sensitive and you need to feel like you know the character better than anybody and you can't if your boss is the character."
One thing that is similar between the fictional character and the real-life lawyer is that the sexism Maya experiences mirrors what Clark faced while prosecuting Simpson. "She was very open about that," Tunney says. "They wrote a whole episode where I go through this scandal that's fabricated by the defense. And it basically obliterates me and my male colleague is just untouched [by it all]. It's this whole diatribe of how the world is so much harder on women. And if a woman's strong, they're considered a bitch and if they're sexual, they're a slut. With men, you don't think about it."
In her own life, Tunney recently experienced gender-based double standards while she tried to balance her time on the show and her role as a mom. Tunney had her son in June 2016 and she says she felt guilty about going back to work. "You feel like you're never enough at work and you feel like you're never enough at home. And this is something we need to work on culturally because it's not fair," she says.
Although she notes that she wasn't actively looking for work when The Fix came along, one of the reasons she accepted the role was because Maya is "a three-dimensional woman who's middle-aged" — which the 46-year-old Tunney notes is all too rare to find. "What Hollywood wants to do to you after you're 40 is just reprehensible. All of a sudden you're getting sent scripts and you're like, 'What part is it?' [And] they're like, 'It's the grandmother,'" Tunney says. "I still feel like I'm vital. And I still feel like I get attention from men. And I still feel like a member of society. And generally, if there's a woman on television that's good at her job and middle-aged, she's alone. It's like, 'She's married to her job. She's tough as nails!'"
But Maya is a woman who's great at her job, has vulnerabilities, and is the object of multiple men's attention. As Tunney notes, "I have a hot cowboy boyfriend and a guy vying for me at work and a stalker."
This depiction of a capable, mature, and desirable woman is in large part thanks to the women behind-the-scenes. Clark is not only a writer, but she served as an executive producer and showrunner alongside Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain. "Liz, Sarah, and Marcia wanted to make something that was escapism and sort of relentlessly entertaining, that was saying things at the same time," Tunney says.
The Fix is also set today and Tunney says the modern setting allows the show to look at the social issues that the Simpson trial brought up in the '90s — sexism, domestic violence, race relations, and the role of the media in our criminal justice system — through a modern lens. "That's what makes the show relevant," she says. "They didn't need to make a rehashing of The People v. O.J. Simpson, you want to know why? We couldn't have done it better. It was done and it was great."
Tunney praises Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson showrunner Ryan Murphy, and "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" episode writer D.V. DeVincentis for helping to show Clark in a new light 20 years after the fact.
"I think that [Marcia] made the world better for women. And I think what she went through during that trial, it was so sexist and so unfair. And I think that she had to suffer so that we get to the place we are now," Tunney says. "She's not allowing herself to be defined by a loss or defeat or public humiliation. She's just charging on, it's amazing."
While she isn't Clark, the character of Maya did emerge from the mind of this prosecutor-turned-TV producer — and that in itself is inspiring to Tunney. "She's a television producer, which I think is brave to put yourself out there," Tunney says of Clark. "She just stands up and holds her head up high and tries things. And I don't think we live in a world where that's easy, especially for women."
As Clark continues to take on the world through network TV, you can watch Tunney take on the role of Maya. Because, clearly, a role even loosely based on this "feminist icon trailblazer" is worth a watch.