Cuba Gooding Jr.: O.J. Simpson is the 'hardest role I've ever played'

Cuba Gooding Jr. On O.J. Simpson Trial: 'You Have No Idea What Went Down'

The cast and producers of FX's upcoming event series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story visited the TV Critics Association press tour for a supersize hour-long panel. Cuba Gooding Jr., who plays O.J. Simpson, said shooting the series was "an emotional roller coaster." "It was the hardest role I've ever played," he added.

The series, based on Jeffrey Toobin's book, The Run of His Life, was meticulously vetted for accuracy, according to executive producer and director Ryan Murphy. "I thought I knew everything about the case but I didn't," he said. "I've never worked on a project that had more legal vetting than this — at least five lawyers went over every line."

Casting the ten-hour series was a long process. Multiple actors auditioned for each role, with the exception being Sarah Paulson, whom Murphy knew he wanted to play Marcia Clark. Murphy joked, "She had no choice." For her part, Paulson wasn't sure she could play the woman "who wasn't cut out to be a public figure," but, "if Ryan believes it, you tend to believe it. He's been right before, so I tend to trust him."

None of the actors contacted their real-life counterparts but they did watch a lot of video footage of the trial and any interviews they did at the time of the trial. "I'm me. He's him. He's iconic," Courtney B. Vance said of playing Johnnie Cochran. "I'm going to do as much research as I can. I didn't trap myself in the iconic figure Cochran was. I just wanted to keep the train rolling."

Look back at scenes from Simpson's trial:

OJ Simpson in court
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Cuba Gooding Jr.: O.J. Simpson is the 'hardest role I've ever played'
LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: O.J. Simpson (L) talks with attorney Robert Shapiro during an 18 January court hearing in Simpson's double-murder case in Los Angeles, California. Judge Lance Ito ruled that jurors may hear some domestic violence allegations against Simpson. Opening statements in the trial were moved to 23 January. (COLOR KEY: Brown wall) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 23: O.J. Simpson's children from his first marriage, Jason (L), Arnelle (R) and cousin Terri Baker (C) appear in court 23 January in Los Angeles as the former football great and television celebrity's double-murder trial is expected to begin with opening statements. O.J. Simpson is accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman on 12 June 1994. (COLOR KEY: Collar (L) is red) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read RICK MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)
Fred Goldman and Patti Glass Goldman, the father and stepmother of murder victim Ronald Goldman, listen to prosecutor Christopher Darden as he delivers opening statements during the O.J. Simpson murder trial, January 24, Los Angeles, California. (Photo by AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 23: O.J. Simpson (R) looks up during a 23 January court hearing in Los Angeles, Ca, as attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. reviews doucuments in what should be opening day in Simpson's double-murder trial begins. Several evidenciary issues remain before the trial will be heard in front of the jury. (COLOR KEY: Brown wall.) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
Deputy district attorney Marcia Clark gestures as she addresses the jury for the prosecution's opening statements in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, Los Angeles, California, January 24, 1995. Simpson was accused of the 12 June 1994 murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. (Photo by Myung J. Chun/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 24: Judge Lance Ito looks at prosecutor Marcia Clark as he admonishes her for argumentative behavior during her opening statements to the jury in the O.J. Simpson murder trial 24 January in Los Angeles, CA. Ito ended the hearing later, after learning that the court video camera viewed live images of two jurors. Ito may remove cameras from the courtroom because of the incident. (COLOR KEY: Brown wall) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Lead prosecutor Marcia Clark (L) talks with fellow prosecutor Christopher Darden during court proceedings 26 January 1995 in Los Angeles. The OJ Simpson trial was delayed by the hospitalization of prosecutor William Hodgman and continuing fray over the defense's failure to turn over the names of its anticipated witnesses. (COLOR KEY: Wall is brown.) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 31: A picture taken by the Los Angeles Police Department on 01 January 1989 and projected on a screen in the courtroom 31 January 1995 shows Nicole Brown Simpson after her 911 call reporting a spousal abuse episode that defendant O.J. Simpson eventually pleaded no contest to. The picture was displayed by the prosecution during questioning of LAPD Detective John Edwards at the double murder trial of Simpson. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 9: Prosecutors in the O.J. Simpson murder trial Marcia Clark(L) and Christopher Darden(2nd L) show a display of a blood trail 09 February at Nicole Simpson's condominium to the jury and Los Angeles Police Department(LAPD) officer Robert Riske(R) during testimony in Superior Court in Los Angeles. Riske was the first police officer to arrive at the scene where Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered. (COLOR KEY:Blue chart.) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 15: Defense attorneys Johnnie Cochran Jr. (R) and Robert Shapiro talk about the prosecution's announcement in court 15 February that the blood found on Nicole Brown Simpon's Bundy residence gate genetically matches that of murder defendant O.J. Simpson. (COLOR KEY: Red in Cochran's tie). AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read POO/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15: Double murder defendant O.J. Simpson puts on one of the bloody gloves as a Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputy looks on during the O.J. Simpson murder trial 15 June. One of the gloves was found at the murder scene, while the other was found at Simpson's state. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read SAM MIRCOVICH/AFP/Getty Images)
This 21 June 1995 file photo shows former US football player and actor O.J. Simpson looking at a new pair of Aris extra-large gloves that prosecutors had him put on during his double-murder trial in Los Angeles. Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch announced 20 November 2006 the cancellation of a controversial book and television interview involving O.J. Simpson being planned by his News Corp company. AFP PHOTO/Vince BUCCI/FILES (Photo credit should read VINCE BUCCI/AFP/Getty Images)
O.J. Simpson tries on a leather glove allegedly used in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman during testimony in Simpson's murder trial on June 15, 1995 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Lee Celano/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 21: O.J. Simpson shows the jury a new pair of Aris extra-large gloves, similar to the gloves found at the Bundy and Rockingham crime scene 21 June 1995, during his double murder trial in Los Angeles,CA. Deputy Sheriff Roland Jex(L) and Prosecutor Christopher Darden (R) look on. (Photo credit should read VINCE BUCCI/AFP/Getty Images)

David Schwimmer knew he wanted to play the role of Robert Kardashian when he learned Kardashian was the heart of the story. "Kris Jenner was very generous with her time and memories of Robert," he said. "He was a very religious man who had a strong relationship with God. It helped me to understand his decisions at the time." Gooding Jr. chose not to visit Simpson in prison where "he's a shell of himself." Gooding said he was playing the "charismatic, flamboyant, and braggadocious" 1994 O.J.

"I never had any doubt someone would make a great film on this subject," Toobin said. "This story is one of the great American stories. This is a story of race, sex, violence, sports, and the only witness is a dog."

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