In order to get into the headspace of Pamela Anderson, Lily James had to transform her mind — and face. However, when landing the role — the actress stars as the blonde bombshell on Hulu’s new series Pam & Tommy — James admitted, “I just had no idea if I could do it.”
Fortunately, it seems like she proved everyone wrong, and people didn’t even realize it was the Mamma Mia star playing Anderson in the first place, as she looked so different.
“I’ve never worked so hard,” James told NET-A-PORTER. “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. Slowly, our incredible team found a balance where I resembled Pamela but also felt like I could act through it.”
The grueling process of getting her hair and makeup done took four hours — something James had to get used to. “I’ve never done anything where I look very different from myself before. 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. A courage that came from … disappearing,” she admitted.
When she would return to herself, James said “it was like being stripped of all these superpowers! 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.”
The starlet even embodied Anderson longer than she was expecting. “It takes a while to let a character like that leave you. In the past, I maybe felt too modest to believe that I might inhabit a role so greatly that it would impact on me, but it really does. My therapist said that when her husband watches a rugby match, by the end he’s exhausted – your nervous system doesn’t really know the difference, whether it’s him winning a goal or watching it happen. And I think the same happens when you live through someone,” she shared.
The series, which premieres on February 2, focuses on Anderson and ex Tommy Lee‘s (played by Sebastian Stan) romance, including how their sex tape was eventually made public.
“It was exciting, thinking about what it meant to be a young woman at the height of her fame,” James said of going back in time. “When you look back at some of her interviews from the 1990s, the misogyny is so striking. I mean, it’s changed so much, but … there was a lot in it that I found I could relate to.”