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Pam And Tommy's Lily James Reveals Major Career Takeaway From Playing Pamela Anderson

Pamela Anderson in Baywatch on Pam & Tommy
(Image credit: Hulu)

Every acting job presents its own unique set of challenges, to be sure, but portraying a real-life person — not to mention someone who’s well-known for their on-screen endeavors — is the challenge Lily James faced in her role as Pamela Anderson in the Hulu series Pam & Tommy. Not only did James spend hours in the makeup chair every day to replicate the actress’ iconic look, but she also had to capture Anderson’s voice and demeanor. It was a learning experience for James, who spoke about her big takeaway from the role.

Pam & Tommy told the story of Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee, whose whirlwind romance took a dark turn when an intimate tape they’d made was stolen and distributed in the early days of the Internet. While neither Anderson nor Lee was a part of the project (the Baywatch star recently announced her own project coming to Netflix), the Pam & Tommy cast hoped to show how the famous couple were victims of a terrible crime. When Laverne Cox asked Lily James on E! at the Oscars red carpet if she wanted to portray more real-life icons, James responded:

No, no icons. But it was an incredible experience. It was wild, such a huge challenge and Pamela's just incredible. But I'm done. That was enough.

It’s not hard to imagine the intricacies that went into Lily James’ preparation for the role. Portraying a living legend is challenging, and then to try to capture the emotions of what was likely one of the most difficult times in her life would be a lot of work and a lot of pressure.

Lily James mentioned the pressure of the role and the responsibility she felt when she spoke to CinemaBlend in February, saying that creating Pam Anderson’s iconic roles on Barb Wire and Baywatch was “surreal.” As much fun as she had, she said there was a certain amount of pressure that came with recreating such well-known characters:

Recreating Barb Wire was amazing. We did that section with Lake Bell, who was one of the directors. She's so cool. It's got so much energy and it was just really, really wild. Very, very surreal. And Baywatch was, I mean, it was amazing. A huge amount of, obviously, pressure and responsibility, but it was just very surreal and really quite thrilling.

Lily James and co-star Sebastian Stan also dealt with some backlash regarding the series. Some of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s friends from that time spoke out against the series, saying it just revictimized the former couple all over again. Courtney Love refused to allow her likeness to be used in the series, and took a direct shot at James for agreeing to portray her:

My heart goes out to Pammy (heart emojis). further causing her complex trauma. And shame on lily James whoever the fuck she is. #vile.

Former Mötley Crüe frontman John Corabi also had a lot to say about the series as a whole, calling it “so full of bullshit,” and said the series showed a complete lack of compassion for Pam Anderson, Tommy Lee, their spouses and sons. 

Whether it was the hours in the makeup chair, the dozens of prosthetic boobs, the pressure to live up to the real-life woman or some combination of those, it seems like the Pam & Tommy star might be happy to focus on portraying fictional characters for the moment. The series is available with a Hulu subscription, and be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what shows are coming soon. 

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.