Awards Radar had an opportunity recently to talk to the talented creatives behind the incredible transformations in Hulu’s Pam & Tommy. Barry Lee Moe (hair department head), David Williams (makeup department head), Jason Collins (special makeup effects designer) of Autonomous FX, and Kameron Lennox (costume designer) worked together to recreate Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee‘s iconic looks for the series, which takes place in the mid ‘90s. All four of them are nominated for Creative Arts Emmys this year for their remarkable work on the series.
Pam & Tommy follows the early days of romance between Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee and how their sex tape got stolen.
In the interview, Barry, David, Jason, and Kameron share the challenges of recreating the looks of real celebrity icons, the moment they knew they were on the right track, and more.
What was your priority when first approaching the project? Was there something that you wanted to figure out first?
My first priority was researching and pulling together looks that both Pamela and Tommy were photographed wearing during the three years we were covering in our story. Although their relationship lasted much longer, it was important for our story to show them at the very beginning of their time together. I think it took my ACD Petra Larsen and me about two weeks of intensive digging and piecing together the timeline before we could settle on which looks to choose.
Both Lily and Sebastian were on other projects during our prep, and we knew we would not fit them until right before our camera test. So we needed to start building and constructing the garments right away with the measurements we could gather for them. I also knew that recreating the Barb Wire costumes was also going to be time-consuming, so we immediately started sourcing leather and having those built by our pattern maker Lydia Jakubowski. We recreated 3 of the costumes from the original film.
For Tommy, our priority was figuring out how to recreate the jewelry and belt he wore during that era. We came to the conclusion they must have been customized for him, so we hired Rich at Spragwerks to start making molds and recreating each piece by hand. I also went down a rabbit hole on the internet to figure out what company made the original bathing suits for Baywatch so we could find the correct shade of red before we started construction on those.
My priority was to make sure that Lily did not look like a caricature of Pam Anderson. I was acutely aware of the scrutiny we would be under with this story and wanted to ensure that the audience wasn’t taken out of the story by something being ‘off.’ When I first learned that Lily was cast, I was slightly concerned because I didn’t see it at face value looking at photos side by side. However, I knew Lily was an incredible actress, so David Williams and I started looking for the similarities the two had. Both have a similar jawline, so we started building the likeness there. From there, we moved on to eyebrows and hairline, which gave us the Pam profile.
Getting Pam’s iconic look correct was my primary concern. I worked with Jason Collins and Jennifer Aspinall to review our options for her brows and breasts. The brows were the top priority. After exercising a few options, we settled on the forehead piece. Pam and Lily have noticeably different forehead spaces. It gave us the opportunity to cover Lily’s brow and gave Barry, Hair Dept. Head, the ability to set her hairline back a little. We knew wearing the breastplate when Pam was in revealing outfits would be necessary. We worked with Kammy, the Costume Designer, to facilitate options when Lily could not wear the breastplate to save her time in the morning. Lily’s daily process was extensive, with makeup covering her head to toe. It would take 3-4 hours a day for Makeup, Hair, and Wardrobe. On days we would not apply for the breastplate, Lily could save an hour in the makeup chair.
In addition to getting Lily to look like Pam, we needed to modulate all of the characters with the same attention to detail as was put into the Pam character. Creating a realistic biopic relies upon creating a world where all the characters exist in the same space. Therefore, great care was taken to every aspect of every cast member to keep a cohesive and believable visual.
BARRY LEE MOE
From day one, I prioritized creating an accurate and respectful portrayal of Pamela Anderson, avoiding over-the-top caricature at all costs. Pam left a mark on the beauty industry that still stands strong today, and getting her hair right was crucial to the success of this piece. I immediately started the process of determining how to achieve the multitude of looks necessary and, through extensive research and collaboration with Lily James, decided on custom wigs from Wigmaker Associates in Beverly Hills. I worked closely with my wigmaker, Rob Pickens, comparing and analyzing color swatches to source the perfect high-level, platinum-blonde hair.
What was the most challenging look to recreate? Maybe it was an outfit that was hard to get or a tattoo that you couldn’t get a good image of.
Oh, I definitely would say the Baywatch bathing suit was the hardest and the most challenging costume for us to recreate. We had so many variables to think about. First, we had to make sure it was the exact shape and cut as the real one that Pamela wore. It was obvious to me that the cut of the suit was customized to accentuate Pamela’s “assets.” But the “assets” we were dealing with were not as soft and easy to work with as real breasts are. We also had to construct and engineer the suit to make sure it would stay in place while Lily was on the beach. We were aware that the body makeup would lift if we used double stick tape and could also ruin the breastplate if we were not careful. Another variable was we were also shooting the scenes 360 degrees, so we had to finesse the construction of the suit to stay in place.
Tommy’s tattoos were quite tricky for us. We started by making a chronological order of when the real Tommy started getting his tatts. We then altered and changed it and submitted it to legal for approval. It’s tricky with tattoos as productions want to ensure they are legally cleared, so you have to make changes that won’t affect color or size. Another challenge was Tommy’s nipples. We knew we needed to have nipple rings; David and I thought the store-bought clip-on ones were cheesy. This drove us to silicone nipple appliances that we could actually apply and pierce.
“Baywatch” day was the most nervous I’ve ever been for a singular makeup in my career. We all felt the pressure of getting that one right. Kammy and I did several tests with the bathing suits in advance. Even with all of the preparation going into the morning, none of us took a breath until the director called wrap at the end of the day. I was so close to it (literally in Lily’s face all day); that it was hard for me to grasp the incredible job we had done fully. When the paparazzi photos came out the following morning, and it wasn’t easy to distinguish between the real Pam Anderson and Lily as Pam, I then knew we nailed it. After being the most nerve-wracking day, it also became the most rewarding to see how our crews’ teamwork pulled together and truly made magic happen.
BARRY LEE MOE
The most difficult look to get right was Pam’s deposition look. Like all of her hairstyles, it was such an iconic hairstyle. It’s an effortless updo with an angular distinction that gives it an edge, definitive Pamela Anderson style. I used photos of Pam’s court appearances during that time to set the tone for the silhouette. I wanted to get every detail correct, including the epic zig-zag part that soon became a worldwide trend.
There is a lot of pressure to get things right when depicting real people instead of fictional characters. Did you have a moment on set when Lily or Sebastian was in costume and ready to shoot, and you thought to yourselves, we did it; they look spot-on?
I would say it happened numerous times to me. But the one moment that sticks out for me was the Jay Leno scene. I was almost in tears when I was watching Lily on the monitor. She looked incredible, and I felt proud of us all. We worked so hard to make sure it was exact. It took a village to pull some of these looks together. I was even able to find a vintage Versace couture dress from that period to replicate the same neckline that Pamela had in the original interview.
I didn’t really feel that way till the paparazzi photos hit the internet. We were all still quite nervous and sort of in the dark if people outside the production circle would buy it. But, it circulated like wildfire as every major outlet carried the story and pictures. The overwhelming response was incredibly validating as people started commenting on their disbelief of how spot-on they looked. I knew we had something then!
We had an ah-ha moment early on. When we were doing one of our makeup tests, Lily bit Sebastian’s (Tommy Lee) nipple like in the couple’s famous picture. At that moment, everyone on set took out their cameras, and they were photographing Lily and Sebastian as if they were Pam and Tommy. I looked at Rob Siegal, the show’s creator, and said, “Look around; it’s like Pam and Tommy. I think we got it.”
I had a personal moment with Lily as well. As we were walking across the parking lot in her “BarbWire” look, we walked past one of the electricians talking on his cell phone at the back gate of his truck. He almost fell off the back of the truck when Pam Anderson walked by him. I looked at Lily and said, “I’m glad we didn’t kill anyone there, but that’s the reaction we want.”
BARRY LEE MOE
We were filming the Mexico club sequence from Episode 2 at an old bar somewhere in LA, and Lily had multiple changes throughout the day. Then, on a whim, we decided to put her hair up for the first time, a look we were saving for later in the series, and it all suddenly clicked. Lily looked in the mirror and came to life. I think it was the first time I saw Lily disappear and Pam step forward. She posted a photo of herself in the mirror that day, and the internet went wild.
The show covered red carpets and parties as well as everyday life; what was your favorite look on the show?
I love so many of the looks! But the one that sticks out the most for me is the scene in the club when Pam & Tommy first meet. From the first time I read that script, I had envisioned Pamela in a gold dress for that scene. I found a vintage Vivienne Westwood dress that was perfect for her. We had to alter it a bit to accommodate her form, but in the end, she looked incredible from her hair and makeup straight down to her shoes. And Tommy looked so cool, dressed in all black with the chrome of his belt and jewelry shining under the club’s lights.
Personally, my favorite look of the show was the Tonight Show appearance. I felt it was a perfect side-by-side match between hair, costumes, and makeup. I think everyone in the department was firing on all cylinders, and that was flawless. Lily’s daily makeup team of Melissa ‘Mo’ Meinhart and Abby Lyle Clawson really got the look perfectly with David Williams. A special treat was having Jennifer Aspinall, who created these looks, with us there as she and David used to work the Tonight Show. So, watching the nostalgia on their faces was a wonderful experience.
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno was a heartfelt moment for me while shooting Pam and Tommy. Jennifer Aspinall and I had done the last few years of the Tonight Show with Jay. So it was a treat for me to have Jennifer there doing the Jay Leno makeup and me doing the Pam makeup (with my team, Pam crew, Mo Meinhart, and Abby Lyle Clawson). As Jennifer and I stood there watching Adam Ray as Jay Leno and Lily as Pam, it felt like being back on the Burbank stages of the real Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Truly a moment I’ll never forget.
BARRY LEE MOE
My favorite look, and probably the most iconic moment from the entire series, is the recreation of Pam’s appearance on the Tonight Show. I took my time replicating the look, working in small sections and doing photo comparisons from every angle to ensure the silhouette was as close as possible to the original hairstyle. It was extremely important to get that moment right, and when all the elements were combined, the result was uncanny. The entire team gathered around the monitor in awe of what we saw. It was one of many moments where the creatives involved in designing and executing the looks truly thought we were looking at Pamela Anderson. That is a rare experience and definitely a first for me.
There is a lot out there about Pam and Tommy, but how did you go about creating the versions of Pam and Tommy that were never on camera, like the private moments in their house?
We really did not have much to go off of as far as research goes for those scenes. So we took liberty in creating our versions based on what we would think a couple at home would wear.
It made sense to us all that Pamela would wear one of Tommy’s old T-shirts and underwear. Something that someone newly in love would put on while lounging around the house.
And Tommy probably wouldn’t wear much other than a pair of shorts. Or even just a g-string. We did take note from Tommy’s autobiography book ‘TommyLand’ that he doesn’t like to wear much when he is drumming, and we assumed he probably jumped on his drum kit quite often while at home, so we kept his clothing relatively minimal.
The actors just really blew me away. They sold the softness of an intimate relationship once the flashy lights and cameras were gone. I know they really worked hard on what those quiet moments were. One of my favorite scenes was after their big passionate date in Mexico; they got on a plane and realized they knew nothing about one another. What started out as awkward became a warm and tender moment. Softening their looks to daily wear, especially Pam’s, was something that David really worked hard on with Mo and Abby, so we didn’t lose Pam in there as well. Where that look really excels was Pam in the flashbacks without the glamor and glitz to hide behind. We really felt her youth and never lost the Pam we all love. Tricky business indeed.
The private moments are where the words on the page are critical to creating the character makeup of the moment. The characters’ state of mind and emotions, the preceding or upcoming scenes, and the time of day are all considered in the creations of those looks. We wanted to show a progression of the hope and optimism of purging love and joy for a new family juxtaposed to the raw reality and the toll that the release of the video took on Pam and Tommy during the most tumultuous time of their lives.
BARRY LEE MOE
When working on a bio-series, there are always moments when photographic evidence doesn’t exist, and you have the opportunity as a designer to build the missing parts of the world. The script provides the tone and energy of the moment and gives you a road map of where to go. From there, I always like to have open discussions with my actors to see how they respond to the words on the page and what they think their character would look like at any given moment. Lily and I had daily discussions about upcoming scenes and were constantly referencing my catalog of Pam images to get inspiration for these undocumented moments.