Interview: 'The People V. O.J. Simpson' Writer Scott Alexander On The Juror Shenanigans That Didn't Make It In

FX's miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story was such a sensation, they presented a second panel on it for the Television Critics Association. Now all ten episodes have aired, more than reporters got to see in advance of the premiere, and it is nominated for Emmys, so the creators and stars came back to discuss it.

At a cocktail party following the FX panel, screenwriting duo Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski got separated. I got to speak with Alexander about their work crafting the series based on Jeffrey Toobin's book The Run of His Life and real events. I'm still obsessed with the jurors, as the episode on their sequestration seemed like the biggest tent in the whole circus. Alexander and Karaszewski have some more true story screenplays in the works, and Alexander told us the extent of their work on the Death Wish remake in our interview. 

The juror sequestering episode was spectacular. Were there even more juror shenanigans you couldn't even include in that?

Let me think, let me think. The room service did not get in. This cracked me up. You saw the scenes where the jurors had to go down into the banquet room and eat the same cafeteria food three meals a day. They just start getting really sick of it, so one of the jurors got fed up, refused to eat dinner, went back to his room and then noticed a room service menu sitting by the phone. He didn't really know what would happen so he picked it up and they go, "Yes, can we help you? Room 1202, what would you like?" "Oh, can I get prime rib?" "Sure. Anything else" "Lobster bisque?" "Sure." "What do you have for dessert." "Chocolate lava cake." "Okay, yes." "I'll have that right up." So he discovers this weird loophole so he starts eating really good food and then he tells a couple of the other jurors. Then they start doing it, so everyone starts going around the bailiffs and just ordering these really expensive meals. Then the bill gets to [Judge Lance] Ito and he just blows a gasket because it's this ridiculous tab that he's responsible for because it's his juror. So he shuts it down. It really cracked me up. I was always rooting for it but ultimately we could not fit it into the 42 minutes.

Did one of the jurors really try to leap over security in that banquet hall?

No, her meltdown was somewhere else. I'm trying to remember. I'm a little fuzzy. There was a field trip to Catalina where everybody got seasick. I think it might've been right after that but shooting on a boat going to Catalina was too much trouble so we didn't include that.

You were accurate down to the detail of when they read the verdict, the forewoman mispronounces his first name.

Yes, everyone was becoming a YouTube fanatic. If the woman in the court mispronounced it on YouTube, well, that's how it's going to happen on our set.

Did Johnny Cochran's encounter with the police officer come from research?

I believe that Johnny's encounter with the police came out of one of Johnny's books. Johnny tells that story in his book, being really difficult for him and the fact that his kids were in the car when it happened. It seemed really important. It's one of the few flashbacks we do in the show.

How carefully did you choose when to flash back to something outside the trial?

We tried not to. We were talking about trying to show the audience who O.J. was before the trial because all of our kids now know O.J. as the chunky guy in the Nevada prison eating oatmeal cookies who's always got a sour expression. Those of us of a certain age grew up with O.J. with a big smile who everybody loved. So we put the opening scene in episode one where O.J. gets into a limo which was just trying to have a glimmer of that magnetic O.J., the charismatic star before he goes bad. We do have the flashback in episode four where you see him in the disco which is him and [Robert] Kardashian dancing with girls where O.J. is the life of the party. We wanted to be able to remind the audience that there was a time when O.J. was that guy.

The People vs OJ SimpsonWhen the Dream Team discusses all their vacation plans, is that from accurate reports?

Yeah, that's out of Toobin. Marcia [Clark] went up to Santa Barbara with her kids. Johnny flew to San Francisco for an engagement. Lee Bailey had a snack food convention speech. I loved those details because it really hit home that everyone thought they were taking off for a long time. It never crossed anyone's mind that the verdict was going to come in that day.

Did Toobin hear that conversation?

No, no, no. Jeff's an investigative reporter. He just did his homework.

Did it amuse you how much people pick up on how often Kardashian said "Juice?" Did you see the supercut?

Yeah, I certainly didn't notice it while we were shooting. I saw the supercut. That was very funny. We love the way the fans of the show were doing their recuts, putting up screengrabs with thought bubbles. I found it very entertaining. I feel like people were just so engaged with the production.

Did you not want to stay on to write the second season about Hurricane Katrina?

It wasn't even a consideration. We're so swamped with our feature scripts.

You wrote Death Wish. What is Death Wish in 2016?

That was a quick rewrite job. It's not going to be a major credit for us.

So what are the major projects?

We have a feature based on the Patty Hearst kidnapping. And then if we ever turn that script in, we're writing a script on the carving of Mount Rushmore, which is a biopic of this completely insane man named Gutzon Borglum who fast talked the government into giving him a lot of money so he could build the largest sculpture in our country.

How many years does that encompass?

It follows 15 years, 1926 to 1941. It's a completely bananas story. Nobody really knows the story. Nobody knows about this guy. It was sort of a one man operation. It's a super cool untold story.

Were there ever any other presidents in consideration?

No, it was whoever he wanted to put up there. It started as Washington and Lincoln. He had a change of thought so he decided to add Jefferson. Then he was friends with Teddy Roosevelt so he decided to throw him up at the last second.

How much progress have you made on Patty Hearst?

We got very, very distracted by O.J. We're close to the end.

How have you whittled it down to a feature length?

It's hard. O.J. kind of wrecked us. That 10 hour canvas was really a blast. Because it's also based off a Jeff Toobin book, Jeff loves going off on all these sidebars to smaller characters and new detail. All that stuff is really appealing. The O.J. series, we could give everyone their time. Now we're having to retrain ourselves back into the two-hour box.

Did you finish the script on the John McAfee story?

Yeah. There's activity on it right now so we're crossing our fingers. Nothing I can say but when I came out of the panel and there were 12 e-mails about McAfee so hopefully something good happens here.