1. Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance)
Courtney B. Vance is the man. At one point in the show, all the lawyers are in Judge Ito’s office arguing about whether O.J. can get a fair trial, and Cochran talks about race and says, “Now, if that is playing the race card,” and then pauses for several seconds to do this small shake of his head before finishing his line. “So be it.” The shake of the head is the thing here, friends. He has all of Cochran’s little movements down. The preacher modulations in his voice. His expressive use of his hands. The way he can get very quiet and make you lean in, and then boom out something unexpected to be memorable. Johnnie Cochran had the reputation of being a showman, all rhyming phrases and rhetoric, but one of the strengths of the show (thanks to Courtney B. Vance and the writers) is seeing that this guy isn’t smoke and mirrors, he’s an alpha dog, a cold-blooded legal assassin. And that goes for having to take out members of his own legal team, too.