For Pam & Tommy‘s Lily James and Sebastian Stan, capturing the essences of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, in the public eye and privately, while also re-creating their uber-famous images were the central challenges of the Hulu miniseries. Conversely, Seth Rogen found himself working to dial down the many mannerisms that have made him one of contemporary Hollywood’s most likable stars.
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Appearing together during Deadline’s Contenders Television panel, the trio revealed the unique approaches they took to convincingly play two enduring ’90s icons in ways both recognizable and revealing, as well as the figure — largely unknown to the general public — who pushed the celebrity couple’s infamous sex tape into the pop culture stratosphere.
Stan explained that to play Lee, he incessantly consumed video and audio of the Mötley Crüe drummer from the era. “It was like an everyday routine,” he said. “I had compiled a two-hour playlist of every single interview I could find, and I was running and trying to get 20,000 steps a day [with it] just on repeat.”
Stan noted that James employed a similar routine to channel the Baywatch actress, to an even greater extreme.
“Even between shots as they were setting up, [Lily was] listening to her constantly,” he said. “It was just a nonstop thing.”
Externally, they were aided by hair and makeup teams that meticulously transformed the actors’ physiques into uncanny doppelgangers for Anderson and Lee. “All the 3 a.m. wake-ups, because he had all his tattoos and I had prosthetics,” recalled James. “It was a long process every day to sort of make that change into someone else.”
“I think we were both kind of just hanging on by thread, texting each other, going like, ‘On a scale of one to 10, how horrible are you feeling about what we’re about to do?’” admitted Stan, who said the nail-biting continued right until their first camera test in character. “We finally got to put tattoos on, try the clothes, try everything, and then I think we both had that moment where we were like, ‘I think we’re gonna be OK, maybe.’ They both required such a massive transformation, I think, for both of us.”
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Outside of the imagery familiar to the public, James explained that executive producer Craig Gillespie, who directed the first three episodes of the miniseries, pointed the actors toward finding an authentic sense of behind-the-scenes intimacy between the couple.
“Right from the word go, he really wanted this [to be] an opportunity to see them behind the camera, not when they’re displayed in an interview and being a sort of ‘on’ version – like, what were they like, intimately, privately together,” James said. “And obviously that took a huge leap of imagination, too. We can’t possibly really know, but we based on what we learned and read and watched that was the sort of where we landed.”
In playing Rand Gautheir, Rogen knew he didn’t have to summon a long-established public figure; instead, he had to downplay his own innate likability.
“I know I’m inherently likable as an actor, and I didn’t want the character to be too likable,” Rogen said. “Something that we actually tried to modulate, was how many of the things that I generally do as a performer that make me likable do I do? I don’t laugh in the movie at all. I don’t smile, really, ever. I don’t do any of the affable behaviors that I think make me someone that people feel like they know and can relate to.
“It is the instinct of a lot of actors, I’ve found, to like make their characters highly redeemable in some way, or they have to like something about the character,” he added. “I’m not that kind of actor – like, I liked nothing about Rand. I found him not a great person, by any means, and I found that he was not someone that I related to in any way.”
And like James and Stan, Rogen never met his onscreen alter ego in real life – as far as he knows. “Rand grows weed in Northern California, so I might have met him organically just through my day-to-day life without knowing it,” he laughed.
Check out the panel video above.
Deadline Contenders Television is sponsored by Apple TV+, Eyepetizer, Final Draft, Los Siete Misterios and Michter’s. Partners include Desalto, Film AlUla, Four Seasons Resort Maui, Jason Mizrahi Design, ModMD, The American Pavilion, and Tidelli.
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