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Nicole Brown Simpson Sisters on Why Her Children Didn’t Participate

Nicole Brown Simpson Sisters on Why Her Children Didn’t Participate

In the two-night Lifetime television premiere of The Life and Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, loved ones of the second wife of O.J. Simpson put more of a face and a voice to the woman whose existence has been overshadowed by that of her famous football player ex-husband (who stood trial and was acquitted of her murder and that of her friend Ron Goldman, both of whom were found stabbed to death in her Brentwood, Los Angeles, home on June 12, 1994).

“Anytime you mention the trial of the century, people always say, ‘Oh yeah, O.J. Simpson,’” Nicole’s sister Dominique Brown says, speaking with The Hollywood Reporter in the conversation below. “They don’t remember the victims.”

Dominique and her sisters, Denise and Tanya Brown, have lived with that reality for three decades now, and it’s iswhat prompted their interest in creating a documentary about Nicole on the 30th anniversary of her death.

“Everybody kept saying, ‘Nicole’s voice. Nobody knows what her voice sounds like,’” says Denise. “I felt like: God, people need to know and remember who Nicole was 30 years later.”

As fate would have it, O.J. Simpson died from metastatic prostate cancer on April 11 at the age of 76, just one day before Lifetime announced the four-part docuseries, which executive producer Melissa Moore told THR in a separate interview has been “10 years in the making.”

The sisters — whom Denise notes all have a different relationship with O.J. and Nicole’s children, Sydney and Justin — believe O.J.’s recent passing may have influenced their niece and nephew’s decision not to participate in the documentary.

“I think just by losing their parent, it was not the right time for them,” says Denise. “If they ever decide to do anything in the future, great. But if they don’t, then also great. They want to stay private.”

Noting that Sydney also recently had a child of her own, Dominique adds, “There was a lot to swallow.”

Below, the Brown sisters talk about their own reactions to O.J.’s death, the revelations from the documentary that surprised them the most and what they hope viewers remember about Nicole.

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Why was this documentary important for you to do, and why now?

DENISE BROWN I wanted to do it 10 years ago, at the 20-year mark. But it just didn’t seem like the right thing to do. And then at 25, it didn’t feel right either. And then I said, “Thirty, that’s it. It feels good. It feels right.” So we’ve been working on it with Lifetime now for over a year, and it was just something that needed to be done. There’s a whole new generation to educate when it comes to the issues of domestic violence and things that happened to Nicole. So I asked my sisters, Dominique and Tanya, “What do you guys think?” And we all agreed that this probably is the last time that we will do something, the three of us together, for our sister. Something that we are going to be proud of, something that’s going to last a lifetime for us.

TANYA BROWN I want to reiterate, too, in today’s climate where it’s like, “You need to have a voice,” “Speak your opinion,” people are actually going to hear her voice. I forgot what she sounded like. The only recording I remembered was her 911 call, and I don’t want to remember my sister’s voice in fear. I want to hear her playing on the beach with her kids.

DOMINIQUE BROWN I’ve stayed out of the media. I think this is an opportunity and kind of a realization that she was a person. She wasn’t just, I think Tanya had said, “A body with a sheet over her,” and somebody that’s been forgotten. I really felt like it was a good time to humanize her. And the 30-year [anniversary] came about, so here we are.

When you watched the final cut of the series, did you learn anything that surprised you?

DENISE Oh God, yes. I think we all were kind of taken back. We were talking about Nicole and the abuse, and what we found out was something completely different.

DOMINIQUE It wasn’t a one-time thing.

TANYA I thank God for therapy, because I’m turning this whole thing around, as I’m sure my sisters are. This is advocacy now. People need to know this is where it starts. This is what can happen to you. It will happen to you. It’s not it can happen; it will happen if you stay.

Nicole’s diaries told the story of the abuse that she, unfortunately, couldn’t tell. Who found them and what was the experience of discovering those details?

DOMINIQUE I found them. We’d gone up to Nicole’s house because we got reports that people were looting, and they were in a cardboard box with pictures and things that the children had done with an entire diary of what she had gone through. She was obviously not wanting to make it obvious where she had put them, but I think the really interesting thing is that [the abuse] was prior to Nicole, and it was well after Nicole. We heard 911 calls from the Florida house and other things that happened that we definitely didn’t know and that were disturbing.

DENISE I remember my dad coming to me, and he said, “Denise, read this,” because he’d brought them back to the house down in Laguna. And as I was reading, I was like, “Oh God, why didn’t she say anything?” It even went as far as to say, “Oh my God, we were there, and this was all happening behind closed doors.” My mom and I ended up going to a shelter in Laguna and trying to educate ourselves on why didn’t she come forward and asking all the “why” questions. That’s how I got educated on the whole domestic violence issue and the cycle of violence, the power and control of one human being over another. The put downs: “You’re stupid, you’re ugly, you’re worthless.” The emotional, the psychological, which escalates into the physical, then there’s the honeymoon phase. All these things started making sense. Nicole loved flowers. She had flowers and beautiful bouquets all over her house. When you look back in hindsight, you sit there and you go, “Oh my goodness, these are all red flags.”

DOMINIQUE Another point is in educating and learning about it, all the “why” questions end up being the wrong questions because Nicole would downplay everything. I used to speak with her every morning. She’d say, “Oh yeah, Simpson came over and he had a fit and he bashed my front door, and he broke things. But, oh, well, I’m going to go for a run.”

After Nicole’s death, your dad said, “Don’t tell anyone O.J. did it.” Dominique, you said that came down from the chain of command. What did you mean by that?

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DOMINIQUE Well, I came back to the house after I’d received a call from Denise saying, “He did it. He finally did it.” It takes you a minute when you’re in shock. I was at work, and on the way home, because I just couldn’t grasp the magnitude of everything, I stopped for coffee with a friend of the family, and I said, “Well, I guess the presumption is that O.J. did it.” That trickled its way back to my dad and by the time I walked in the door, I was reprimanded for having had that conversation. I don’t know if it was jumping to conclusions or what it was, but everything just started intertwining and making a little more sense. And then it proceeded to be that he was the main suspect. I think [my dad felt like] let’s keep it under wraps. We’re not going to say anything until we figure out what’s really happening.

DENISE And, of course, Denise, being the rebel, Denise had to say it right away because I wasn’t going to listen. I said, “I know it in my gut. It is what it is, and that’s all there is to it.” That reprimand didn’t trickle down to me… Phone calls started happening, the media started calling. It was chaos in our house. Half of our sister’s life was spent with this human being that you never in a million years think could do something so horrific. And you spend time with them, you love this person, you welcome them into your house. We always had a tense relationship, but I was always happy when Nicole was happy, and when Nicole was happy, that was the only thing that really mattered. So would you ever, ever think that after 17 years together, that somebody could do something so horrific to a family member that they supposedly loved and she had two children with? You can’t even fathom something like that. Our lives were literally turned upside down.

When was the last time any of you had spoken to O.J. and how did news of his recent death affect you?

DOMINIQUE I hadn’t spoken to him in a really long time. Our mother was the person that communicated with him for visitations. But when they went to Florida, things just kind of lapsed, although she did speak with the children; she spoke with Sydney daily. We didn’t know how sick he was, but Tanya sent me a text saying that someone had called her, and Denise was over, and we were trying to figure out if the news was true. I turned on the news and there you had it.

TANYA Minnie (Dominique) and I, we cried together. It was kind of like when Kato, the dog, died, like, that’s a chapter of this story. It was another piece of Nicole. Now O.J.’s gone, and now it’s like another piece of Nicole and my story. I can’t speak for my sisters, but my childhood now was robbed. [When] it was solidified, I said, “I’m coming over.” And we cried together. It was sad.

DOMINIQUE It was sad. It was confusing, it was complicated. My mind goes to the children right away. I think that was why I cried, because the kids don’t have any parents anymore, and we don’t know what kind of a parent he was when they got older. Even though I communicate with the kids a lot, that’s not something that we talked about. I think that also accents why we were shocked by some of the content that arose in the special.

Did you talk to Sydney and Justin about the documentary and whether they might want to participate?

DENISE They do know. They want to stay private. I didn’t have that same relationship with him as the other two did, so my initial response was, “Oh, hallelujah, he’s finally gone.” But then I sit there, and I think, “Oh my God, these poor kids.” That is exactly how the whole scenario went. But when we started doing the series, we wanted them to know and to be transparent throughout the whole process.

DOMINIQUE And they are aware that there are some dynamic things in it. They are aware that the domestic abuse is included. We needed to be honest with them. My concern was I didn’t want to step on any toes because I have such a good relationship with them. Incidentally, Sydney had just had a child and then her father died and there was a lot to swallow.

DENISE We love them. We all have different relationships with them, but we love them, and we have their best interest at heart always.

After premiering on Lifetime on June 1 and 2, The Life and Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson is now available to buy or rent online at Prime Video.

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