|Top (l-r) Me and my dad Chris Darden; photo of a child model portraying me on|
The People vs. O.J. Simpson series. Bottom (l-r) Actor Sterling K. Brown
portraying my father; my father and I at my high school; me, Jenee Darden.
Those of you who follow me are probably looking at the title of this blog post and thinking, “What the hell?” I don’t talk about this part of my life but my father is Christopher Darden, the attorney who prosecuted O.J. Simpson. There are a few reasons why I've been quiet about this over the years and I’ll tell you why in the very near future. But I will say it was a very difficult time for my family. It changed my life, and not necessarily for the better. I wish that experience on NO ONE.
All of which is why I was hesitant to watch FX’s The Peoplevs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. I was 15 and in high school during the OJ trial. I decided to watch the series after reading a few interviews with actor Sterling K. Brown, who plays my father. Of course I was concerned about how Brown would represent my father. My father declined to meet him, but it looks like he did his homework so far. He spoke in an interview about having more compassion for my father being a proud black man and having to prosecute a successful black man. Mind you, my father did this on television. I hope that is conveyed accurately in the series.
I watched the first episode of the series and here are my thoughts:
Yes the picture of the little black girl in the office scene with my father and Johnnie Cochran is supposed to be me. I was my father’s only child at that time. Folks were blowing me up about that photo. LOL Above I have a screenshot from the show. The black and white photos are of me as a kid.
The makeup artists on the show are amazing. Sterling K. Brown looks just like my father. I thought a scene from one of the previews was actual court footage from back in the day.
My father’s character wasn’t on much during the first episode, so I still can’t say how I feel about his portrayal. But I will say that Brown’s voice sounds pretty close to my father’s voice.
I can tell Courtney B. Vance is having a lot of fun playing Johnnie Cochran. I met Vance and wife Angela Bassett years ago when I was a news producer at NPR. They are nice, classy, down-to-earth people. I never met Cochran but Vance seems to have his charisma and smarts down.
Sarah Paulson is showing us the tough Marcia Clark. I sat in the courtroom a couple of times and met Marcia Clark. She’s definitely a strong woman. And I can’t remember verbatim what she said to me, but we talked about the importance of women’s strength in a sexist society. You can be strong and vulnerable as well. The series shows that by delving into Clark’s personal life.
John Travolta plays Robert Shapiro. It's John Travolta and he can do no wrong. Casting David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian Sr. was spot on.
|Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. Simpson|
Who captivates me the most is Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. Simpson. At first I couldn’t see Gooding as Simpson but I was wrong. Gooding went there with his acting. He portrays Simpson as troubled, emotional, angry, an entitled celebrity, sensitive, charming and unstable. His Simpson character reflects the complexity of the case. Gooding told Variety playing Simpson is the hardest character he has done. He doesn’t portray him as someone innocent or guilty. That’s our call to make. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won an Emmy for this role.
Someone commented on my Facebook page that they looked at the lawyers and witnesses as characters and didn’t think about their families. It’s crazy to me how during that time, the real trial was like a reality TV series to Americans. My father, Marcia Clark and Simpson's lawyers were real people. Whether you think O.J. did it or not, two people were brutally killed. Nicole Brown’s kids lost their mother. Ron Goldman’s family lost a son and brother. I completely understand why the families of the victims aren't watching this series.
Those of us with ties to the key players had to deal with the media and craziness too. My father got death threats. I was a teenager and concerned for his safety. Like I said, I wish such an experience on no one. I can't imagine if we had to deal with the trial in the age of Twitter and Facebook!
It’s definitely an interesting series, especially during these racially charged times. I will be watching.
Read more of my story in the LA Times.
Read more of my story in the LA Times.