Nina Jacobson is having a very successful 2018. As one of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s fellow executive producers on the project, she has been Emmy-nominated with the producing team for Outstanding Limited Series on FX Network’s THE ASSASSINATION OF GIANNI VERSACE: AMERICAN CRIME STORY. Actors Darren Criss (as murderer Andrew Cunanan), Edgar Ramirez (as Gianni Versace), Penelope Cruz (as Donatella Versace), Ricky Martin (as Antonio D’Amico), Judith Light (as Marilyn Miglin), and Finn Wittrock (as Jeffrey Trail) are also nominated for their performances in the production; Murphy received a nomination for his direction of one episode and Tom Rob Smith is nominated for his writing of another. Jacobson and the producing group previously won an Outstanding Limited Series Emmy for the initial AMERICAN CRIME STORY season, THE PEOPLE V. O.J. SIMPSON
Meanwhile, FX’s POSE, the series about the transgender ballroom scene in New York in the ‘80s that Jacobson exec-produces with Murphy et al, currently airs Sunday nights and has been picked up for a second season.
In an interview conducted before this year’s Emmy nominations for THE ASSASSINATION OF GIANNI VERSACE and POSE’s Season 2 pick-up were announced, Jacobson talks about both series.
ASSIGNMENT X: What kind of research do you do when it comes to still-living people who are depicted in AMERICAN CRIME STORY?
NINA JACOBSON: Generally speaking, we have only worked on recent material. We did it with O.J. and with this [VERSACE], which is that, a well-researched book, or in the case of O.J., where there were so many books, we obviously worked off of the [Jeffrey] Toobin book, in this case, we worked off of Maureen [Orth]’s book, getting the perspective of multiple voices, as opposed to trying to tell one or another person’s story, allows us to serve a more balanced telling. And so we don’t ask people, “Hey, do you want us to tell your story?” or, “How do you want us to tell your story?” We just try to get as much research as we can, whether it’s written, whether it’s anything that’s been reported, or whether it’s people who knew the individuals involved, and then put together sort of a mosaic of information, and then let the actors find their character as they go. And then if ultimately they want to talk to the person – for instance, Antonio was very generous to Ricky, but that was well into the process that they started to speak, and so we don’t usually have contact with the people, because, for one, it feels intrusive, and we just draw on well-researched sources and then try to put a mosaic together that doesn’t over-emphasize one person’s version over another, because everybody will tell their story in a different way.
AX: For you, and also for Ryan Murphy, how much of the appeal of telling the story of Versace’s death and the homophobia surrounding it, was the political aspect, and how much was the aspect of getting to visually go into Versace’s world?
JACOBSON: Certainly for me, and I think for Ryan, too, the homophobia that runs through the story brings up painful memories, it is a reminder of how much has changed in twenty years, but to even read in Maureen’s book about where guys were being outed as they were being murdered, and they [the FBI] would go to the parents and say, “Well, there are things you don’t know about your son.” You’re like, “It’s so wrong, and it’s so disturbing.” And then the fact that Versace did not have to be killed, that Andrew is there in South Beach, across the street, in plain sight, and nobody is looking for him. I mean, they are – badly – but they’re not going into the clubs. They wouldn’t put the flyers up. All that stuff that’s in the material, which is that they wouldn’t put the flyers up, they wouldn’t go to the gay community, walk into bars – “Have you seen this guy?” [Cunanan] was right there. So the politics of that to me were really devastating, and that inability to be authentic and the struggle for authenticity, and the courage of Versace’s heroism [for being openly gay]. I didn’t realize, when you put him in a timeline, all the other designers who were out were dead, and they were out because they died of AIDS, they were outed by being ill. He chose to come out at a time when Ellen [DeGeneres] wasn’t out yet. It was a very different time.
AX: Because POSE deals with high style, and Versace was designing in the ‘80s, is there any costume design crossover between VERSACE and POSE?
JACOBSON: Other than the fact that we have the wildly talented Lou Eyrich [also nominated for AMERICAN CRIME STORY] working on them both, not necessarily. Although it was funny, when we did [the upcoming feature film] CRAZY RICH ASIANS, for a lot of the characters demonstrating their success and wealth, they wore Versace. So while we were working on this, we were also working on CRAZY RICH ASIANS, and you could see how much the brand is still a signifier of wealth, and of a certain kind of expression of wealth.
AX: Have you and the production company ever met any resistance in doing LGBTQ-focused material?
JACOBSON: No. For me, it’s actually a real privilege, because these are actually the first stories in this space that I have told, between POSE and VERSACE. Representation is really important to me. I’ve tried to advance the representation of women, and certainly, for something like CRAZY RICH ASIANS, which has an all-Asian cast, and a romantic comedy, it’s a big, fun, mainstream movie for everybody, but these are actually the first times that I’ve really had the chance to tell stories about gay and trans people, so I just feel lucky to get to do it now. I mean, and to have the material, and then someone like Ryan, who has this access to so many people who want to see the stories that he tells.
AX: How many projects are you working on at once?
JACOBSON: Quite a few. We have a movie [set and shot] in New York called BEN IS BACK with Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges, we have POSE, we have GOLDFINCH, so we have all of that, and then a couple of things that are about to go here in L.A., and then CRAZY RICH ASIANS in post. It’s been kind of a crazy busy year. But it’s a good thing.
AX: And what would you most like people to know about THE ASSASSINATION OF GIANNI VERSACE and POSE?
JACOBSON: [With POSE], I think one of the things we wanted to explore – the politics are certainly there, but for now, really the show lives and dies on these characters and this extraordinary cast. I think one of the things that we’re trying to explore is, there was enormous transphobia in the gay community. It wasn’t just what you still see now in terms of transphobia, [like] the purported trans ban in the military. There was a “divide and conquer” [mentality], and everybody always looking to have somebody who might be beneath them in the pecking order. I think the show tries to explore even that level of politics, the politics within the gay and trans community, before they had come together, which they’re still making an effort to do, but at a time when people turned on each other. And that’s something we explore in the show as well. It’s the point at which you’re either a “have” or a “have not,” and the rush to become a “have and the pressure to strike up a pose and live up to the materialism of the ‘80s, to be one of those guys. It’s something you see with Evan [Peters]’s character. And we’re certainly living with the results of that now. But we try tocome at it all not through an instructive or expository manner, but just these characters living their struggles in a way that I think illuminates and speaks to the politics of that time.
[With VERSACE], I hope people will pay attention to the pertinence of these themes and the politics of it. We’re still looking at so much – that attempted ban on trans people in the military, and when you look at the impact on somebody like Jeff Trail and how heartbreaking it was to see the personal toll of that, and that guy who had his true love taken from him, just because of who he was, and then to see the contrast of [what] one person who has acceptance and love and family can achieve, like a Versace, versus the terrible corrosive effect of self-hatred and the inability to live an authentic life, and how important it is that we keep advancing the ability for people to be able to live authentic lives.
This interview was conducted during FX Networks’s portion of the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.
Article Source: Assignment X
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