Casting in The People vs. OJ Simpson


I just recently finished binge watching the series “The People vs. OJ Simpson” on Netflix and was very satisfied with the show afterwards. While I wasn’t a fan of the casting of Cuba Gooding Jr. as OJ, or John Travolta as Robert Shapiro, I thought the show did a brilliant job in casting other characters like Courtney Vance as Johnnie Cochran and Nathan Lane as Lee Bailey.

My reasoning for not liking Cuba Gooding Jr. as OJ was that Cuba Gooding Jr. doesn’t look like he ever played a down of football in his life. Although Cuba is portraying a retired OJ Simpson, I still felt like theres no way somebody could look at Cuba and believe that he used to be a football player (and one of the better players of all-time at that). In regards to John Travolta being casted as Robert Shapiro, while Travolta and Shapiro certainly share that same cocky, arrogant vibe about them, there is just something about Travolta that annoys me, and it didn’t help when his character in the storyline became increasingly annoying and hard to deal with to his peers.

On the other hand, Courtney Vance as Johnnie Cochran blew me away. Whether I was captivated by one of his long and wordy speeches that were meant to draw the jurors away from the factual evidence and into their corner, or I was laughing at his witty remarks and humor, one thing was always for certain and that was that Johnnie Cochran was the star of the show.

In addition, Nathan Lane couldn’t have displayed a more perfect portrayal of an elderly, rich, entitled white man from the south in that time period. In one scene that takes place in a North Carolina courthouse (that was actually filmed in the Forsyth County Courthouse), Lane’s character Lee Bailey persuades Johnnie Cochran to let him address the court because he understands the people of the south better than Johnnie. Johnnie gives Lee permission, and Lane’s character delivers one of the most humorous scenes in the series as he delivers a long and eloquent speech that almost mockingly celebrates how wonderful the Carolinas are in his eyes in an attempt to win over the judges.

Lastly, I couldn’t quite make up my mind on the casting of David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian. Maybe it is because I have seen the entire series of Friends, but I was unable to stop viewing him as Ross from Friends throughout the series. I do, however, think that he did a really good job playing a role that is very different from his character on the famous Sitcom.

Overall, I thought the casting of other characters made up in my mind for the poor casting of Cuba Gooding Jr. What did everyone else who has seen the series think of it and what did you all think of the casting choices that were made? In addition, if you view a casting choice of a main character in a show to be a bad one, how significantly does that affect your opinions of the show as a whole?

Here is a link to an article that asked the question “does it matter that Cuba Gooding looks and sounds nothing like OJ Simpson?” oj

-Max Lissette

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4 Responses to Casting in The People vs. OJ Simpson

  1. mediaphiles says:

    This is very interesting to read as I have not yet started the series. I have heard good things about it, mainly because of the plot, but have heard little (good or bad) in regards to the casting. It is very believable that some of the casting could be a bit off, especially since, like you, I am not a Travolta fan. I am excited to see how it plays out!

    –Maddie Turner

  2. mediaphiles says:

    This series was fantastic and I agree that Courtney Vance stole the show as Johnnie Cochran. His performance as well as the actors for the prosecution really carried the show. Their altercations really were incredible to watch, but Vance truly had the best performance of any of the actors.

    -Jordan Hansgen

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I’ve been wanting to see this series, and I’ve heard great things about the show. From the image, I agree that Cuba Gooding doesn’t look like a professional football player. It’s hard when shows cast famous actors and actresses because audience members have a hard time disassociating them from their previous roles. I still whisper “It’s Phoebe from Friends!” whenever Lisa Kudrow makes a cameo. I’m sure it’s frustrating for the actors to break that type casting. -Caitlin Herlihy

  4. mediaphiles says:

    I have not watched this series, but I think I would agree with you about Cuba Gooding playing OJ Simpson because all i remember him from is the movie Sled Dogs. I also agree that he just doesn’t look like someone who has ever played football either, and it can be hard to get past that if you’re not convinced by the acting. This makes me want to watch it so I can contribute more to this debate


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