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NUNN ON ONE MOVIES Mike Farrell channels Chicagoan Miglin in Gianni Versace
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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Gay executive producer Ryan Murphy is on a roll with his second installment of FX's American Crime Story. The first season's The People v. O.J. Simpson was a critical success, earning many awards including an Emmy and Golden Globe for Sarah Paulson, who portrayed Marcia Clark.

This year's The Assassination of Gianni Versace is based on Maureen Orth's book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History. The series examines Andrew Cunanan, played by actor Darren Criss in a possible career-making performance.

Mike Farrell is featured in one episode—titled "A Random Killing"—where he plays another victim of Cunanan: Chicago real-estate tycoon Lee Miglin, who is portrayed in this series as closeted. Farrell is most remembered for his character Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H, but he has had a vast array of television appearances. His work started back at Lassie and moves forward to shows such as Providence and Desperate Housewives.

He has executive-produced two films—Patch Adams and Dominick and Eugene, the latter which earned Tom Hulce a Golden Globe nomination.

Windy City Times: Happy upcoming birthday, Mike!

Mike Farrell: Thank you. You have done your research.

WCT: What a career you have had over the years. Growing up in Hollywood paid off.

MF: It was sort of like growing up in a lumber town, then working in the mill.

WCT: How fun was it being on I Dream of Jeannie?

MF: [Laughs] I was so green and wet behind the ears. I was just thrilled to be there. It was wonderful to look at Barbara Eden. That was the first time I had met Larry Hagman.

I had maybe one line and I don't remember what I had to say. I was probably scared stiff!

WCT: Did they come to you about this role in American Crime Story?

MF: Yes, they came to me. I was fascinated by this set of circumstances, and by the character. I had known very little about the story, but I thought it was really quite extraordinary. Ultimately it was an important story to tell. I was delighted to be a part of it.

WCT: Did you study up on Lee Miglin?

MF: You get the pages and they tell you what you need to know. I did some research. As you may know, there were some differing opinions on what happened and who he was etc.

He was not only complex to portray, [but] he was an important person and had a life that people need to better understand. Back then and certainly today, while there is more understanding there is some cloudiness.

WCT: Was this the first time you played a gay character?

MF: Yes.

WCT: Was this filmed in Chicago?

MF: We did some, but it was backup work. Most of my scenes were filmed in Los Angeles.

WCT: Was filming such a graphic scene a nightmare?

MF: It was weird, I will say. I don't like being wrapped up like that.

WCT: How was it working with Darren Criss?

MF: He's terrific. He's really a nice young man and very talented. I confess to never having seen Glee. For someone that is relatively new to the business, he has a great presence, and had a good relationship with the crew. It was really fun to get to know him and see him work.

WCT: Even on television it is interesting to see his interpretation.

MF: I agree. It is an enormous task to pull off. From what I saw he really did a remarkable job.

WCT: Did you know Judith Light [who plays Lee's wife, Marilyn] before this?

MF: We had never met before. I had been an admirer of Judith for a long time, so it was thrilling to get to work with her and meet her.

WCT: She's worked with the LGBT community for many years. Have you?

MF: Oh sure. In the '70s, I was involved in a campaign out here in the early days when the Briggs Initiative was on the ballot to keep gay people from teaching. It was just awful.

The community needed someone who was straight to stand up. I became a spokesperson for the No on Proposition 6 campaign.

Ever since then I have had many friends in the community and have done a lot of work in support.

WCT: Are you still doing your one-man show about global warming?

MF: Yes. I am doing a benefit for the Sierra Club later in the year to do it. There's a DVD of it that different organizations use to show their groups the platy rather than having me go everywhere. I am often asked to do a Q&A afterwards, which is interesting.

WCT: You have to perform it in Chicago.

MF: That would be fun.

WCT: Do you have a favorite M*A*S*H memory?

MF: They are almost all my favorites.

My favorite episode though was with an interview. It was an Edward R. Murrow-esque story we did. A newsman comes with his documentary crew to the M*A*S*H compound and interviews everybody. It demonstrated a mutual respect between the cast and the crew. The producers came to each of us with a little pad, questions, and a tape recorder. They just had us respond in character to the questions. That became the script for the show. It was a thrill.

Yesterday was Alan Alda's birthday and a bunch of us got together to celebrate him. He was out here on the coast because he has a part in a picture here. Almost 35 years after the show technically went off the air we will still get together whenever we can. It is like a family. We have a wonderful time.

WCT: Are you working on producing any more movies?

MF: Yes. I have a number of pictures that I would like to get done. You develop these things and it is a long process. The result is either the trashcan or the screen. You never know which it's going to be!

WCT: You were in The Red Road?

MF: Yes. It was series done for the Sundance Channel. I was in it for three seasons. It was shot in Atlanta, but set in New Jersey. It was about the tension between a Native American community and the people from the town.

WCT: Jason Mamoa was in that.

MF: Boy, is he a big guy.

WCT: He's Aquaman. He has to be big!

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story airs every Wednesday on FX at 9 p.m.

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