You may have seen Lily James, the English actress who plays Pamela Anderson in the upcoming Hulu series Pam & Tommy, before – though she likely looked much different than the blond bombshell Baywatch star she portrays in the show.
The multipart limited series depicts Anderson and Lee’s hot and heavy romance and their infamous sex-tape scandal. Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee is played by Sebastian Stan, who first gained recognition for his work as Bucky Barnes and the Winter Soldier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
James’ previous work stands in stark contrast to her role as Anderson. One of her first television credits was on Downton Abbey, where her prim and proper character, Lady Rose Aldridge, was featured prominently in the fourth and fifth seasons. In 2015, she starred as the title character in the live-action remake of Cinderella; a year later she earned another leading role as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Further credits include Baby Driver, Darkest Hour, Yesterday and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
James, a natural brunette, has been consistently recognizable in her past roles, but for Anderson she went over the top. She spent four hours each day prepping her hair and makeup for the transformation. “I’ve never done anything where I look very different from myself before,” she told Net-a-Porter. “And I’d really like to continue in this vein because I felt there was something very freeing and liberating in it. There was a bravery that came from that. … I’d really enjoyed the physicality and the sensuality, even down to the long fingernails. There was just so much character to hold on to – it was really thrilling.”
Watch the ‘Pam & Tommy Trailer’
James studied hard for her role, reading up on Anderson and watching interviews. She even reached out to Anderson herself, but the former Mrs. Tommy Lee didn’t reply. “I was really hopeful that she would be involved. I wish it had been different,” James said. “My sole intention was to take care of the story and to play Pamela authentically.”
In stepping into the role, James found she could relate to parts of Anderson’s life. “I love that about acting; you fit into a character, and you realize you’re not as different as you might have thought,” she said. “You lean into things in yourself and discard parts of you that aren’t useful. We were exploring a particular moment in Pamela and Tommy’s life in the ’90s, this absolute lust for love.”
The first episode of Pam & Tommy will air on Hulu on Feb. 2.
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