Actress Angel Parker takes on a dramatic, new role in Ryan Murphy’s first installment of FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book Run of his Life, which tells the story of Simpson’s 1995 murder trial. Parker will be portraying attorney Shawn Chapman, who is known for working on Simpson’s famous legal team. She is set to appear in nine episodes of the 10-episode docuseries this season making its debut tonight at 10/9c.
Parker will star alongside a dream cast that includes Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Simpson, John Travolta as Robert Shapiro, David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, and Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran.
Rolling out got the inside scoop on her first encounter with Shawn Chapman, how she prepared for the role and her take on the current state of diversity in Hollywood.
What was your initial reaction when you were handed a Ryan Murphy script?
Oh my gosh! This is such a big deal for me. I found out during pilot season last year. It took them a while to let me know that I officially got the job. I knew that I was kind of in the mix, but when they finally contacted me I didn’t know exactly what part I was cast for. I was actually waiting to go in for a commercial audition when I found out. I jumped up and roared. It was the most guttural roar you can imagine. Every actor knows that feeling when you finally get something after you’ve been waiting for a while to land a role. To book one like this is beyond my wildest dreams. I was so excited and we definitely celebrated that night.
How was the experience meeting face-to-face with your character Shawn Chapman for the first time?
Our production team didn’t want us to reach out to the person we were playing because they didn’t want us to change our story based off of Jeffrey Toobin’s book. When you meet someone you feel obligated to tell their story from their perspective. I actually had Shawn’s cell phone number burning a hole in my pocket the entire time. Our hairdressers were the ones who hooked us up. I was directing my stylist on how I wanted my hair and I mentioned I was playing Shawn Chapman. The hairdresser next to us said that she does Shawn’s hair. I told her to tell Shawn I would love to talk to her. This is a very L.A. story. It took me a while to get the courage to reach out to her, but when I did she called me right back and was so welcoming. She invited me to her home and it was the highlight of this entire experience. She signed my book and wrote the sweetest note.
Did Shawn Chapman give you any words of advice that stuck with you while filming?
She did tell me how hard they were all working and that they were burning the midnight oil. She said they were really trying to figure his case out. She was just starting out under Johnny Cochran’s wing and was a great addition to the case. They knew that this would be the trial of the century. Every single one of them stayed at the top of their game because they had the whole world watching. It was either show up or get swallowed up. She definitely learned a lot. This was at the beginning of her career and she still works as defense attorney.
What other references did you use to get in-tune with your character?
I just dove in and learned everything I could about the trial, the case and the time period. I watched a lot of videos on YouTube. I remember I was in high school, so I already remembered some parts. After doing all my homework, it made the role very easy to play.
What was the chemistry like on set working alongside John Travolta and Cuba Gooding Jr.?
We love each other. We knew we were doing something big and we knew that we were making something special. We spent a lot of long days stuck in one, big room. For six months we were working together. This was not only a special time for me but a special time for everyone. Everyone was at the top of their game. I kept telling myself not to fall down or say anything stupid to get through the day. I wanted to prove myself, but not in an arrogant way. I wanted to to show everyone that I deserved to be there.
What are your thoughts on the lack of diversity in Hollywood?
I feel like things are getting a lot better in television. We are now seeing successful shows like Empire and Blackish offering more roles for women of color. Although, there is still a lot of progress that needs to be made. We need more of our stories told on the big screen. I am not blinded to these issues, but I am optimistic.
Check out official trailer below:
“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” premieres Tuesday at 10/9c on FX. Will you watch?