Edgar Ramirez Interview: ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’
Like Ricky Martin, Edgar Ramirez also believes there was “some cosmic element” surrounding “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” He found out he got the part of the slain fashion designer while touring a gallery with Martin, whom he told. A week later, Ryan Murphy, unaware that the two are friends, invited Martin to dinner.
“Ricky texted me and said, “Edgar, you know who just invited me to dinner? Ryan Murphy’ I said, ‘You’re going to be [Versace’s boyfriend] Antonio! I’m sure he’s going to talk to you about Antonio. This is incredible!’” Ramirez recalls to Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview (watch above). “I was so excited. ‘This Ryan guy is so smart. Of course you’re Antonio! Trust me on that. He’s going to offer you Antonio.’”
Murphy did, and he also cast Penelope Cruz as Versace’s sister Donatella. Also unbeknownst to the prolific producer, Ramirez and Cruz had been looking for projects to do together for a while. “And suddenly we ended up being sister and brother on this project,” Ramirez says.
These pre-existing relationships helped establish a firm base for Ramirez as the series explored the complicated, loving and sometimes volatile bonds between Versace and Antonio and Donatella. Those were the two most important people in his life who also just happen to not really be able to stand each other.
“Half of the work was already there in terms of empathy, of care for each other and love for each other [because we knew each other],” Ramirez points out. “The show deals constantly with the complexity of family relationships, which are the strongest, the most beautiful and also the most complex. Oftentimes, in trying to help someone you love, you end up hurting the person that you love the most. That’s why dealing with family relationships is so fascinating because they’re so complex.”
That familial theme is the main reason why Ramirez chose the seventh episode, “Ascent,” as his submission for his Best Limited Series/TV Movie Emmy nomination. The hour finds Versace, fearing the progression of his ear cancer, grooming his sister to take over his fashion house. Together, they make her notorious bondage-inspired dress. But Donatella has her own fears of not being able to fill her brother’s larger-than-life shoes, and the two clash after she suggests they make the dress “normal” so it can sell. “In that episode, I think that Gianni came face-to-face with an unquestionable possibility of really disappearing, going away, and with him everything that he’s built,” Ramirez says. “And it was a race against time, but he couldn’t bend time.”
Time does stop for a second when Versace, in the middle of reprimanding his sister, loses his hearing, forcing him to step down and Donatella to step up, whether she’s ready or not. Ramirez likens Versace’s sudden cruel twist of fate to a vacuum sucking the life force out of the empire to which he’s devoted his entire life.
“That’s how I remember my feelings during that episode. He wanted to try to avoid that vacuum, but he didn’t have time,” he says. “And of course we all relate to that. It’s hard to think about the moment when you’re not here and you want to be prepared, but no one is really prepared. It was very moving to me that episode and the moment he loses his hearing, he goes from rage to … this metaphor of facing terror. It’s like, ‘This is it. Now I’m going away. It’s happening right now in the middle of this discussion. Is this the memory that my sister and my lover are going to have of me? Is this the last conversation that we’re going to have before I go away?’”
The actor was previously nominated for his lead performance in “Carlos” in 2011, but he says the second time around is different and sweeter — because of the people he came into the show with and the new ones he met on it.
“It feels different because I have more friends. It feels different because now when I go to the event and when I have interviews, I don’t feel like I’m the new kid on the block. I’m still super moved and I can hardly believe it,” he says. “It’s new in many ways, but at the same, I’m surrounded by friends everywhere I go. The fact that we got so much support from the academy, that we got so many nominations for the show, it’s very gratifying and very fulfilling to be able to share this honor with people you love so much.”