American Crime Story used real-life footage of Jeffrey Trail talking about being gay in the military and it’s haunting
American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace used real-life footage taken of Jeffrey Trail, one of the many victims of the murderer who killed the famed fashion designer, and it is incredibly haunting.
The third season of the true-crime series documents the murder of Versace and his murderer, Andrew Cunanan.
Cunanan killed four people before killing himself in 1997 and one of his victims was Jeffrey Trail.
Trail, who was gay, was formerly in the Navy before the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was passed.
He had deep struggles with his sexuality and how it fit in with his career as he was officially banned from serving in the military but still did.
Trail took part in an interview with Journalist Richard Schlesinger in 1993, a year before the policy was enforced.
In the two minute clip, he is blacked out as a silhouette to keep his identity anonymous and he tells Schlesinger about the importance of gay people in the military.
Trail said in the clip: “Whether people like it or not, there are gays in the military. They’re very top-notch performers. They know what they’re doing.
“You’re gonna weaken our national defence if you remove gays from the military.
“There’s nothing I would like more than to be lit up and tell you who I am and show you who I am. But I’m not allowed to do that.”
The haunting footage was later found by Cunanan who realised that Trail was gay.
The decision by show producer Ryan Murphy to use the footage makes a strong statement about the anti-gay rhetoric that used to riddle the military.
Trail left the Navy in 1996, and he never came out to his family.
Speaking of Trail’s decision to do the interview, Schlesinger said that it came with a huge risk.
Schlesinger said: “He chose to speak to us because he thought it was the right thing to do.
“He did the interview in silhouette but he was still taking a tremendous risk with his career. He had absolutely nothing to gain by doing the interview. Yet he took the risk and spoke out.”
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Actor Finn Wittrock played Trail in the season, and he described the unearthed footage as his “bible”.
“I would watch that and listen to that every day,” Wittrock explained, adding that he became incredibly connected to the character. “Besides my sexuality, I could be Jeff Trail. There’s very little, I found, that separates us in that way.”
The actor added that he felt while studying Trail the concept of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was “dated” and he feared that people would not be able to “relate” to it.
“Then a week later there was the transgender military Trump ban. Suddenly I thought, ‘Oh wow. How many steps we take forward and how many the take back.’ Suddenly I was examining the whole story in that way. How relevant is this still? Sadly, so much of it is still relevant,” he added.