Finn Wittrock (‘Assassination of Gianni Versace’) on playing Jeff Trail: ‘I look for how many contradictions can we fit into one person’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“I was surprised and happy how much time they took in addressing Jeff’s coming to terms with his identity and sexuality,” reveals Finn Wittrock about how Jeff Trail‘s character was portrayed in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” In our recent web chat (watch the exclusive video above), he adds that he often looks for how many contradictions he can fit into one character and Trail provided several. “It was complicated for him to come out as a gay man and against a policy that he disagreed with but at the same time he was fundamentally very patriotic and very loving of the military.”

Wittrock received his second career Emmy nomination for playing Trail, who was the first known victim of Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) on his three-month killing spree that culminated with the murder of the titular fashion designer in July of 1997. He submitted the episode titled, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which explores Trail’s personal journey as a closeted member of the U.S. Navy during the implementation of the infamous military policy that allowed gays and lesbians to serve as long as their superiors didn’t find out. Wittrock is nominated in the Movie/Mini Supporting Actor category alongside two of his co-stars: Edgar Ramirez and Ricky Martin.

It’s a gut-wrenching story and Wittrock is quick to point out the job that Tom Rob Smith did in telling it. “I continue to be surprised by the writing of that show, and Tom continues to surprise me in the direction it went,” he says. “I knew a little bit about where they were going to go with it, but I didn’t expect that the entire episode would follow Jeff’s little arc. I really admired the way he crafted that.”

“Versace” marks the fifth time that Wittrock has been involved with a project associated with Ryan Murphy. He’s also been in three previous editions of “American Horror Story” (“Freak Show,” “Hotel” and “Roanoke”) along with “The Normal Heart.” Wittrock explains that part of what makes him drawn to Murphy’s projects is knowing that you’re going to work with amazing people. “He has an amazing repertory company of actors that you get to do juicy stuff with. He will also challenge you in a way that is specific to you.” When asked about who he really enjoyed working with on Murphy’s projects he singles out Sarah Paulson and the work they did together on “Freak Show.” “I had a lot of fun with both of her heads. I even sometimes found myself thinking, ‘I really like Bette but Dot is such a bitch!'”

Wittrock’s reaction to his nomination this year was one of complete disbelief and what’s stranger is that he didn’t find out about it from anyone on his team. “My wife read me the list and I thought she was reading it wrong! Like I thought she was looking at the cast list or people eligible to be nominated. It was truly an out of the blue moment.”

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