Like all of us, Malcolm-Jamal Warner remembers where he was when O.J. Simpson took to the L.A. Freeway in a white Bronco, leading half of the city’s police in a pursuit that dominated the TV airways. For the record, he was at home folding clothes. Now the former “Cosby Show” star, 45, is in the chase itself. In “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” a 10-part FX miniseries from "American Horror Story" maven Ryan Murphy, he plays Al Cowlings, Simpson’s best friend who did the driving during that wild ride.
What was it like diving back into that period during preparation?
There wasn’t a whole lot on A.C. There was a lot about his and O.J.’s relationship. Most of my focus ended up being on the complexities of their relationship. For example, there was a woman A.C. was really interested in, but he couldn’t express himself. So he asked O.J. to put in a good word for him. That woman ended up being Marguerite [Whitley], O.J.’s first wife. And yet O.J. and A.C. remained best friends.
Cowlings has stated he’d sue the producers if he wound up being portrayed negatively. He doesn’t come across bad at all.
There’s not enough about him to paint a bad picture. What you see is a guy who’s really there for his best friend, not knowing if he’s guilty or not. His instincts made him step to the plate. A.C. is the kind of guy who if O.J. said, “Let’s take a ride,” he wouldn’t say, “Why?” or ask where they’re going. He’d get in the truck and say, “Let’s go.” He was a ride-or-die best friend. Whether he believed O.J. was guilty or not was not the issue. I really think if O.J. and A.C. had remained friends after the trial O.J. would not be in jail now. A.C. wouldn’t have allowed O.J. to go down to Vegas to get his stuff back. He wouldn’t have allowed him to do dumb s—.