No one could have predicted how enthralled America would be with the resurrection of the 1994 O.J. Simpson murder case on American Crime Story last fall.
Twenty two years after the trial began, millions sat enraptured as Courtney B. Vance, Sterling K. Brown, Cuba Gooding Jr. and John Travolta played the real-life people involved in the most controversial case of the 20th century.
Keesha Sharp played Johnnie Cochran’s (Vance) wife, Dale Cochran, in the Emmy award-winning series.
“I am usually attracted to complex characters but I think every actor is,” Sharp told ESSENCE. “Actors often get type-casted based on their gender, appearance or essence. I have played a strong bold wife many times including Girlfriends but thankfully, I also have had the opportunity to play gritty roles like I did in Never Die Alone —I love to work and find depth in any character that I portray.”
For her next big role, the actress will once again transform into the wife of a well-known attorney, Thurgood Marshall.
“With both American Crime Story and Marshall, the character is a real person, so you have to be very delicate with how you portray them while at the same time being honest to the character,” she said about the similarities in the roles. “Both of these characters were the strong woman behind the powerful man.”
Adding, “Both Dale Cochran and Buster Marshall were married to very talented attorneys and did not like the public eye —there are very few images of both women.”
Another similarity in the characters are their dedication to men who changed how the general public perceived the prosecution of Black men. While Simpson’s case is still a source of contention to many who believe he committed the crime, Marshall’s legacy of civil rights advocacy broke down barriers.
“I absolutely believe the system is in place to disenfranchise people, whether it is a great evil scheme or just blind ignorance,” Sharp said about the current state of the justice system.
“Not only are women earning less on than men, there are inherent biases within our society that still bears ghosts from our country’s past including slavery, ending reconstruction, Jim Crow, gerrymandering, intimidation and oppression. Thankfully, as Thurgood Marshall would say, ‘We have new weapons now. We have the law.'”
Entering a fresh season of Lethal Weapon as well —which she says will be a “fun ride”— Sharp also has a fresh perspective of how we can change the world around us.
“I think once people are educated on their rights and the ‘powers that be’ understand how important the strength of diversity and equality are to our nation’s success, we can begin to build and work on the many issues at hand like our prison system and criminal justice, which is broken.”
“Pioneers like Marshall led the way to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves with passion, education, intellect and human resources. We need to continue his fight as there is still so much work to be done.”