The O.J. Simpson Trial became a household story in Los Angeles. Our exclusive intimacy with it has broadened the tale to the point where current generations, like my own, can still recant a good majority of the trial, which happened at least three years before I was born. When I walked into David McMillan's “Watching O.J.” at The Atwater Village Theater, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Sure, I knew about the glove, the chase, and the verdict, but that was honestly it. I didn’t know about the controversy and the politics that were surrounding the case; however, after watching the play, I realized I was a lot closer to the issues than I realized.
David’s connection with the O.J. Simpson trial was far stronger than my own, and I noticed this in the way that he was describing the event. The trial took place when David was in high school, a prime time in a young adult's life, where a person figures out one's opinions, but also becomes more susceptible to outside media driven influences.
During my interview with David, he revealed to me exactly how intimately he knew the trial, and how the trial impacted his life.
Can you tell me about the confusion of the case?
"Because I was living in Inglewood while O.J. Simpson was arrested, and when the verdict took place, my mom and I actually moved to Santa Monica, where I went to high school. I had friends who actually lived across the street from O.J. Simpson. I had white friends who were very intimately connected to the case, and to O.J. Simpson’s world; so it wasn’t just something I was watching on TV, it was very personal when I saw the white kids react - aghast, and completely outraged, and the black kids - cheering. I was sort of caught in the middle of that. My mother actually video taped every single day of the trial, so I was sort of a mini expert on the case, and saw everything; even the stuff that the jury didn’t see. And for me, that was what was so interesting; that you had two different groups of people: blacks and whites, who were watching the same thing, from two totally different perspectives, and coming at it with two totally different histories. "
For people who were not alive for the O.J. trial, how are they going to resonate with this play?
"We have had a lot of young people come see the play that don’t know anything about the O.J. Simpson case, and they come out of this saying, ‘Oh my god, it feels like you are writing about the stuff that is happening today!’ Our justice system, the racial disparities that still exist, the differences in perspective between whites and blacks on that issue, and a host of others, I think is extremely resonant, and even though we are supposedly entering this post racial nation when Obama was elected. I think we’ve realized that life and our society is a lot more complicated than that. I would say beginning with the Trayvon Martin case, that was the real tipping point, and then obviously with Ferguson, Freddy Gray..a host of other incidents."
After my interview with David, I had the opportunity to watch the show. What I saw was heart breaking from both sides, yet very real. We were given many moments that to just look at the actor’s faces; to understand what they were feeling in that moment, and what the words they were hearing meant to them. Plays challenge us to think about our lives. They want us to examine a certain topics, and “Watching O.J.” wants us to understand perspective, to allow ourselves to look through someone else’s eyes.