tv

The Assassination of Gianni Versace star Darren Criss on the show's dangerous side.

Darren Criss was just 10 years old when Gianni Versace was assassinated in Miami in 1997, so understandably, he doesn’t have much of a recollection of it.

“I knew as much about it as I guess most people knew about it, which is not much, unless you are in the fashion industry or living in Miami in the ’90s,” he told Mamamia.

“I was aware that he was shot on his steps, and that was about it.”

One detail he could remember though, was about the man behind the assassination. Andrew Cunanan was a crazed stalker who shot Versace at point blank on the steps outside his mansion.

“I was kind of aware in the recesses of my mind that [the assassin] was half Filipino,” he continued.

“That clocked in, because I’m half Filipino, but that’s kind of it… That was all I knew.”

At the time, Darren would have had no way of knowing that 21 years later, he and Cunanan would be linked in other ways too, with the 31-year-old actor portraying the psychopath on the small screen in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace
Darren Criss plays serial killer Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Image: FX

It's a terrifying role he assumes effortlessly, and although he's never been one to shy away from a challenge, it's definitely a departure from the usual parts his fans are accustomed to seeing him in.

Still, Darren says he had absolutely no hesitation about stepping into the shoes of a deranged serial killer.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I've never understood any world where there would be any hesitation," he said.

"I'm an actor, and it's hard enough to get work as it is, much less be offered something that is worth working for.

"This is a project and a role that actors wait their entire lives for and hope for and they have no control over whether they come their way or not.

"It's a scary thought though, because obviously if these horrible things hadn't happened, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I wouldn't have had this opportunity, and that's a weird thing to wrap your brain around."

The mini-series was filmed at Versace's Miami mansion - the actual site of his assassination - and Darren says his energy was very present throughout filming.

"It was very profound. It really makes you feel the event and the presence that he had. He was almost alive in that house, because that house is his work. It was very, very profound," he said.

He also says it was a "luxury" being able to film where the event unfolded in real-life.

"If you're recreating any historical event, it's usually created in a sound studio, because the original building isn't there. But it's there. It's the same building," he added.

"It's been redone as a hotel now, but for the most part, it's the same building, and the stairs are the exact same stairs, the gates are the exact same gates. It's surreal. So that gives one pause, for sure. There's a weight to that."

The Assassination of Gianni Versace
"This is a project and a role that actors wait their entire lives for." Image: FX
ADVERTISEMENT

Another theme the series addresses - perhaps accidentally - is our collective obsession with celebrity culture.

Right after the assassination, a man is seen running back to his car to get his camera, while a woman is shown crossing a police tape so she can soak up the spilled blood on a Versace fashion magazine ad.

It's disturbing to say the least, but Darren says he understands the thought processes behind it.

"Despite myself, I can understand the fascination, and I have to understand the fascination, because it's what drives people like Andrew," he said.

"I think we like to venerate people. I think human beings have this need to believe in things bigger than themselves, whether that creates theological institutions or monarchies or famous families, we love to revere something higher than us, because we want to believe that there is something greater out there, and as such, we want to be a part of it in any way we can.

"There's all sorts of ways that we like tying ourselves to greater ideas, and what easier way to do that than with real people that exist. People that are just like you, but not.

"I understand that human element of wanting to create that, because I think celebrity is a two-way street. It's not only created by the person, most of it is created by the audience. It's this sort of tango."

But he acknowledges that things can sometimes quickly spiral out of control, as evidenced by Cunanan.

"It's a dangerous thing, obsession," he added.

As for Darren, it's not so much the idea of celebrity that drives him as it is the human experience in all its glory.

"I'm interested in the vast array of colours that the human experience has to offer. There's this palette that is an infinite amount of colours and combinations. To have a canvas put before me where you require a large number of those colours, that is just endlessly exciting," he said.

"And it's not just the dark ones... it's the fact it comes from all of these other beautiful colours, the things that involve love and longing and ambition and excitement and intellect. There's a lot of things to play with, and that's the kind of thing that gets me excited."

The Assassination of Gianni Versace is now showing on Foxtel's showcase at 8.30pm on Thursdays.

00:00 / ???