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‘The Life and Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson’ Doc: Sisters Tell Her Story

‘The Life and Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson’ Doc: Sisters Tell Her Story

In introductory behind-the-scenes footage, Lifetime’s four-part docuseries The Life and Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson sees a producer instructing interview subjects to use specific names when referencing individuals. Nicole Brown Simpson’s older sister, Denise Brown, replies, “There’s only one name I don’t want to say, if you don’t mind — ever.”

That name is O.J. Simpson, Nicole’s ex-husband who famously 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. O.J. died of metastatic prostate cancer on April 11 at the age of 76. The following day, Lifetime announced the forthcoming documentary, which coincides with the 30-year anniversary of Nicole’s death.

Denise’s opening declaration underscores the intention of the two-night event, which is to allow the world to get to know who Nicole was as a mother, daughter, sister and friend — an individual outside of her tumultuous relationship with O.J.

“People are actually going to hear her voice,” Nicole’s younger sister Tanya Brown tells The Hollywood Reporter. “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 saying, ‘Hi Sydney’ [to her daughter].”

Audiences will get to hear such recordings and see personal photos of Nicole as her sisters — Denise, Dominique and Tanya, along with family friends — share memories about Nicole’s childhood in the exclusive Monarch Bay neighborhood of Orange County, California, and her aspirations as a young woman.

“There are 50 interviews that we did for this series, and for the 50 that agreed, we reached out to countless others to interview and try to build as comprehensive and dynamic a story as possible,” Jesse Daniels (Surviving R. Kelly), an executive producer of the documentary, tells THR, about how the long-in-the-works project was pieced together. Featured voices include Nicole’s friends, Kris Jenner, Faye Resnick and Kato Kaelin, the latter whose witness testimony made him a prominent figure of the 1995 trial for Nicole and Goldman’s murders.

Left to right: Dominique Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson, Denise Brown, Judith “Dita” Brown and Tanya Brown.

Courtesy of The Brown Family

Still, so much of Nicole’s short life was about O.J., whom she met when she was just 18 in June of 1977 while working as a hostess at a restaurant called The Daisy. According to the documentary, the pro football player’s alleged bad behavior began not long after. When Nicole returned to the home of singer-songwriter David Lebón (a family friend whom she was living with in Hollywood at the time), after her first date with O.J., he noticed that the zipper of her jeans was ripped.

“I said, ‘Nicole what happened to you?’” Lebón recalls in the documentary. “He got a little forceful,” he says of her response, to which he says he replied, “Why would you let him do that to you? Why on your first date?”

The depth of O.J.’s alleged abuse is exposed in journals Nicole left behind, detailing years of psychological and physical mistreatment, including his affairs with other women. Denise also details her experience witnessing O.J.’s violent outbursts at times over the years, though many incidents Nicole never revealed to her sisters or friends.

“I think the diary entries coupled with our interviews give viewers a comprehensive look at the abuse that was happening behind closed doors for so many years, and the lengths to which Nicole fought it in her own way, sometimes just alone by herself,” says Daniels. “That was a huge focus of ours. This story is not just about her murder, it was about the years leading up to it.”

The documentary sheds light on the years after as well, and the toll that Nicole’s murder took on her family, starting from the moment they first heard the news of her death.

“All three of us had three different experiences,” explains Tanya to THR. “That morning was horrific. Hearing Denise scream — Dominique was already off to work — you could combine every Michael Myers, Jason and every other horror movie together. I remember going into Denise’s son Sean’s room, she was cradling him and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘Coco’s dead.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean? Coco, who?’ And Denise said, ‘Nicole, your sister.’ And I’m like, ‘How’s that possible? You just saw her last night.’

‘I remember going down the hallway and I saw my mom at the kitchen table, and she was white, just pale. The life was taken out from under her. And I said, ‘Dita, is it true?’ And she couldn’t answer,” Tanya recalls of their mother, Judith “Dita” Brown. “I went back to my dad, and he was just pounding his forearm on the bathroom sink. I was like, ‘Daddy, is it true?’ He said, ‘It’s true.’”

See Also

Tanya, Dominique and Denise Brown for The Life and Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.


In the 30 years since Nicole’s death, Denise has become a noted public speaker on domestic violence. She and her sisters see the documentary, which is part of Lifetime’s Stop Violence Against Women initiative, as an extension of her yearslong advocacy.

“There’s a whole new generation to educate when it comes to the issues of domestic violence and things that happened to Nicole,” Denise tells THR of the purpose of the docuseries. “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.”

The Life and Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson premieres June 1 and 2 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime. The project is produced by Bunim/Murray Productions for Lifetime. Additional executive producers include Melissa Moore (The Prison Confessions of Gypsy Rose Blanchard), Rit Saraswat (Surviving R. Kelly: Part II) and Brie Miranda Bryant (Where is Wendy Williams?, Janet Jackson, Surviving R. Kelly).

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