"We treat them with a lot of respect," Criss says of the Versace family, who recently denounced the FX series.
With the premiere of "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story" upon us, series star Darren Criss has been making the publicity rounds to discuss the complexity of the serial killer he portrays, and defend the show from the Versace family, who have publicly denounced it.
"I think the work will speak for itself, and I really hope they'll think we're doing right by them," Criss said on the Elvis Duran radio show. "We treat them with a lot of respect."
The Versaces admitted they've had no involvement with the FX production in any way. "Since Versace did not authorize the book on which it is partly based nor has it taken part in the writing of the screenplay, this TV series should only be considered as a work of fiction," the family said.
It's possible they're falling into the same trap that many Americans will, thinking that this series is largely about the famed designer's tragic death. The truth is that Versace was the fifth man murdered by Cunanan. This nine-episode event starts with that pivotal moment before moving backwards through Cunanan's other four victims, leaving the Versaces more as bookends to Cunanan's story.
They carry the name recognition, though, to sell the story, as very few people know the name Andrew Cunanan, or what he did other than kill Gianni Versace.
According to Criss, the lives of Cunanan and Versace did share some parallels. "This is a story about the haves and have nots," he told Duran. "You have somebody who has fame, success, love, happiness ... [Versace] represents basically everything that Andrew felt like he deserved, and couldn't have."
When asked if he began to feel bad for Cunanan, Criss said it was more that he began to understand him. "I'm not asking people to feel bad or pardon him or exonerate the obviously terrible things that he did, but I do ask people to bend their own senses of empathy and sort of find the parallels in their own life," he said. "I think, at the end of the day, we are way closer to the darkest parts of ourselves than any of us care to admit. We're capable of those things just as easily as we are capable of doing really amazing things."
Viewers will get that opportunity to try and bend their empathy when "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story" premieres on FX, tonight at 10 p.m. ET.