Hours of rare footage show an affable Simpson, "who knew how to put it on for the camera," says Clark

By K.C. Baker
Updated June 07, 2016 01:05 PM
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Marcia Clark spent many hours with O.J. Simpson when she tried to put him behind bars for the 1994 deaths of his wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

But in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Clark says she was thrown for a loop when she saw rare footage of a much younger Simpson at his affable, engaging best – what she terms “the best ‘act’ I’d ever seen.” The footage came from the highly anticipated ESPN documentary, O.J: Made In America, which premieres June 11 on ABC, with subsequent episodes airing on ESPN on June 14, 15, 17 and 18.

Drawing from more than 70 interviews with Simpson’s friends and colleagues, as well as key figures in the so-called Trial of the Century, Peabody and Emmy-award winning director Ezra Edelman tells the story of the NFL star’s rise to fame and his steep fall, while detailing the history of the crackling racial tension in Los Angeles, which continued during and after his trial.

Clark tells PEOPLE that when she watched the documentary, “What was not a revelation to me was the racial divide and the way in which the minority community viewed law enforcement and the criminal justice system with distrust. That was something I faced every day in the downtown criminal courts for ten years before Simpson came along. That was not news.”

But, she adds: “What was news to me and blew my mind in the documentary was the footage of Simpson during his football career and sportscasting career showing how affable, how charming, generous and self-effacing he was.

“This was the best act I’d ever seen. No one I think realizes what a good actor he really was because everybody else who talked about how he acted when he was not on camera said this that was not the guy that they saw.”

Countless people told her that Simpson “was not a good guy,” she says. “They said he was crass, crude, cruel, thoughtless, conscience-free – nothing like what you saw on camera. Nothing.

“I knew from the Hertz commercials and the Naked Gun movies that he could be charming or charismatic,” she says, “but what I didn t know was to what degree he could do it being himself on camera – in other words, when he wasn t playing a character.

“This documentary showed me that side of him that we had never seen.”

‘Like Jekyll and Hyde’

The alleged fa ade he kept up for years, she says, “did crack. It cracked all over the place. People just didn t see it because it wasn t on camera.

“I saw him do it in the courtroom all the time. He could see the eye in the wall moving and when it turned toward him he was angelic looking and the minute the camera moved off to the other side? He was scary. The look of menace on his face and the anger on his face. He was like two completely different people, like Jekyll and Hyde.”

Simpson turned his affable persona on and off in his personal life, too, she says. “People who knew him long before the murders had told me – he’s awful, he’s cruel, he’s terrible and he’s vicious, as you heard in the 911 tapes. Violent, horrible.

“He knew how to put it on for the camera. That persona was for the cameras.”

RELATED VIDEO: Marcia Clark – Up Close

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Simpson’s Attorney: ‘He Would Give Stage Notes’

In a separate interview with Carl Douglas, who was part of Simpson’s “dream team” of lawyers during his sensational 1995 murder trial, which found him not guilty, Douglas says he does not agree with Clark’s assessment of Simpson.

“I understand the prosecutors need to attempt to explain the verdict in whatever ways they can, which allows them to be at peace with themselves and what they’ve done,” Douglas says.

Simpson, he says, “was particularly skillful at advising how things played – how you should present yourself in the best way. He would say, ‘Don t say it like that. Watch your face. Watch how you stand.’

“That’s real. It was, ‘This is my life. Do it this way.'”

Douglas adds, “He was not shy about that. Most clients are deferential to the attorney. But he would give stage notes about what questions to ask, what points to raise in closing argument. ‘Johnny, you got to talk about this, that and this. Say this. Mention that. Remember this.'”

Simpson was very aware of his image at all times, Douglas says.

“I mean, he basically created his career out of whole cloth. He was the first one who presented well. He knew how to look, how to make your face, how to smile, those stage kinds of things about how to make the best presentation possible.”

O.J.: Made in America will premiere on Saturday, June 11 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. After an ESPN replay at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 14, the second two-hour installment will follow at 9 p.m., and subsequent episodes will air June 15, 17 and 18.