Much has been made about Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, and Rob Kardashian‘s portrayal in FX’s addictive The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, but tonight’s episode has certainly been the most discussed so far of the season. Robert Kardashian (played by David Schwimmer) takes his four kids out for Chinese food at L.A. staple Chin Chin, where they bypass the long wait list and are seated immediately thanks to Robert’s newfound fame. It is there that he gives his kids a heartfelt lecture about how fame is fleeting, why a good heart trumps all, and a reminder that Michael Bolton ruled the airwaves in 1994.
It’s a good lesson, no doubt, but one that producers admitted to having to make up because only Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, or Rob might remember what they talked about with their dad that evening. But what wasn’t made up was the deep bond that the Kardashian/Jenner clan shared with Nicole Brown Simpson and O.J. The families vacationed together, made plans often, and when O.J. was put on trial, Robert Kardashian was there to act as the emotional backbone of the entire “Dream Team” operation.
“He wasn’t a criminal defense lawyer,” states Schwimmer. “He was a business lawyer. He was only there to really babysit O.J. and to represent him and look after his best interests. The real appeal of the role was when it was presented to me, as Robert being the heart and conscience of the whole thing. He’s the only person of the key players who has nothing to gain.”
At the time of the murders and trial, Schwimmer’s life was about to change forever as well. Friends was set to make its premiere that fall on NBC, and Schwimmer recounts working with this “wonderful new group of people on the career break of a lifetime,” all while “working hard to stay connected to the real world and the events that were unfolding.”
We recently met up with Schwimmer to talk about the role, how he altered his appearance to play Kardashian, and why he didn’t need to sit down with the late Robert’s kids to talk about their father.
Glamour: Let’s talk about Robert Kardashian’s hair. Did you wear a wig or did they spray paint a gray tint through yours?
David Schwimmer: So, I’m very fortunate that I have a very thick, full head of hair like Robert did, but he actually had a slightly lower hairline than I do. So what we did—and I have to say the makeup and hair department on this show was so talented—so, Chris Clark, who was doing the hair, had an idea of building a piece that you glued on every morning that lowered my hair line but had natural real hair sewed into it. Most of the actors wear hair pieces—pretty much every one did. Mine was quite small, but it lowered my hairline and combed the white hair into my own. It only took about 20 minutes a day.
Glamour: Whose transformation were you most shocked by?
David: It would have to be a toss up between well, my buddy Billy Magnussen, who plays Kato Kaelin. When I first saw him [on the monitor], I went, “Oh my goodness, that is Kato!” I couldn’t believe it. I also thought Evan Handler, who plays Dershowitz was incredible! Total transformation. You could say the same thing about Sarah [Paulson]. Those different looks that Marcia has. Also, Sterling [K. Brown], who plays [Christopher] Darden. Incredible. Everyone, really.
Glamour: You’ve never worked with John Travolta before this, so what was that like?
David: He was great. I have to say, he’s a very generous actor. All of my scenes were either with him or Cuba [Gooding, Jr.]. I think the initial giddiness of being in any kind of scene with John Travolta—because I’m a huge fan of his—went away really, really quickly because he was so pleasant and we just got to work. In all honesty, one of the greatest pleasures of this job was that there was no ego on set. Never. Every single person was so supportive of everyone else that everyone knew they had their moment to shine and was so supportive of everyone’s moment to shine. So there were weeks and weeks when I sat in a courtroom without a line and really just watched everyone else and was happy to do so because I knew in time, I would have my time, and they would be supportive. It’;s a great, unusual set. It really was. It was really supportive.
Glamour: What struck you most about Robert Kardashian? This series will really give fans of Keeping Up With the Kardashians a different perspective.
David: The most valuable pieces of information I got were from Kris Jenner, who told me that he was a man of great faith. That suddenly unlocked everything for me, including the choices he made. That really moved me. He wasn’t just using his intellect because he’s a lawyer—he was being guided by something greater.
Glamour: What is hard to talk about Robert with Kris Jenner?
David: No, she was so wonderful. She spent so much time, and I took my lead from her. I expected I maybe would talk to her for 15 minutes on the phone, and it went two hours. She was very open, and it was a very intimate conversation. She loved Robert. She really did. He was a really good man. The single greatest thing I got from her was how religious he was, what a man of great faith he was, and he had a very personal, strong relationship to God. He prayed several times a day and that helped me understand the decisions he was making at the time.
Glamour: It’s been reported that you were offered to talk to Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney, but only if you were willing to do it on camera for Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Is that true?
David: It was all translated through my publicist, so I’m not sure exactly, but the truth is, they were so young at that point in time. I have a daughter, I don’t need to know what it’s like to be a dad. I needed to talk to Kris. That’s who I needed to speak to. I needed to know who he was as a husband, as a man, and what his character was from a grown-up perspective.
Glamour: Whatever you thought about O.J. Simpson in 1994, did making this series change your opinion of the verdict or of him?
David: It didn’t change my opinion about the outcome of the case or the verdict or his guilt or any of that, but I have to say, I learned a hell of a lot during [the filming]. I think that’s why this series will be so successful because every episode has something we didn’t know or were privy to. Even the little assumptions, like the Bronco chase—if you ask the average person, no one knows that it wasn’t O.J.’s car. There were so many fascinating reveals.
For more with David Schwimmer, including the episode of Friends that he can’t wait to show his daughter, click here. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story airs every Tuesday night on FX.