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Actor Portraying O.J. Simpson in Re-Enactment Gets to Show His Stuff

November 21, 1996

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ When O.J. Simpson fidgets with his tie in court, so does Stephen Wayne Eskridge. When Simpson twirls a pencil, so does Eskridge.

Eskridge, you see, portrays Simpson on E! Entertainment Television’s nightly re-enactment of the wrongful death trial.

So far, Eskridge’s acting ability has not been stretched too far. He sits at the defense table every day, nodding, scrawling notes and gazing at attorneys and witnesses.

``I still have to emote and react like he was reacting in court to the testimony, but I can tell you one thing, it’s grueling,″ he says. ``The law is very staid, it’s not Perry Mason.″

With Simpson’s turn on the stand beginning Friday, Eskridge will finally get to display his true talents.

``I’ve got to tell you it’s hard for me to sit here now,″ he said. ``I’m racing with adrenalin and endorphins and I can’t wait to see what he says. Even if it’s ``I don’t remember’ and `I don’t recall.‴

The recap _ which splices re-enactment footage with analysis _ was created by E! after Superior Court Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki barred cameras from the courtroom.

Filmed in a high-rise building miles away from the Santa Monica courthouse where the real trial takes place, ``The O.J. Civil Trial″ gleans highlights from trial transcripts. Staff members also observe visual details in court and take notes.

Since the show, airing at 8 p.m. EST, is shot a day after the actual testimony is given, the episode featuring Simpson’s testimony won’t be shown until Monday. The hourlong show will expand to 90 minutes through Simpson’s testimony.

For Eskridge, a jazz musician and actor who has done bit parts in films and television, the role of Simpson is the first to bring him national recognition.

``Obviously, there’s a lot of exposure,″ he said. ``But it’s a double-edge sword because it’s a tragedy and hopefully people will be able to disassociate themselves and view the work.″

A few years younger than the 49-year-old Simpson _ he won’t say how many _ the 6-foot-2 Eskridge is tall, athletically built and has a hairline that closely matches Simpson’s.

Eskridge, though, has a higher speaking voice. He relies on his singing talents to drop it into lower registers.

Is Simpson innocent? Eskridge doesn’t dare to take a position on that one.

``All my instincts tell me that he believes he’s innocent. That’s how I feel, that’s how I’m playing him and that’s what I’ll be taking up on the stand.″

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