The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story had its premiere on FX last night and among the show’s conflicted new fans is prosecutor Marcia Clark.
Clark, who is portrayed rather sympathetically in the new miniseries by Sarah Paulson, made her first TV appearance since the show’s debut on The View Wednesday morning. And right off the bat, she discussed how “painful” it is to relive her inevitable failure to convict the former NFL star on a double murder charge 21 years later.
“I can’t watch it the way most people do, for me it’s reliving a nightmare,” Clark told the hosts of The View. “It’s just awful, every bit of it is awful and very hard for me. So it’s a very painful experience and yet, I have to tell you, that’s kind of a measure of how good it is.”
Because it “hurts so much” to watch, Clark said that means the show is “getting the big stuff so right.” She said she is “super impressed” with creator Ryan Murphy, who had the “vision and guts” to tackle the larger issues of the O.J. Simpson trial, and not just the racial ones.
In Clark’s view, two decades ago “no one wanted to talk about the S-word”—sexism.
When she did a lecture tour after the trial, Clark said women would stand up and say, “I never felt any sexism in the workplace” and she would think, “Well, good for you.” Yet, the sexism that Clark faced is center stage in the new show.
Clark also described her portrayal by Paulson as “the gift of all time,” calling the performance “beautiful, nuanced, subtle,” adding, “She’s just phenomenal.”
In an interview with The Daily Beast last fall, Paulson said she immediately felt “empathy” for Clark when she took on the role.
“She was just the mother of a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old, going through a terrible divorce, who was a prosecutor for the County of Los Angeles, trying to put bad people away,” Paulson said of Clark. “Then all of a sudden she’s being criticized for the length of her skirts, the style of her hair, how tired she was, the color of her lipstick. It was really rough from a female perspective to be judged and ridiculed that way.”
On The View, Clark said that she simply didn’t have time to have a “nervous breakdown” and was too consumed with the trial to think about her personal life. “I had to stay focused,” she said, explaining that she had “no other choice.”
Those “behind the scenes” moments of Clark showing the emotion she was not allowed to display in public are part of what makes the miniseries so compelling.
As a prosecutor, Clark said, “you have to have a poker face” in public. “Believe me, if I had cried in court, can you imagine what they would have said?”
But, she added, Paulson captures her internal life “beautifully”—“the pain and the frustration and the disbelief in what was going on, the circus that was going on where it felt like every wrong thing that could happen was happening.”