How the O.J. Simpson Trial Kreated the Kardashians

Executive producer Brad Simpson tells TheWrap that O.J. was “the beginning of reality TV. It’s not a coincidence the Kardashian name is part of it.”

“The People v O.J. Simpson” is a serious portrait of murder and American racial politics, but it’s also about the invention of our modern celebrity fixation — illustrated beautifully by the series’ use of the Kardashian family.

The FX program foreshadows the reality clan’s future in the third episode, when Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) delivers a heartbreaking lecture on fame to his awe-struck children at trendy restaurant Chin Chin. It’s just days after the Bronco chase.

“Robert Kardashian did take his kids to Chin Chin the Sunday after,” executive producer Brad Simpson told TheWrap in a wide-ranging interview. “This was the beginning of this sort of culture — the beginning of the 24-hour news cycle, the beginning of reality TV. It’s not a coincidence the Kardashian name is part of it.”

In the series, the restaurant hostess doesn’t know his name at first — “You’re Richard Cordovian! You’re the O.J. guy!” — but his kids soon become consumed by the idea of strangers ogling them.


Brian Bowen Smith/E!

Brian Bowen Smith/E!

From the moment Schwimmer was cast, speculation was rampant over how prominent a role the Kardashians would play. (Nicole Brown Simpson’s best friend, Kris Jenner, is played by Selma Blair). The Kardashians provide a timely hook for a two-decade-old trial, and give younger viewers a reason to tune in.

“We’re not being opportunistic, but we’re hoping this is a way for younger views to attach into the show. And to understand there was a time before this level of fame didn’t exist for everyone in America. This is a ‘before’ moment,” Simpson said.

We all know the after: In 2007, a sex tape starring Kim Kardashian and a fast friendship with pop heiress Paris Hilton put the family on an unimaginable trajectory toward wealth, fame and media saturation.

After an E! reality show, mobile apps, video games, weight-loss products, countless endorsements and a reported family net worth of over $300 million (Kim herself made $52.5 million in 2015, according to Forbes), the Kardashians are the new mold for modern celebrity fixation.

“Fame is fleeting,” Scwhimmer’s Kardashian concludes in the scene. “It’s hollow. It means nothing at all without a virtuous heart.”

Robert Kardashian died from cancer in 2003.

“The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” premieres tonight at 10/9c on FX.