Training camp is in session for actor Josh Andrés Rivera.
“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” star spoke with Interview Magazine Tuesday about playing former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez in the upcoming FX series “American Sports Story.” The latest spinoff in Ryan Murphy’s “American Story” franchise is based on the podcast “Gladiator: Aaron Hernandez and Football Inc.” by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team and Wondery, and examines Hernandez’s rise to fame and fall from grace.
Rivera revealed to Interview Magazine that the anthology series will cover “a really meaty and multifaceted story,” including how Hernandez was found guilty of the 2013 murder of Odin L. Lloyd. He was found dead in his prison cell in April 2017 from an apparent suicide by hanging.
“It’s been a real fulfilling challenge because I’ve never had to play a real person,” Rivera said. “There’s existing media of this person and before all these things came to light, he was considered one of the best players in the league. So I have to work out a ton and I have to look like I’m in the NFL.”
According to Rivera, the actor is getting some “studio-subsidized” workout help to shape up for the role.
“I wanted to get into shape anyway, and now I have all this help,” Rivera told the magazine. “I feel that this guy is really different, and I have to do a lot of work to internalize his disposition and what he is.”
Joining Rivera in “American Sports Story” will be actor Patrick Schwarzenegger, son of Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is set to play quarterback Tim Tebow, Hernandez’s University of Florida teammate. Deadline reported Tuesday that Jake Cannavale, son of actor Bobby Cannavale and screenwriter Jenny Lumet, will also join the series as Hernandez’s “love interest.” Meanwhile, actor Catfish Jean has been tapped to play Hernandez’s friend Ernest “Bo” Wallace.
The series, which does not have a release date yet, is helmed by creator Stu Zicherman, who also serves as a writer and executive producer. Joining Zicherman and Murphy as executive producers are Nina Jacobson, Brad Falchuk, Brad Simpson, and Martin Woodall, as well as Linda Pizzuti Henry, chief executive of Boston Globe Media, Boston Globe Director of New Media Ira Napoliello, and Wondery’s Hernan Lopez and Marshall Lewy.
Matt Juul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.