Warning: Mild spoilers for 'Pam & Tommy' episodes one through three, below.
Last summer, images of Lily James and Sebastian Stan — in full makeup, hair and costume as Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee — pretty much broke the Internet. But despite the uncanny, spot-on representations of the real-life, titular protagonists, Hulu's "Pam & Tommy" re-examines the lead-up and fall-out of the couple's infamous 1995 sex video in a completely different light than we remember.
This reexamination through dark comedy compels us to reconsider the double-standards and misogyny with which the media and the public put upon Anderson. After all, the "sex tape" that would make its rounds on the nascent World Wide Web was a married couple's documentation of their own private moments, stolen and disseminated without consent. (Anderson didn't approve the series or respond to James's outreach.)
"We tried to really go into the psychology of these characters, of where they were at at that time," says "Pam & Tommy" costume designer Kameron Lennox, pointing out that Anderson was at the "height of her fame" during this period, on the cusp of the release of her first headlining film, "Barb Wire."
Ahead, the creative team behind the hair, makeup and costumes of "Pam & Tommy" — Lennox, two-time Emmy winner and hair department head Barry Lee Moe, triple Emmy-winning makeup department head David Williams and special makeup effects designer (and owner of Autonomous F/X) Jason Collins — break down the definitive looks of Anderson and Lee, as recreated on James and Stan.
Pam's Bombshell Hair and Makeup
The series opens with a dramatization of Anderson's 1996 "The Tonight Show" interview, which did include gross, double-entendre jokes from Jay Leno, the host at the time. "What's it like to have that kind of exposure?" asks a smug, leering Leno (Adam Ray), as a pregnant Pam steels herself to be amenable, as expected, in a near-exact recreation of the actual scene. She's armored up in her famous bombshell look: blown-out, voluminous waves in a loose, yet deliberate updo. She's nervously fidgeting, with her iridescent pearl acrylic nails flittering about and her wispy bangs and tendrils bouncing about her face.
"Her hair's always very indicative of the moment she was in, whether it was celebratory, emotional or painful," says Moe, referencing his extensive photo research. "She's even said in interviews before that she used her hair as a shield in a lot of her life."
In a later episode, Moe created a more "severe" yet still "effortless, piece-y" iteration of the look for Pam's harrowing deposition. For her more vulnerable, at-home moments with Tommy, she'd wear a "fresh out of the shower" light wave or easy top-knot look: "Those moments, I chose to really take her as natural as possible. I wanted to see a contrast between Pam in the public eye versus Pam at home."
A total of three lace-front hero wigs (built by Wigmaker Associates) in Anderson's trademark platinum blend of four blonde hues required working in close tandem with Collins and Williams. The special effects team took a live cast and scan of James's head to devise a prosthetic forehead appliance — with lace brows, which also raised her hairline three-inches. "It instantly changed her face," says Moe.
A full-set of dentures, which created a slight pout, helped give James that Hollywood Anderson smile. Williams's team added contours and highlights for an overall "seamless" blend with the prosthetics, which matched Anderson's profile.
To recreate the star's signature fresh-faced yet sultry-eyed look, originated by friend and makeup artist Alexis Vogel, Williams turned to actual '90s-popular products still around today, such as Bobbi Brown's Original 10 lipsticks in Rose and Beige and MAC's Spice and Chanel's Nude and Vamp liners. For the dark-lined lip of the era, Williams used only the famed Rouge Noir.
"Pam has always got a fresh face," says Williams. "The beautiful, quintessential all-American girl from Canada [look]." (The flame-haired Vogel also makes a cameo in the series as, yes, a makeup artist.)
For the Leno spot, Williams opted for a blend of Senna Cosmetics Lip Luster and Cream Lipstick, both in Glint, for shimmer to create a '90s feel, along with additional contemporary prestige lip colors: Hermès Satin Lipsticks in beige and rose shades, Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk and Tom Ford in Forbidden Pink. "They also helped create a feeling of luxury in the process," he says, "where we can bring those elements of larger-than-life and star-quality that those people had."
Pam's Favorite '90s Designer Looks
Lennox sought out actual high-end vintage from the era for re-imaginings and re-creations of pivotal moments. For the Leno interview, Pam wears a black square-neckline and spaghetti-strap dress by Versace, one of Anderson's go-to designers at that time. "It's Spring 1993. Veronica Webb wore it in yellow," she says. Lennox altered it to fit James's maternity appliance and chest plate, precisely sculpted for that stage in the pregnancy.
Another one of Anderson's real-life fashion favorites at the time was Vivienne Westwood. (The designer tapped the icon — and her friend — to star in the Juergen Teller-shot Spring 2017 campaign.) When Pam, having just sworn off bad boys, first meets Tommy at Sanctuary Club on New Year's Eve, she's in a Westwood ruched gold mini dress (above). Then, when she heads to Cancun for a "Baywatch" affiliate meet-and-greet with sweaty, ogling fan-men, Pam gamely small talks and poses for photos in another Westwood mini (below).
"It's just really sweet — white with little pink flowers on it — but it's super sexy," says Lennox. "The whole idea behind that is: She's just dressing up. She's just playing a part, and she was really good at doing that."
Lennox also sourced vintage Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Dior, Moschino bags and Yves Saint Laurent platform stilettos for Pam's wardrobe. For a meeting with her publicist to craft her narrative for the premiere of "Barb Wire," she wears pastel blue Alaïa. (The color comes back again when the tape hits the Internet, and Pam wears a blue terry hoodie and low-rise track pants by Hard Tail for an incognito trip to the library to dial onto the World Wide Web.)
Anderson also famously wore liquid metal-like body-con pieces by Syren Latex. The L.A. company, founded in 1992, worked with Lennox to recreate the gunmetal backless halter gown she donned in 1995 — but this time, the dress was custom-fit in a maternity style for James, for the fictionalized premiere of "Barb Wire." (Syren also made the wine-hued mini Pam wears in Cancun when Tommy proposes, above.)
"I tried to pay attention to that to honor Pam and put her in the stuff that she actually wore," says Lennox.
Tommy's Grand Entrance
In real life, the Mötley Crüe bad boy is known to drum in tiny thongs — sometimes studded, mostly leather — and possibly while spinning around in his 360-degree cage. In the case of "Pam & Tommy," Lee's recognizable briefs help set the stage for disgruntled (and uncompensated) handyman Rand (a spectacularly mullet-ed Seth Rogen) to hatch a plan to steal the safe containing the tape.
As Rand goes about his physically-laborious work on the newlywed's love den, a sweaty, post-sex Tommy wanders downstairs to flippantly assess the progress, clad only in an animal-print thong (above). He manhandles the fixtures and manspreads all over Rand's efforts — and it just feels so uncomfortably rude.
"It's just showing how much disrespect he had to these these guys working on his house," says Lennox. "We all know that Tommy Lee did wear those."
Despite the minimal material, Lee's briefs required an immense collaborative team effort. "We were trying to figure out the best cut," says Lennox, explaining the specificity of '90s-style g-strings.
After winning "a bidding war on eBay," she snagged a possibly Chippendales or Playboy pair to use as a blueprint. She then custom-built upwards of 20 pairs, in various animal prints and colors (and, yes, leather) for the run of the series. Lennox worked in tandem with Collins and Williams for a precise fit around Stan's prominent prosthetic phallus, to walk that fine line of storytelling and foreshadowing toward the events to unfold. "So that whatever we did didn't make it seem too... nasty. Or, too gross," she says.
Throughout the series, the prosthetic does play a significant role, even enjoying a short speaking spot (voiced by Jason Mantzoukas) during an ecstasy-induced sequence in Cancun.
"There's some infamy regarding that particular appendage on the Internet," says Collins. "You want to make sure that it's always present, and it's always there."
Creating the prosthetic involved a live-scan of Stan's physique to fit the appliance, and a new approach by Collins and his team: "We made what I like to call 'a sock,' so we can put all of his 'information' in the prosthetic itself. In the trailer, he fastens himself into everything; we come in, then glue everything. It doesn't feel like something sitting on top of something else — something is just exaggerated. That's helpful for him, to be less uncomfortable and it helps 'fill out the part,' so to speak."
Tommy's Tats and Piercings
Lee's very recognizable tattoos also required a combination of math, engineering and historical research.
First, Collins developed a timeline of Lee's real tattoo journey. For instance: When the couple married on a beach in Cancun, the groom's "mayhem" was in early stages, with only the last "M" inked on his torso — so, the special makeup effects designer took creative storytelling license (and tweaked some art for legality's sake) to determine the ideal composite for the series. "We want the essence of his tattoos," he says.
A body scan pinpointed the measurements to approximate the placement of Lee's artwork on Stan's body. Ultimately, 30 to 35 tattoos were applied onto Stan daily.
Spending so much time shirtless (or in sheer, clingy tops) meant Stan needed to don naturalistic silicone nipple prosthetics, which were pierced like the real thing. Williams even bought rings in the same gauge as Lee wore in the '90s. The team applied a new set each morning for the duration of the shoot, exhausting over 70 pairs in total.
Pam's 'Baywatch' Suit, in a New Light
The words "Pamela Anderson" are synonymous with her "Baywatch" one-piece bathing suit and her lifeguard character C.J. Parker slow-running on the beach. Precisely matching the swimwear seen in "Pam & Tommy" to the one from our memories, again, required meticulous teamwork.
Lennox found the original manufacturers for the exact shade of red, while the badge is slightly altered (and placed on the opposite side) for legal reasons. The exact width and placements of the straps, plus the configuration of the impractical cuts on the suit, required group efforts from James, Collins and Williams: The one-piece needed to fit precisely over James' sculpted silicone chest plate to recreate the side-shot of Anderson's famous run into the ocean with authentically natural movement.
"If you don't nail that exact sort of feeling, then the show falters and you go into the caricature route," says Collins.
In this case, the near-identical "Baywatch" maillot moment helps subvert and shatter the seemingly breezy and glamorous, but totally manufactured, through-the-male-gaze imagery. It drives home just how dismissed Anderson was — and not just when she needs to adjust her inevitable wedgie after the asshole directors who nix her well-rehearsed monologue yell "cut!," or when a humiliated and violated Pam, in full costume, discovers a gaggle of sweaty camera bros watching the tape on her way to set.
"That that part of the story, we were showing how sexualized she was," says Lennox. "She was hired, basically, to play this blonde person in a bathing suit and not to have a voice."
Tommy's Post-Hair Metal, Grunge Era Look
As Nirvana and Third Eye Blind muscled into the music scene, Lee pared back his glam-rock makeup and hair metal bouffant of the late '80s into an alt-rock/skater situation.
Moe initially floated the idea of a wig for Stan — "but he really wanted to live and breathe Tommy Lee," he says. "He wanted to come to work and go to bed at night as Tommy Lee. Having his hair transformed on his own head was the most effective way of doing that."
So, Harper Salon stylist Nikki Pittam gave Stan, who grew his hair out, a Brazilian Smoothing Treatment every six weeks, while assistant hair department head Erica Adams trimmed his floppy, middle-parted locks and perfected the color with Redken Shades EQ. "That piece-y-ness and those sexy flyaways that flew in his face all the time really took us to that mid-'90s rocker vibe," says Moe, who then created a suitably greasy, unshampoo-ed effect with a mix of Carol's Daughter Mimosa Honey Pomade and Reuzel Grease Medium Hold Pomade.
Williams kept Stan in a "slightly unshaven" look. His soul patch doesn't just evoke the sleep 'til noon rock star lifestyle, but also helps trick the eye by elongating Stan's face into Lee's narrower shape and jawline. Here and there, Williams also smudged a Tom Ford eyeliner on him: "We were always doing things to just make him a little rougher. Make him the dirty boy."
While Anderson was at the top of her game, Lee was going through a quieter, exploratory time with his music. His personal style reflected this unmoored period.
"He was still trying to hold on to something, but he's also trying to embrace this new music that's coming in," says Lennox, who went on a "deep dive" of the drummer's fashion evolution. Reflecting his real-life counterpart, Lee wears Converse Chucks, tank tops and lots of low-slung board shorts in "Pam & Tommy." He even attempts a faux-fur leopard print bucket hat at one point.
"We tried to add in that he's trying to find what the next new thing is," says Lennox. "Because the grunge scene is coming in, and he's just not getting it."
'Pam & Tommy' premieres on Wed., Feb. 2 on Hulu.
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