Departure from Glee: Darren Criss' Creepy Performance as Andrew Cunanan in the Versace TV Drama
BY KATIE CORYELL
It is an unfortunate truth that many actors, even more famous ones, become typecast once they perform a certain role in a certain way. Casting directors often see them as one personality type or "look." For American Crime Story and Glee star Darren Criss, however, this is not an issue.
The 31-year-old, Emmy-nominated actor, singer/songwriter, and performer stole all of our hearts when his breakout role of Blaine Anderson appeared on Glee for the first time. He sang a breathtaking rendition of Katy Perry’s "Teenage Dream," and episode after episode his charming smile and gentle persona made us all swoon. Nowadays, he is taking on the role of Gianni Versace’s killer, Andrew Cunanan -- a stark contrast to the fun-loving and adorable Blaine. Seeing that he is a performer of his own music, it was obvious that the role on Glee was perfect for him. And while longtime fans of Criss always knew that he had the capability to branch out and do more serious roles (see: Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway), much of the world was shocked to see him portraying a villainous murderer.
The show is a dark look into the life of Cunanan, who Criss plays with empathy and humanity. "It’s my job to be empathetic. If I set out to paint him as a monster, then there’s no point in telling the story. This isn’t a Bond villain," he said to USA Today. In many recent interviews on the show he explains that as an actor, it’s important to look at the sides of the character that can be related to you.
In Criss’ case, there are many similarities between him and his character -- Cunanan was a seemingly nice, charismatic guy who everyone loved when he was young. He chose to put his desire for fame and jealousy of others into unspeakable means. Criss is also charismatic and kind, loved by all -- but he chose to channel his passions into making a positive change in the world. He wanted to make people smile and share his talent with those who would listen. And if he hit a roadblock, he would push forward and do his best to move onto the next step. In Cunanan’s case, he would not move forward. According to the show, he would hold onto the past and hurt those that stood in his way. In the FX Behind the Scenes video below, executive producer Brad Simpson explains that Cunanan maybe wasn’t "destined to be a murderer, but has an unstable personality and was put on that path."
Much like Criss, Cunanan also shared many similarities to Gianni Versace, which the show points out in many different circumstances. The very first episode illustrates the beauty of Versace, the stunning mansion he lives in, and the lavish lifestyle he leads. In contrast, Cunanan lives in squalor, almost, lying to everyone in his path to make them think he’s richer and more successful than he actually is. But again, he has passion like Versace, he just chose to hurt rather than heal with it. He was an individual who needed excess amounts of help, but he never asked for it. He may have even known he needed the help, but when people offered he refused -- more accurately, he reacted in a way that was not only overpowering, but harmful and destructive. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Criss speculated, "...when Andrew is deprived of something, the ultimate way to really take it back and be in control is to be more powerful, and to be the controller of that person's life." That was his ultimate downfall.
Fans of the show took to Twitter to express their thoughts on Criss' performance:
Unfortunately, the show is a fictional retelling of events by majority. It’s unknown how Cunanan went about murdering the people he was so close to since his relationships with them and the only dots we can connect are the ones spoken by people that knew him. But as a viewer of the show and a fan of Criss himself, it is so interesting to see the roots of his talent come out in a way we as an audience have never seen. Glee had many emotional scenes between Blaine and Kurt Hummel (his boyfriend, best friend and soon-to-be-husband), and Hedwig was a show that encapsulated love, heartbreak, anger, and joy through incredible acting, singing and choreography (this was probably Criss’ most well-rounded role that showed every part of his skillset). But his portrayal of Andrew Cunanan makes the audience feel not only afraid, but uncomfortable, embarrassed, and sometimes find themselves empathizing with the complex character.
Taking on his life and becoming a creepy, evil figure while acting out real-life events that are chilling to the bone is something that Criss is doing an award-winning job of. He deserves all the praise, and we can only wait patiently to see what he’ll do next.
Lead Image Credit: Darren Criss / Instagram