This time last year, Jeremy Pope was getting ready to go to the Tonys. He was attending theater’s biggest night as a two-time nominee, one for his Broadway debut in “Choir Boy” and another for portraying Eddie Kendricks in “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations.”
But he also had a big meeting the day prior with Ryan Murphy, who was casting “Hollywood,” his Netflix series about a reimagined Hollywood in the 1940s, in which everyone was given a shot at stardom no matter their gender, race or sexual orientation. He wanted Pope to play an aspiring screenwriter named Archie Coleman.
“There was a lot happening, my family was coming into town. ‘What will my mom wear?’ It was a lot of things going down that week, and here I’m being asked to make a self-tape,” Pope recalled with a laugh during an appearance on this week’s episode of the Variety and iHeart podcast “The Big Ticket.”
He continued, “We talked and he told me about the revisionist history aspect, and what he wanted Archie to be. I remember I asked him, ‘Are there going to be people that look like me on the other side of the table? Are there going to be people in the writer’s room, are there going to be people that are directing that are in this family?’ I hadn’t worked with Ryan so I didn’t know how he liked to work.”
What Pope, who is 27, didn’t find out until after the Tonys was Murphy was ready to make him an offer even before they met. Soon after taking the part, Pope learned that Archie would be dating Rock Hudson (Jake Picking), one of a few real-life characters portrayed in the series.
“When we got the scripts and [Murphy] started directing us, I could just see there was a true love story to be had with the relationship that me and Jake had. What we were creating and what we were bringing to these characters, it is something that you feel like you want to champion and root for,” said Pope, who made his television acting debut with “Hollywood.”
One of the first days of shooting included a sex scene between Pope and Picking. “I remember our first days working together was our scene where we meet and we’re intimate, and that was my first, on-camera sex scene and his as well,” Pope said. “We just really had to be like, ‘I need you to hold my hand through this because this is very scary.’ It’s a closed set, but you’re looking at 15 people as you’re there in your little towel, just trying to be sexy.”
In the end, Pope hopes audiences were left with some things to think about. “What if Rock Hudson was able to be out and able to be the movie star that he ended up becoming to be, but also be in love with someone, be in love with a black man? Be like the couple that walked the Oscars, holding each other’s hand, supporting each other. What if?” said Pope. “That is the story and the narrative that we’re telling. That feels very inspiring and hopeful. Because I think we’re still having certain conversations about all of the thing’s entertainment now. And that’s just what it is. That’s just the ugly, honest, truth. So whether we’re talking forties or we’re talking 2020, there are similar nuanced things that are happening and they can feel very parallel.”
Pope, who will appear in the next season of another Murphy show, “Pose,” also opened up about attending his first Pride parade about three years ago in New York City.
“I loved seeing everyone just out and about and recognizing the community and the power and it’s all built on love. It’s like who doesn’t want that?” he said. “You just walk in the streets and hugs and high fives and rainbows and colorful things and great music.”
He hopes the LGBTQ community will find ways to celebrate following the cancellation of parades because of COVID-19.
“A bunch of us are all trying to get creative and find ways to still be in support just so we can feel the love because that’s one thing I walked away with when I did my first pride, was I felt so much love and support,” Pope said. “And it helped me stand on my own. So if anything, let’s try to find a way to give that and to share that during this next month.”
Listen to the full interview with Pope above. You can also find “The Big Ticket” at iHeartRadio or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.