Inside O.J. Simpson's Bronco With Malcolm-Jamal Warner and His Concern Over Legacy of 'The Cosby Show'

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Before it gets into the story of O.J. Simpson’s murder
trial, American Crime Story: The People
v. O.J. Simpson
must first address the infamous car chase that took place
on June 17, 1994.

While most remember watching the scene unfold live on TV,
only two people know what happened inside that white Ford Bronco: O.J. Simpson,
who was suspected of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman at the
time, and his longtime friend, Al “AC” Cowlings.

MORE: Get to Know the 10 Key Characters of 'American Crime Story'

Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who portrays Cowlings opposite Cuba
Gooding, Jr. as Simpson on the FX series, says that while the show was heavily
fact-checked, they had to take a “creative license” with filming the scenes
inside the vehicle. “For us, it was a matter of putting ourselves in that
situation,” he tells ETonline, “and putting our take on what went on inside the
car.”

The intense two-day shoot, directed by executive producer
Ryan Murphy, left both Warner and Gooding drained. “There’s so much emotion and
tension going on,” Warner says, adding that Murphy helped both actors from
overdoing it on screen. “He was very good about keeping the tension within the
context of what was going on.” 

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The intensity of Tuesday’s episode is part of why American Crime Story has become an
instant hit for FX. The series, which takes viewers inside Simpson’s infamous
murder trial, debuted to record ratings and rave reviews. It also comes at a
time when racial tensions are high in the U.S., following the Black Lives
Matter movement and several fatal shootings of unarmed black men.

“In terms of time, 20 years is always a good time to review
anything,” Warner says of the series’ debut amid growing concerns over police
brutality. “These issues have been prevalent in the black community forever. It’s
such an ongoing issue that this television show, which is a period piece, still
feels very contemporary.”

MORE: Marcia Clark Opens Up to ET About Watching 'The People v. O.J. Simpson'

American Crime Story
also debuts as Bill Cosby faces charges of sexual assault. In the wake of
allegations against the 78-year-old comedian, who maintains his complete
innocence, The Cosby Show has been
pulled from syndication, leading Warner to say that the hit series had been
tarnished. Warner played Cosby’s on-screen son, Theodore Huxtable, for eight
seasons.

“Because it's been taken off the air, it's not a show we can
readily use as an example in terms of how people of color are portrayed on
television,” Warner explains. “Where we see stereotypical images perpetuated,
we always had The Cosby Show to hold
up against that. But, if the show is no longer on the air then we don't have
the opportunity to use that as an example.”

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Although The Cosby
Show
is no longer on the air (the show is still streaming on Hulu), Warner says
that its legacy still stands. “Its influence on a generation of young people who
went out and sought a higher education because of the show, a generation of
people who have gotten married and focused on having loving families because
they were influenced by that show, that part cannot be taken away,” he says. “You
can't reverse any of that.”

American Crime Story
airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET. Watch as the cast recalls what they remember most about watching the trial: