As prosecutor Christopher Darden in FX's dramatization "American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson," Sterling K. Brown plays one of the most tortured characters during the former football star's murder trial as it played out across TV sets in the '90s.
As Brown explained on AOL BUILD on Wednesday, pretty much everyone in Darden's life told him not to get involved in the Simpson trial while he worked as a black Los Angeles County District Attorney. While he considered their advice, the person he listened to was Marcia Clark, played by Sarah Paulson in the series, the lead prosecutor on the case. "American Crime Story" gives viewers a peek at those doubts behind Darden's professional façade. In the end, Brown explained, Darden took the case because he wanted to see justice prevail.
For that sticky decision, Brown told The Huffington Post he had a message for Darden: "Thank you."
"This man received death threats. He received tons and tons of hate mail on a daily basis calling him everything but his name," Brown explained.
"People didn’t want him to be black, [saying] 'Don’t speak for black people anymore.' All these things that he had the integrity to see through for the people who couldn’t see it through for themselves, Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson."
In a case strongly characterized by racial tensions between the Los Angeles Police Department and its black citizens, some of the latter group could not understand Darden's decision to prosecute a successful black man on behalf of the city.
The Simpson trial, after all, played out just a couple years after riots sparked by Rodney King's appalling mistreatment by LAPD officers. Further, the defense had employed a powerful voice for black rights in Johnnie Cochran, who argued passionately against the LAPD on behalf of his client. To some, Darden looked like he was betraying the movement against police misconduct. And indeed, a large part of Simpson's defense strategy lay in showing how detectives botched their investigation.
Despite repeated attempts, Brown hasn't yet spoken to the real Darden. But the actor said the attorney's intentions were kind-hearted -- Darden worked for the DA in order to fight police corruption from within.
"All of the indictments that have been trying to go down in Ferguson, in Staten Island, North Charleston, Cleveland, etcetera," Brown explained on BUILD, "he would have been that individual trying to prosecute."
"American Crime Story" airs at 10 P.M. EST Tuesdays on FX.