One of the most talked about shows of 2022 is finally landing on streaming: Pam & Tommy tells the outrageous true story of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s sex tape leaking onto the internet in the mid 1990s.
The series is releasing on Disney+ under the Star banner, and there’s 8 episodes of the whole crazy saga, which also delves into the Anderson and Lee marriage (after only knowing each other for four days) and the surrounding fallout from the sex tape.
While the project was announced back in 2018 and was already garnering interest due to it’s subject and focus on the hectic marriage between the Baywatch icon and Mötley Crüe drummer, its main pull is stars Lily James and Sebastian Stan anchoring the show. Stan, who is a rising star in Hollywood, brings some MCU star-power to the series, helping to bring in some of the younger viewers who don’t remember the whole scandal when it unfolded. The Avengers actor grew out his hair to become the 90s rocker, and plays the role with a cartoonish edge.
But it’s Lily James’ Pam that’s gotten all the attention in the build up and critical reviews. James has been completely transformed into the role, becoming almost unrecognisable to portray Anderson. It took a daily four hour process of hair, makeup and prosthetics to achieve the right look, with plenty of focus on Anderson’s famous hairstyles. She also underwent a vigorous training regime to get the Baywatch look, as well as a weekly spray tan, with daily top ups.
With these physical aspects down, James set to work getting the voice and mindset of Pamela Anderson just right. Watching and copying Anderson in both Baywatch and plenty of interviews from the time, and working with a dialect coach, the Anderson accent and speaking style eventually materialised. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she said “I’ve never worked so hard. I read the books (Anderson) has written, I read her poetry, I can parrot along to all her interviews. And then, of course, there was the physical transformation.”
There’s no doubt that all this work succeeded, and James’ Pam is the highlight of the series, with a performance that gives more layers and dimensions to someone who is mostly thought of as just a TV sex symbol. The other big name in the series is Seth Rogen, who plays the disgruntled pay contractor Rand Gautier who steals the sex tape and leaks it, with the help of porn producer Uncle Milte, played by Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman.
Lily James’ Pam is the highlight of the series...
Both of these characters are fleshed out over the course of the series, with their motivations (Rogen’s character Gautier is bitter that he wasn’t paid by Tommy) and warped morals given focus. Ultimately though, it’s the crazy story of Pam and Tommy’s romance that’s given the main spotlight, with the scenes focused on them and James and Stan’s magnetic portrayals giving the series it’s best bits. Pamela Anderson in particular received the most flack during the original scandal, and Lily James makes sure you feel sympathy for her.
Pam & Tommy is a great watch over its eight episodes, morphing from a more crazy tongue in cheek first three parts (including a scene in which Tommy speaks to his CGI penis), to a more emotional and grounded end by the last few episodes. If anything, the show is worth watching for the incredible transformation of Lily James, and for delving into the worlds of the internet and celebrity culture mixing for the first time.