Julianne Nicholson teams back up with Dick Wolf to explore the Menendez brothers trial.
You’d imagine that if your parents gave you everything in this world, including luxury cars, nice clothes and a coveted education that you’d be eternally grateful to them. Well, that didn’t seem to be the case for the Lyle and Erik Menendez, who in the 1989 shot and murdered their two parents as they slept in their Beverly Hills home. America was yet again captivated by a crime that everyone saw as heinous and greed-driven.
But that’s not what the brothers say caused them to blast their parents away on a muggy summer night. To Lyle and Erik, they had finally killed the man who had been physically and psychologically torturing them for years. To them, the abuse was finally over. It was a deeply emotional telling, so much so that the jury was deadlocked. But the subsequent trial dismissed the defense’s claims, claiming that their lack of a criminal past did not uphold the theory of abuse. In any case, the trial and following retrial was turned into a circus show, as it occurred during the O.J. Simpson media frenzy, wherein Los Angeles had become the unofficial home for controversial, high-profile criminal cases.
In a flash, courtroom TV had become synonymous with popular culture. And now, thirty years later, television shows and films like O.J.: Made in America, The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story and next season, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story are revisiting the moment in which America stopped in their tracks to hear the verdict of the most recent infamous case. Joining that televisual conversation is Dick Wolf, creator of the Law & Order and Chicago franchises with his newest addition to the Law & Order family, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders. The Knockturnal had the opportunity to talk to upcoming star Julianne Nicholson (Boardwalk Empire, August: Osage County), who will play one of the defense attorney’s alongside Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie, Sopranos). Check out what she had to say below.
Working in the Dick Wolf Universe
It’s always nice working with the same people. Although it’s nice to branch out to new experiences, who doesn’t like familiarity? There’s a natural rapport that exists, making communication easier and getting the job done all the less stressful. There’s no need to find new common ground or work tirelessly to adapt to certain work ethics. It’s all already established. Which is exactly what star Julianne Nicholson enjoys when she signs onto a new project.
“Well, this is now the fourth time that Dick Wolf has hired me. It feels very exciting to be working for the same employer,” said Nicholson. She followed up by adding, “And I love Edie Falco, who will be playing Leslie Abramson. I’ll be working with her a lot because I play Jill Lansing, who is on the defense team also.” It seems that there is a nice combination of old and new in the upcoming Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, something that everyone can agree will be interesting.
Nothing is Ever as it Seems
Most of America was convinced that the brothers had committed the crime out of selfishness. The parricide was an act that few could ever forgive, and one that is typically seen as one of the worst murders in the books. After all, the bible makes explicit reference to it by saying “He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.” And while the Menendez brothers weren’t exactly put to death, many pushed for it, including the prosecution. But it appears that perhaps their claims of abuse at the hands of their mother and father weren’t exactly incorrect. At least, that’s how Nicholson sees it.
“This story, reading these scripts, changed my opinion about this trial, and about these two boys,” confessed Nicholson. “I think it’s fascinating and tragic. It really shows what happens in the cycle of abuse,” said the actor. She finished by saying, “It’s crazy. You won’t believe it, I mean, every page I was shocked by details. I think it’s going to be a really great show.”
Some actors–particularly those from an older generation–rely on the method to prepare. They live and breathe their roles, diving as far down into the psyche of the individual they are set to play so as to fully embody it on screen or stage. From Al Pacino’s six month blindness for Scent of a Woman to Robert De Niro’s driving a cab for fifteen hours a day for a month for Taxi Driver, the method has produced some of the best acting that the world has ever seen. But while that approach may work for Pacino and De Niro, it doesn’t always for other actors, who research their roles deeply like Nicholson.
“I’m starting the research now. I start filming in a month. I was taking a little break to be with my family, so now it’s time to start watching those documentaries, watching those trials, and really educating myself as to what happened, what was happening. I’m excited” said the actor. It seems that Nicholson will be diving deep into the pool of research to figure out just how to play the defense of the Menendez Brothers.
Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders is set to premiere this fall on September 26 on NBC.