Yesterday, in an interview with TVGuide, Sarah Paulson — who plays prosecutor Marcia Clark on American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson — said she thinks “Marcia was vilified. She was a woman in a man’s world that was not given a lot of respect.”Similarly, in her review of the series, Flavorwire’s own Alison Herman said that “Here, she’s presented as a feminist tragic heroine: ferocious, well-meaning, and caught up in forces she either can’t understand (Why do people love OJ so much? Why can’t people believe he’s guilty?) or can’t fight (What do you mean, I should ‘smile more’?).” And today, the lawyer herself — who’s finding the past suddenly returning to the present with this new series — has given a video interview about the trial (following a long interview in Vulture), what went wrong for her, and how both American gender and race perceptions at the time built a hypertension around the trial, which in the interview she suggests swayed the outcome.
She spoke with Slate’s senior editor, Jeremy Stahl, about the case and particularly about how the climate in America — only a couple of years following the Rodney King beatings — amplified wounds both historical and current inflicted on the black community, and how issues of gender v. race — both in the case itself and then between the lawyers representing either side — made the trial a near-impossible space for unbiased decisions.
For me, [American Crime Story] is not entertainment. It’s very tough. It’s very painful, it was a nightmare that wouldn’t end for fifteen months… We were downtown working in the criminal courts building during the Rodney King riots. We saw it firsthand. So when a famous African American man is now charged with a double homicide, we knew we were going to be in serious trouble… The racial divide was absolutely crystal clear, and African American women in particular [were] no fans of mine. The question was what do I do?…How do I reach them? And no one had an answer for that…The trial was so out of control, and became so awash in racial epithets and racial slurs, that I think it became impossible to believe anything beyond a reasonable doubt…
She discusses how America’s recently visibility of racial injustices — particularly police brutality — have made it even clearer why the black jury voted the way they did.
More recently, when you started to see the shootings, a man running away, getting shot in the back — Trayvon Martin — they weren’t even going to arrest Zimmerman. They weren’t even going to arrest him! I couldn’t believe it. More than ever, now, I feel like on a cellular level, I get it. You see things differently.
Meanwhile, she also discusses how sexism came into play, and how scrutiny of her looks — “I’m a prosecutor. I’m not a model” — perpetuated by the media led people to close themselves off to her arguments. Watch the interview: