Power Players

Darren Criss says working on 'Versace' was like getting to sit with the cool kids at lunch

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Darren Criss says 'Versace' set was like getting to sit with the cool kids...

By Hollywood's standards, FX's limited series "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story" was a success: It garnered rave reviews, boasted a star-studded ensemble and nabbed prestigious awards, including a number of 2018 Emmy wins and 2019 Golden Globe nominations.

In September, star of the show Darren Criss won the Emmy in the category Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his role in "Versace." In December, it was announced that Criss has also been nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.

Darren Criss, at an event for Clorox's What Comes Next Project in New York City in December.
CNBC

Criss, however, doesn't measure success with such accolades. In fact, he tells CNBC Make It that even if no one had watched "Versace," he would have been just as proud of the series. That's because he considers it a success just to work with people in the industry whom he has long admired, like fellow "Versace" stars Edgar Ramirez, Penelope Cruz and Ricky Martin.

"It's like being at the [cafeteria] in high school," Criss, 31, tells CNBC Make. "You've got your tray, and what you wouldn't give to just sit with those people. Those are the people that matter to me, and that I know I can contribute to. Like, put me in, coach.

"Finally getting to sit at the table and knowing that you have something to say to these people, and hopefully add to what makes that table exciting, is a real feather in my cap that I've worked my entire life towards," he says.

Criss has earned his spot at the table. His resume includes starring roles in Fox's hit show "Glee," FX's "American Horror Story" and "A Very Potter Musical." In "Versace," Criss gave a chilling performance as Andrew Cunanan, the 27-year-old serial killer who assassinated renowned fashion designer Versace in 1997.

But despite his success, he still remains thankful for the opportunity to work with the actors who have inspired him throughout his career, he tells CNBC Make It at an event for Clorox's What Comes Next Project, for which Criss is a spokesperson — the initiative supports organizations and individuals that give back by providing access to things like clean laundry or a clean home.

"I've spent my entire life just chasing my heroes, trying to find a way to get to them...." Criss says. "There's people that, unbeknownst to them, are a part of my narrative, right? People I have seen in film or television or movies and people that I admire that, unconscious to them, are cultivating my own life in the arts and my own career.

"[W]orking with them or meeting them ... is almost the only way to thank them for this work that they don't even know affected my life. They were a part of my narrative, now I get to be a part of theirs, on account of them shooting inspiration out into the abyss, and me being one of those people that gets to catch it and harness it."

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