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USA TODAY

PASADENA, Calif. — Producers didn’t casually choose the title of the second installment of FX’s crime anthology series: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (Jan. 17, 10 ET/PT).

“It was a political murder,” executive producer Ryan Murphy told the Television Critics Association  Friday. Killer Andrew Cunanan went after gay men “to shame them and out them,” and fashion icon Versace, who was openly gay, was a prime target.

So the title doesn’t include the culprit’s name, because identifying Cunanan would be “elevating him to a place we didn’t want to put him in,” executive producer and writer Tom Rob Smith said. (Versace, his fifth and final victim, is also more well known).

The new season tracks Cunanan (Darren Criss, Glee) on a 1997 cross-country murder spree that resulted in at least five killings, culminating with the shooting of Versace (Edgar Ramirez, Hands of Stone) in Miami’s South Beach.

Penelope Cruz plays Gianni’s famous sister, Donatella, and pop star Ricky Martin plays Gianni’s boyfriend, Antonio D’Amico. 

Versace, which FX describes as “inspired by actual events,” is based on Maureen Orth’s book, Vulgar Favors.

Homophobia plays a role in law enforcement’s slow response in pursuing Cunanan, who murdered four others before arriving in Miami, executive producer Nina Jacobson said.

Versace “did not have to die. Cunanan was out clubbing right across the street from the police department” before the shooting, she said.

The first ACS installment, 2016’s The People v. O.J. Simpson, was a big hit for FX, nabbing 10 Emmys.

Versace differs in significant ways from Simpson and reflects the anthology’s broad reach: The third Crime installment looks at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

“Every season of the show will have a different tonality. The first season was very much a courtroom potboiler. The second season is a manhunt thriller,” Murphy said. The delayed Katrina season, originally due before Versace, will focus on a hospital and examine the condition of “medical (care) in our country, global warming, who lives…