In 1995, a sex tape of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee was stolen from their home. It was leaked online and became one of the first viral videos on the Internet, and the scandal is now at the center of Hulu's new series Pam & Tommy. Premiering Feb. 2, the show stars Lily James as the Baywatch actor and Sebastian Stan as the Mötley Crüe drummer. While the series deserves a nod for James' striking performance and the hair and makeup team's transformative efforts, Anderson's absence from the project—she decided not to be involved— leaves a sour taste in the mouth during the viewing experience.
It's something that's top of mind for James, who had reached out to Anderson before filming began. "I was really hopeful that she would be involved. I wish it had been different," James said to Net-A-Porter. Still, the actor thinks that diving into this particular event in history offers important messages for today. "There just seems to be this age-old thing of enjoying to tear women down or reduce them," James told TV Guide ahead of the series premiere. "I think it's one of the reasons why I thought this show was really timely."
Different social institutions failed Anderson at the time the sex tape was released. "Particularly in this moment, it wasn't just the media, it was the justice system," James said. "There was so much going on that wasn't supporting or protecting women and in this story I think we have that." Asked about whether she thinks much has progressed when it comes to how women in entertainment are perceived and treated since the 90s, James said, "It hasn't changed enough."
Taylor Schilling, who plays adult entertainer Erica Gauthier in the series, feels similarly. "I still think that oftentimes the last word in the narrative ends up not in the woman's control," Schilling said. In Pam & Tommy, Erica has separated from her husband Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogan) — the contractor who stole the sex tape and distributed its contents online. Erica is a porn star, and Schilling said that the character being in the story highlights a contrast in agency. "[Erica's] a sex worker that's made the choice to be doing what she's doing and it's a really important counterpoint to Pam's experience," Schilling said. "Pam hasn't made the decision to share her body or to share herself in the way that the tape shared her."
Schilling added that one of her favorite scenes is when Erica confronts Rand about his act. "She's able to say, this is not porn, what you just put out into the world. This is a crime," Schilling said. "This is rape of her space." In this way, the actor views Erica as one of Anderson's strongest advocates.
Unfortunately in the series, as with real life, Anderson did not have many advocates at the time of the scandal. "I hope that this show is really an ode to Pam Anderson's extraordinary courage in the face of such massive exploitation on every level," Schilling said.
Pam & Tommy premieres Feb. 2.
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