Edgar Ramirez opened up about playing the title role in Ryan Murphy's buzzed-about FX series, American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, in an interview on The Tonight Show Wednesday, and the actor specifically pointed to the timeliness of the narrative.
"Ryan [Murphy, the creator of the series] has an amazing talent to identify stories that are both dramatically gripping and at the same time they're socially and culturally relevant," he told host Jimmy Fallon. "It's that combination that makes the anthology of American Crime Story so interesting."
This season's storyline chronicles events leading up to the 1997 death of designer Gianni Versace – but according to Ramirez, the narrative tackles some deeper issues that are not necessarily bound to the singular incident.
"The underlying theme of our show is homophobia," the Venezuelan actor said. "We tend to think that in the Nineties that our world was just like the world today and actually it was very different. When you look into this investigation, the element that comes back into the surface constantly is the don't ask, don't tell element. This kind of invisibility and this denial of sexuality, denial of existence of a gay world out there."
"This guy, Andrew Cunanan, he was on national TV for several weeks, he was on the FBI's most wanted list and for whatever reason it was very hard for the authorities to catch him," Ramirez continued. "Basically, he was killing gay men and didn't represent a public threat to the authorities at the time. To think that it was only 20 years ago is shocking and frightening because history tends to repeat itself. It’s important to revisit."
Ramirez noted that the significance of Versace’s murder goes beyond the sheer tragedy of the moment; it also helped to highlight some important issues that went undiscussed during that time period.
"[Cunanan] murdered five people and then when he murdered the famous one, the last one Gianni, people started to pay attention," the actor said. "That's basically what drives the whole series and the show and we couldn't be more proud to revisit history in this way."
Murphy's series received criticism in the run-up to its premiere Wednesday, with the Versace family condemning the "reprehensible" show.
"As we have said, the Versace family has neither authorized nor had any involvement whatsoever in the forthcoming TV series about the death of Mr. Gianni Versace, which should only be considered as a work of fiction," the family said in a statement. "The company producing the series claims it is relying on a book by Maureen Orth, but the Orth book itself is full of gossip and speculation. Orth never received any information from the Versace family and she has no basis to make claims about the intimate personal life of Gianni Versace or other family members. Instead, in her effort to create a sensational story, she presents second-hand hearsay that is full of contradictions."