Sometimes it can be hard to separate an actor from a role. For five seasons on Glee, Darren Criss was known for being a sweet, charming love interest for Kurt. But now the actor has taken a much darker turn, playing real-life serial killer Andrew Cunanan on FX’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. Does it work?
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It’s a difficult challenge, especially considering the fact that the first season of American Crime Story had award-winning actors like Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, Courtney B. Vance and Cuba Gooding, Jr. Criss is hardly in that same company.
There are moments where Criss, as Cunanan, is extremely creepy and the actor’s natural charm suits someone who is a compulsive liar and con artist. But the performance occasionally feels surface-level. Maybe it’s because we all know that Andrew Cunanan is a serial killer, but Criss’ portrayal has a ton of red flags.
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When Andrew was speaking to his female friend in the first episode’s flashback, he was so campy and over-the-top that it’s impossible to believe that anyone would think he’s telling the truth. In his first encounter with Gianni Versace, he’s overly articulate and obsessive. Criss doesn’t deliver an organic charm that would seduce anyone into falling into his web of lies, it’s an aggressive, obvious charm that feels off.
That’s one of the show’s primary weaknesses. Criss plays Cunanan’s psychotic tendencies on the surface, which is distracting. When Versace has his date at the opera with Andrew, the younger man’s fanciful stories about writing a book and making a movie about it are so absurd, it’s not believable that Gianni, or anyone, couldn’t immediately figure out that this kid is a psycho.
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Andrew Cunanan is written as some type of master of disguise, a compulsive liar and con artist who adapts to his surroundings. But Criss’ performance doesn’t match that. He’s playing the character as a serial killer, a one-note, crazy villain.
Darren Criss was a perfect fit for Glee, but in The Assassination of Gianni Versace, he’s woefully miscast. It feels like a stunt, either because Criss resembles the real-life figure he’s portraying or because executive producer Ryan Murphy wanted to placate his Glee fandom.
Going from the superb, Emmy-winning leads of American Crime Story‘s first season to Darren Criss is like when Jessica Lange left American Horror Story and the show brought in Lady Gaga. It may attract a new, different audience, but it’s not the smartest decision if you’re trying to offer top-notch performances. Criss is definitely more Gaga than Lange.
Do you think Darren Criss is convincing as a real-life serial killer?
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on FX. For more TV news, like BuddyTV’s Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of FX)