This story about Finn Wittrock first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
Finn Wittrock’s friends were confused. They knew he was in the Ryan Murphy miniseries “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” about the trail of dead bodies Andrew Cunanan left across the United States before he finally killed the fashion icon.
But he hadn’t been in the first three episodes of the 10-part limited series — and when he made his appearance in Episode 4, his character, closeted army vet Jeff Trail, was almost immediately beaten to death by Cunanan (Darren Criss).
“My friends were like, ‘You were filming that for so long, and that’s it? You’re dead already?'” Wittrock said. “And I would say, ‘Aren’t you figuring out that it’s working backwards? There’s going to be more — stick with it.'”
“Gianni Versace” did largely tell its story in reverse chronological order, and there was more coming of the relationship between Trail and Cunanan — enough that Wittrock became one of six acting nominees from the limited series. The others: lead actor Criss, supporting actors Edgar Ramírez and Ricky Martin and supporting actresses Judith Light and Penélope Cruz.
The unusual storytelling approach — Wittrock described it as “we’re gonna tell a crazy true story, and we’re gonna tell it backwards and somehow make it feel really current and alive” — created its share of problems for the actors.
“It’s always hard to shoot things out of order,” Wittrock said. “But when you’re shooting things out of order that are already written out of order, just keeping the timeline in your head was a big challenge. Tom Rob Smith, the writer, created an amazing sort of kaleidoscopic structure, but I’d have to go to him and say, ‘Just making sure: Where are we and when are we?'”
The “when are we?” question also resonated in unexpected ways. Jeff Trail was a decorated veteran who stayed in the closet because of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which he spoke out against anonymously. “When I first read the script, I remember thinking, ‘This is kind of a ’90s problem, right? We’re past this,'” Wittrock said.
“And then a few weeks later the transgender ban in the military happened, and suddenly it was a learning experience for me. I thought, ‘Oh, this is not over. This story is even more current than I thought.'”
See the video interview with Finn Wittrock above. To read more of TheWrap’s Down to the Wire issue, click here.