For his stunning breakout role on “American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” Cody Fern went to dark places playing a cautious out gay man entangled with spree killer Andrew Cunanan.
Australian-born Fern plays David Madsen, a sweet and eligible architect who can’t seem to shake his former lover Cunanan — who is a compulsive liar and increasingly desperate following a split with a generous older boyfriend.
After witnessing the gruesome murder of their mutual friend Jeff Trail at Cunanan’s hands, Madsen is taken hostage and eventually meets the same end. The Ryan Murphy FX series serves as a sort of redemption for Madsen, who was initially thought to be Cunanan’s accomplice.
“He was a very charming, very generous, very compassionate person. When [police] entered his apartment they found presents for his nephews and nieces that were wrapped six months in advance of Christmas,” Fern told TheWrap of the real Madsen, who was killed by two gunshot wounds and left for dead by a lake in Minnesota in 1997.
While Madsen was not an accomplice, the show suggests his own internalized shame over his sexuality bound him to his killer.
“Shame is something that’s really gripping the country right now,” Fern said.
The actor and series director Dan Minahan set out to “capture the essence of what gay shame does to a person. It’s very different from all other kinds of shame in that it’s something that’s forced onto a person from the society and then internalized.”
Watch more of TheWrap’s interview with Fern above, and check out our report of his breakout episode, “House by the Lake.”