While Versace's name is in the title, most of the episodes focus more on Cunanan and those he killed before shooting the designer in South Beach.
Adapted from Maureen Orth's book, "Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History," the series opens with Versace's brutal murder by the serial killer, before working backwards to highlight the events in Cunanan's life that led to the shooting. That includes his privileged childhood, his relationships with both his parents, and his close connections to two of his victims.
Through Cunanan's spree and flashes into Versace's life, the show also explores topics like homosexuality in the '90s, homophobia, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, and how law enforcement may have botched the investigation because Cunanan's victims were gay.
Gianni Versace (played by Edgar Ramirez): The famed fashion designer was shot and killed by serial killer Andrew Cunanan on the front steps of his Miami home on July 25, 1997. The motive for the killing - and all of Cunanan's murders -- remains unclear. Their only link: the two reportedly met once at a club in San Francisco in 1990, where Versace seemingly confused Cunanan for someone else.
Andrew Cunanan (played by Darren Criss): The serial killer and gay gigolo murdered 5 men in three months in 1997, before killing himself on a houseboat on July 23, 1997. He left no suicide note, leaving his motive a mystery.
Donatella Versace (played by Penelope Cruz): Gianni's sister worked closely with him until his death and took over as chief designer for Versace after he was killed. She is currently vice president of the fashion house and paid tribute to her brother with her Spring/Summer 2018 runway show in 2017.
Antonio D'Amico (played by Ricky Martin): D'Amico was Versace's partner of 15 years and the one who found him after he had been shot. He and Donatella always had a contentious relationship, one that continued after his death. He currently lives with his partner in the northern Italian countryside and told The Guardian he has no plans to watch the FX series.
Jeff Trail (played by Finn Wittrock): The 28-year-old was a naval lieutenant, Gulf War veteran, longtime friend of Cunanan and also his first victim. Andrew killed Jeff with a claw hammer and rolled his body into a rug at second victim David Madson's Minneapolis loft in April 1997. His body was discovered on April 29, after Madson's co-workers checked on him when he failed to show up for work. In 2017, CBS revealed Trail was one of the men they spoke with for an episode of "48 Hours" about the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, but conducted the interview in silhouette to protect his identity.
David Madson (played by Cody Fern): 33-year-old Madson was an ex-boyfriend of Cunanan, who Andrew reportedly referred to as "the love of my life." Madson's body was found on May 3, 1997 by the side of East Rush Lake. He was shot three times with Jeff Trail's handgun. Police believe Cunanan held Madson captive after killing Trail.
Lee Miglin (played by Mike Farrell): The 73-year-old real estate developer was found dead in the garage of his Chicago mansion on May 4, 1997. His head was wrapped in masking tape, his feet bound, throat slashed and body repeatedly stabbed. Police found that Cunanan had made himself a sandwich, left a sliced ham on Miglin's desk and shaved inside the home after the killing. Though Orth claimed anonymous hustlers in Chicago said Miglin was gay, police never found a link to Cunanan.
Marilyn Miglin (played by Judith Light): Lee's wife Marilyn was, and continues to be, a cosmetics and perfume mogul. At the time of her husband's murder, she and the entire Miglin family denied Lee or their son Duke knew Cunanan at all, though rumors about Lee's sexuality persisted.
William Reese: Cunanan's fourth victim, Reese was a 45-year-old caretaker of a Civil War cemetery who was likely just killed for his truck.
While the Versace family is not happy about the series, blasting it as a "work of fiction" they had no involvement in, critics seem to be enjoying what they've seen. So far, 8 of the 9 episodes have been made available to press and while almost everyone is in agreement that the season isn't as strong as 'O.J.,' it's still worth a watch.
Variety: '"The Assassination of Gianni Versace' is not quite one for the history books like the first season of 'American Crime Story.' The second installment of this anthology series hopes to do for homophobia what the first season did for racism —- a lofty goal that is left unrealized, in the eight episodes sent to critics. But with an array of fantastic performances and an eye to exploring the complexity of contemporary queerness, 'American Crime Story' has produced another interesting history play to chew on — one with a lingering, intriguing aftertaste."
The Hollywood Reporter: "'Assassination of Gianni Versace' juggles three storylines and an innovative crimes-in-reverse structure in a way that yields a disturbing character study and an assortment of strong performances. Still, through eight of the nine episodes, it isn't quite as convincing or thematically unified as 'The People v. O. J. Simpson.'"
New York Post: "The performances of the leads are outstanding, but special mention must be made of Criss, who beautifully captures Cunanan's ability to tell the biggest lies anyone has ever heard and literally charm the pants off anyone he sets his sights on. He's a lot like Patricia Highsmith's Mr. Ripley, but Ripley was a fictional creation. Cunanan, who committed suicide after murdering Versace, was sadly all too real."
TV Line: "A triumph of set design and cinematography, Versace is a feast for the eyes… even when the storytelling leaves you hungry for more. There's just not enough story here to justify nine hours of television. Overall, Versace ends up being an intensive character study of a complicated killer… and not much else."
The Tracking Board: "'Versace' makes for addictive, phenomenal television. This is a fascinating story about the making of a serial killer. A murderer finding his voice. It marks Tom Rob Smith as a major writer to watch, and Darren Criss as a force to be reckoned with."
"The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story" premieres January 17 on FX.