Awards Daily talks to showrunner Robert Siegel and screenwriter D.V. DeVincentis of Hulu’s Pam & Tommy about why their miniseries is ultimately Pam’s show.
Hulu’s Pam & Tommy does something a little crazy straight out the gate of this limited series: It makes you hate its protagonists. By starting in the perspective of their jilted contractor Rand (Seth Rogen), the series digs itself into a hole within the first two episodes.
“We definitely wanted there to be this shifting perspective,” says showrunner Robert Siegel. “You’re seeing it from Rand’s point of view and you really hate Pam and Tommy, which is not the kind of hole you want. You don’t really want to start a show hating your two main characters, whose names are in the show. And then in Episode 2, we set about trying to dig ourselves out of that hole and by the end of Episode 2, you love Pam and Tommy and you’re kind of hating Rand.”
Of course, part of the first two episodes is setting up the crime, something writer D.V. DeVincentis has some experience in from his time writing for FX’s American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson.
“When it comes to the propulsive nature of a true crime story,” says DeVincentis, “I did learn a lot from Ryan Murphy about what things need to happen, and luckily everything was right there. You just had to structure it in a way that was compelling.”
DeVincentis was drawn to Pam and Tommy’s story based on the parallel between Pam and Marcia Clark (he won the Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series Emmy for “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”).
“This constant double standard of this woman. She wakes up and starts walking through the world and taking abuse that somebody of a different gender would not experience. And everyone around her has just taken it as the way the world works. That’s a huge part of the story.”
Or in Siegel’s words, that IS the story.
“Ultimately in the end, it’s Pam’s show. Pam is our hero, and Pam is the one we walk away feeling the most love, admiration, and sympathy for.”
From Pam to Jane Fonda to Kim K
But of course, while the limited series is based on a 2014 Rolling Stone article as well as Tommy Lee’s memoir where he talks to his penis, Pamela Anderson is someone who is less forthcoming with details about her life, despite writing a 2004 novel called Star about a small-town girl who becomes a cover girl. While Siegel did not read the book as research, DeVincentis did.
“It’s very impressionistic,” says DeVincentis of the novel. “I wouldn’t call it a thinly-veiled memoir. I think it’s way more different than her real-life story demonstrably. She’s brushing on things she goes through in her life, but it’s definitely meant to entertain.”
Someone else who’s dabbled in different areas of pop culture is Academy Award-winning actress Jane Fonda, and in Episode 3 of Pam & Tommy, Pam tells her publicist that she’s always seen Jane Fonda as a role model. While this admission is fictionalized, DeVincentis says he believes Pam could have been a Jane Fonda if things turned out differently.
“I was always impressed by the variations of Jane Fonda’s career and how she was very much in charge of each change and each new version of herself. And I saw that in Pam as well. I think that very well could have happened had it not been for this tape being stolen and distributed. She also had those ideas and goals. To me, it was just an easy thing. It made sense. That’s when we get to show the complexity in Pam that we saw in researching her and thinking about her so much.”
It’s also hard to think about the sex tape without thinking about how it might be received 25 years later, when having such a past has become a career starter. Did Pam in some small way pave the way for Kim Kardashian and more acceptance about female sexuality?
“I think it softened things up for people that followed,” says DeVincentis, “but it made Pam’s life hell. I could search long and hard for anything positive about this for her and I don’t find it. However, it does soften up the world and create an appetite for more of this. So somebody who doesn’t necessarily have a talent to speak of can find their way into the minds of millions of people by doing their own version of this without an acting career to jeopardize. I think when this happens to people who have real careers who work on and take seriously, I don’t think it’s a good thing for them. There is a corollary to the success of this sort of thing to their lack of talent.”
Pam & Tommy is streaming on Hulu.