SPOILER ALERT: This piece contains spoilers for “Destroyer of Worlds,” Episode 7 of “Pam & Tommy,” now streaming on Hulu.
While “Pam and Tommy” has given quite an intense peek into the life of Pamela Anderson, there isn’t a closer examination at her career ups and downs than Episode 7, the second one directed by Lake Bell.
First, there’s the promotion of her 1996 movie, “Barb Wire,” during which Anderson (portrayed by Lily James) was interrogated by the press about her sex tape with Tommy Lee, instead of her acting. The Hulu series allowed the recreation of the film — which meant they brought in some of the original stars, including Clint Howard.
“That was the stuff of dreams,” Bell says. “Everyone were such great sports, to be honest, because in the scene that we chose, the original actors were kind of like, ‘Yeah, I’ll come in!’ They just had a great sense of humor of showing up, and being tremendous in it. So it was it was certainly very fun to do that.”
“Additionally, there’s a multitude of press moments where you have Pam straddling the delicate fence of trying to placate and appease and play the game, because she has a career and she’s a human who has worked her whole life to make a livelihood and then all of a sudden, this thing that has become out of control is jamming its foot into her success,” Bell adds.
One of those moments came in the form of an interview she did with Jay Leno, during which he uncomfortably asks her about everything but the movie she’s promoting. Adam Ray, who portrays the former late-night host, didn’t give a work-for-word transcript of the actual interview, partially because it was so difficult to find the footage.
“We had departments that, like, mine for these things. One of the greatest miner of Pamela Anderson was Lily James, because every day, every second — on set and off set — she had her earbuds in, listening to interviews, mapping the cadence, the musicality and the resonance, the quirks, intricacies of that particular voice, and how Pam was under pressure. It was remarkable,” says Bell. “We watched what we could find of that interview. It’s brutal. The gentleman who plays Jay Leno, is uncanny. His mimicry was incredible.”
Bell also wanted to display the relationship between Leno and Anderson, since in real life, they had a friendship — and she felt a sense of betrayal when he began poking fun at her. Bell says, “They had more of a platonic, kind of familial rapport but and then there he was just playing his game and doing his job at the expense of her cooperation, which in that moment, I think is pretty apparent.”
The director, who has been in the industry for two decades, put her own exposure to the media into the episode as well.
“In the way that it was written in script, it went from inside Pam’s dressing room and the next scene is she was on stage and doing the interview. And for me, I said, ‘Look, I’ve got to be honest, just from my own personal experience, part of the intensity of doing these things is that walk.’ It’s the walk from your dressing room, to backstage, where people touch your body and touch you to see if the mic is OK. Your heart is racing. It’s a quiet moment. Then you’re hearing the audience. It’s visceral,” Bell says. “I campaigned to have that built in, to allow for that walk. Lily really enjoyed that as well. In that moment, everyone’s being nice and doing their job and there’s some people who are just treating you like a piece of utility. You’re all gussied up, and other people just in their sweats and jeans in the back in the backstage area.”
Bell wanted to shine a light on the dynamic between star and audience in that atmosphere, noting that “in theory, the person of note or the person in the public image is higher status, but in that moment, you feel like you’re on display in a way that makes you feel low status.”