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Behind the 4-Hour Process of Turning Lily James into Pamela Anderson for ‘Pam & Tommy

03/02/2022

Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s whirlwind romance was a convergence of two defining aesthetics of the 1990s: the picture-perfect, blonde bombshell and the grunge, rock ’n’ roll bad boy. While nostalgia for the era can be seen throughout today’s trends, there isn’t anything quite like the original. But the team behind Hulu and Disney+’s Pam & Tommy series got pretty close. Starring Lily James as the Baywatch actress and Sebastian Stan as the Mötley Crüe drummer, the eight-episode show, out today, centers around the stars’ hasty marriage, viral sex tape, and subsequent scandal.

Tasked with transforming British beauty James into Anderson and Marvel star Stan into Lee, makeup department head David Williams, hair department head Barry Lee Moe, and special effects head Jason Collins closely collaborated to create convincing doppelgängers for the real-life icons. With plenty of reference material from the tabloid-hungry era, the three looked at magazine articles and press images of Anderson and Lee to begin developing their own vision of who Pam and Tommy are in the context of the show. “Once we got all those images, we all really immersed ourselves in that world,” Moe tells L’OFFICIEL. “How were we going to take Lily [James] and turn her into Pamela Anderson? And as many similarities as there may be, there’s also a huge number of differences. It was our task to then determine what was the best way for us to portray Pamela accurately, and tastefully, without feeling like it was a costume or a caricature of Pam Anderson.”

In a process that took James four hours in the makeup chair, with Stan close behind at three, the team spared no detail in the actors’ metamorphoses. “Lily was remarkable in her usage of that time, she was the greatest student and steward of Pam Anderson, that one can imagine,” Williams shares. “That time that she was in the makeup chair was spent working on her dialect and her lines and watching interviews, and constantly perfecting the character of Pam, and always taking great care to make sure that she did justice to this woman.”

Here, Williams, Moe, and Collins reveal the makeup, hair, and prosthetics that went into transforming the Pam & Tommy leads.

Hulu

L’OFFICIELLily really undergoes a whole transformation where she embodies the bombshell image of Pam Anderson. How did you alter Lily’s facial features to make her resemble Pam so closely?

Jason Collins: When we first got the project, David and I sat down and did some digital illustration to figure out what we could or couldn’t do. What we quickly realized was A) We had to cover her eyebrows, because Lily has these beautiful, luscious, thick eyebrows. Trying to cover them with a thin appliance, right in the middle of her forehead, was going to present its own set of problems whenever she showed emotions; it would wrinkle and things like that. What we also realized when comparing Lily and Pam was that the main difference was the forehead area and hairline. By making a prosthetic that covered her eyebrows all the way up past her hairline, we were able to rebuild the whole forehead to give her the same silhouette that Pam had. Once we did that, we realized that we were getting a lot of bang for our buck that way. It allowed us to cover her eyebrows perfectly with the thickness there, so that when we put these beautiful lace eyebrows on that were made by one of the best eyebrow-makers, Sasha Camacho VanDyke, we knew that we would be able to have continuity with that every day. And the last thing that we did facial-wise was the teeth. We made upper and lower teeth veneers that she could pop in. The trick with teeth is you gotta keep them real thin. Because if you don’t keep them thin, then it really starts to mess with the dialect, but we got a little extra bang for our buck because they pushed the lip out just a little bit to get a more of a pout, without actually having to put appliances on.


L’O: And what about Sebastian’s transformation into Tommy?

David Williams: We had over 35 different tattoos on him head to toe. It was a daily task to make sure that all of those were beautifully replicated by Autonomous FX, Jason’s company. For legal purposes, we never do exact duplications of tattoos. So we have versions of those tattoos that are all within the realm of who they are and what character this creates. We also had nipple rings for Tommy that we wanted to so that the actors weren’t self-conscious, nor did they pull or tug on Sebastian personally. So we had prosthetic nipple covers made, and the nipple rings actually went through the prosthetic nipple covers.

JC: Just to give some notes on Tommy’s nipples—we re-sculpted those things like three or four times. You’d think that that would be the easy part of the job. But we realized that just a little bit of too much thickness made him look like he had rockets coming out from underneath his shirt whenever he had a thin shirt on. It was like just trying to get that depth, flatter or bigger, it was just back and forth until we finally got it. I would say, Pam’s, breast appliances were probably easier than that.


L’O: There are also some full-frontal moments with Tommy that leave little to the imagination. How do you go about creating a prosthetic for those scenes?

JC: Of course, there’s a lot of reference material out there. It’s tricky when you’re doing an appendage appliance like that. There’s a lot of factors that go into it, because you want to match certain things and other things, you want to make sure that they’re not going to look out of place on somebody that may be like four inches smaller than the actual person. But essentially for those scenes, we’re matching something that’s out there in the zeitgeist for people to see. At the same time, it gave Sebastian some modesty during some of those scenes, which was a nice thing, because it can be a little daunting with 30 crew members on set, even for the greatest actors in the world.

Hulu

L’O: Beyond the hairline itself, what went into recreating Pamela’s signature blonde locks?

BLM: I wanted to use wigs and we decided to go in that direction. I had to have three wigs made for her hero looks and then a fourth week made for her Playboy flashback later in the season. I worked closely with Rob Pickens, my wig maker in LA, and he and I went through all of these different swatches of blondes to find the perfect blonde. Pam was always known for coloring her hair with drugstore hair color, so we had to find the balance between it looking like that really shiny processed blonde and something that would be healthy enough to sustain the length of the shoot. We got there with a blend of three, four different blondes in the end.

Everything about Pam’s hair at that time was iconic. When you look back at the silhouettes that she had, those have been replicated by so many women worldwide since then—famous and not. She really was the go-to for that kind of blonde bombshell hair of the ‘90s. Recreating those looks was really fun, but also tricky. Thankfully with research, I had a look back at how she used to set her hair with those large Velcro rollers that have made a comeback today, and also vintage hot rollers to really get that curl and lift. And using those same techniques that she did, I think really kept us in the same space in terms of recreating those looks. 

Hulu

L’O: We also get to see some amazing ’90s makeup looks on Lily as Pam. What were some of the key elements of those?

David Williams: I often say a little pain will make you what you ain’t. Our prosthetics were a great foundation to begin the next part of the process, and this particular makeup encompasses everything that you can possibly do in makeup. We have prosthetic makeup which controls shape and form. We would then use paint makeup for the next phase of it, which is to do a corrective makeup. And again, Lily is beautiful and Pam is beautiful, so we’re not correcting anything in the actors. What we’re doing is we’re further enhancing the shape and the form that began with the prosthetic process, using highlight and contour to do so. Then from the highlight and the contour, we get into the character and period of the makeup. Most of this was set in the ‘90s. And then we move into the character part of it, where Pam’s character was at any given moment, whether she was distressed or she was going out, she was doing press, she was on The Tonight Show, she was on the set of Baywatch. And finally, on top of that entire process is the beauty makeup that we create—the well-known public face of Pam, and all of those elements needed to work seamlessly to create this very believable, authentic Pam, that we’ve made.

Our looks and our color basis for her started with the simple fresh face, quintessential all-American girl next door look. And she certainly set the trend of the high-arched, thinner eyebrows look that was very much in during that period of the ‘90s. Her look, based on her Playboy look, was set by Alexis Vogel, who was her makeup artist and a very good friend of hers for many years. We were very fortunate that our producers allowed an homage to Alexis throughout the show. You will see a redheaded makeup or hairstylist next to Pam, and that is our homage to Alexis, who passed away a few years ago. It was important for us to recognize all the artists and craftsmen who are part of the process. On Lily, we had Mo Meinhardt and Abby Lyle [Clawson] who were two makeup artists that worked very closely with her the entire time. And on Tommy, we had Bill Meyer and Dave Snyder who were his main go-to people on that team. It takes a village to make this happen.

L’O: Were any of you intimidated by the challenge of portraying real-life figures?

JC: The whole process is intimidating. But that’s also the challenge, right? These are the projects I think that all of us hunger to have. Because you can hide behind other things. Like if you’re creating creatures, or monsters, or other kind of characters, but you can easily go into caricatures when you’re trying to do a biopic like this. And none of us wanted to do that. All of us wanted to get it right.

BLM: I can honestly say that there wasn’t a day that I didn’t wake up nervous to come to work. I like to stay nervous in my work, because I think that means you’re paying attention, you’re aware of what’s going on and what we need to accomplish. It was exciting to make sure that we were telling this story in an honest and empathetic way without it becoming a piece where we were doing cliché, over-the-top versions of these people.

DW: The most nerve-wracking day for me by far was going into the Baywatch day. Like many people in Los Angeles, I survive in the world with a couple astrologers, a psychic, a numerologist, and a dream therapist. [Laughs] Not only does it take a village to make Pam, it takes a village to make David. And I remember distinctly that morning calling one of my spiritual advisors and getting him out of bed and I said, this is what I’m getting ready to do, it’s really important to me, do you have a feeling on this? It was a great conversation because it was sort of a talk me off the ledge moment because I really was nervous. I wanted so much to make this image come to life, to make it true, to be believable, and to do Pam justice. And when those paparazzi shots hit, I was—even myself because we’re so close to it—I was blown away to see what we had done. 

 

From L’Officiel USA

 

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