Cody Fern, by most measures, was the least recognizable name attached to Ryan Murphy’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.”
The 30-year-old Australian actor had few credits to his name and prior to scooping up the role, had gone to London to work on a feature film that he was writing and directing as a means of taking control of his career.
“I really did not want to play the boy next door … it’s just not me,” Fern said when he stopped by the L.A. Times video studio this week.
Then came the audition that would put him in the company of Darren Criss, Edgar Ramirez, Penelope Cruz and Ricky Martin in a saga that explored the 1997 murder of the famed fashion designer — as well as the less-publicized murders that came before him — by serial killer Andrew Cunanan. For followers of the show, Fern would emerge with a noteworthy performance with his portrayal of little-known David Madson, Cunanan’s good friend who ultimately became one of his murder victims.
In keeping with the show’s reversed timeline narrative, viewers are introduced to Fern’s David with his harrowing last encounters with Cunanan, as explored in Episode 4, titled “House by the Lake.”
The episode opens with Madson bearing witness to the brutal murder of Jeff Trail, a friend Madson shared with Cunanan. As the episode progresses, Madson is essentially forced into fleeing the scene with Cunanan. At one point, they end up at a roadside bar and there’s a moment where Madson could try to escape from a bathroom window. But he doesn’t. And, ultimately, he ends up as Cunanan’s next victim. Much of the timeline is a theorization of events given that Madson and Cunanan did not live to tell the story.
“There is this element of stitching together what has happened in this time — that this man is murdered in [Madson’s] apartment and he’s seemingly involved in the police’s mind and then he ends up dead,” Fern said. “The core question, for me [as] David in this series, is ‘Why doesn’t he run when he smashes the window? Why doesn’t he go?’ … I will say this much: There is, throughout ‘House by the Lake,’ the feeling of David looking back and assessing his life and all of the choices that he’s made, all of the hiding that he’s done, all of the repression he’s been through. … I think he’s starting to become aware of the fact that he’s spent a great deal of his life in hiding. Not being who he truly is. In that moment, David understands that even if he runs from this thing, where is he going to go?”
Fern also discussed how his work style differed from Criss’ approach, the research he did before taking on the part and landing a role in the final season of “House of Cards.” Check out the full video below: