During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Wednesday, Criss opened up about shooting the upcoming FX series, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, which chronicles the 1997 murder of the Italian designer outside his Miami Beach home at the hands of Andrew Cunanan, played by Criss.
“He was a spree killer, a very troubled young man who does not follow the typical prerequisites of a killer,” said Criss, 30, of Cunanan. “He didn’t kill small animals as a child, or have a history of violence. Such is the exploration of our show — how a kid with so much promise becomes somebody so destructive.”
Asked if he had “fun” playing the killer, Criss said, “I don’t know if fun is the polite word, but it certainly goes to dark places. We see the good sides of him, the sad sides of him.”
“But the fun part, truly, if I have to just be a big stargazer, is I got to do this show with this insane-o cast of huge superstars,” he continued, referencing A-list cast costars Edgar Ramírez as Gianni Versace, Penélope Cruz as his sister Donatella and international pop superstar Ricky Martin as Versace’s lover, Antonio D’Amico.
“So you have Latin royalty, and then the half-Filipino kid,” quipped Criss of himself.
Criss said he “made sure” to spend time with his costars offscreen, because “for plot reasons — and you can do the math — I don’t actually spend a lot of time with their characters at all onscreen.”
During production, Martin had everyone over to his house “several times” — and, according to Criss, the singer is quite the host.
“I’m sort of the Pied Piper of karaoke in singalong situations. I usually don’t bring booze, I usually don’t bring food, but I’ll bring a guitar and we’ll have a singalong, so that was my contribution,” said Criss. “One of my favorite memories of shooting the show is we’re at Ricky Martin’s house, which is already a place-setter of like, ‘Woah, this is wacky.’ And I’m sitting there next to his five or six Grammys, and what Ricky thought would be nice as a host was he got pedicures for people.”
“So I’m playing guitar — I’m playing ‘Let It Go’ and Penélope is singing that song, then I start playing one of Ricky Martin’s songs and Edgar Ramírez is singing it to me, he’s singing it to Ricky, we’re sitting next to his Grammys — and all the while, they’re getting pedicures. And I’m like … ‘How did this all happen?’ ”
“You’re now both livin’ la vida loca,” quipped host Jimmy Kimmel.
The latest installment of the FX series has been met with controversy, with the Versace family denouncing it as “a work of fiction.” On Wednesday, the family released a new statement, likely in response to executive producer Ryan Murphy‘s statements Tuesday defending the authenticity of the 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,” said the fashion house. “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.”
“As just one example, Orth makes assertions about Gianni Versace’s medical condition based on a person who claims he reviewed a post-mortem test result, but she admits it would have been illegal for the person to have reviewed the report in the first place (if it existed at all),” they continued. “In making her lurid claims, she ignores contrary information provided by members of Mr. Versace’s family, who lived and worked closely with him and were in the best position to know the facts of his life.
“Gianni Versace was a brave and honest man, who engaged in humanitarian work for the benefit of others,” concluded the statement. “Of all the possible portrayals of his life and legacy, it is sad and reprehensible that the producers have chosen to present the distorted and bogus version created by Maureen Orth. The Versace family will issue no further comment on the matter.”
The “medical condition” the family is referring to is Orth’s claim in her book Vulgar Favors, upon which the mini-series is based, that Versace was HIV-positive at the time of his death. The Assassination of Gianni Versace shows the designer seeking medical treatment in the second episode of the series.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on FX.