Pam & Tommy, Hulu’s biographical drama about the rocky marriage between Baywatch superstar Pamela Anderson and Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, was a hit right off the bat thanks to its lurid subject matter, its infectious ’90s energy, and mostly of all, the funny, dramatic, and even endearing performances from Lily James and Sebastian Stan as the title characters.
The eight-episode miniseries focuses on the period in the couple’s lives in which their infamous sex tape became public — it was one of the first viral videos, in a sense — and the effect that the worrisome leak had on their already troubled relationship.
Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) directed the first three episodes of the show, which was created by The Wrestler scribe Robert Siegel, who adapted a 2014 Rolling Stone article by Amanda Chicago Lewis. Annapurna and Lionsgate produced the series, which co-stars Seth Rogen and Nick Offerman.
Last week, we spoke with Pam & Tommy‘s lead costume designer, Kameron Lennox (Physical, SMILF), about her work on the acclaimed show. Read on to find out how Lennox went about recreating looks for two instantly recognizable celebrities, what their costumes said about each of them, and much more.
Below the Line: How did you get involved with this project and how did you decide what kind of looks you would give Pam and Tommy to humanize them?
Kameron Lennox: I was already on a period show that took place in the late ’70s and early ’80s and Craig Gillespie was our director and executive producer for the pilot. He was then moving on to Pam & Tommy, and I knew he was going to direct and produce that, too. The timeline was right, because I would move from the ’70s and 80s to the ’90s with him. He called me to ask if I wanted to do it, and I was, of course, ‘100 percent, yes.’ The ’90s was the natural progression from where I was at.
I happened to have lived in Los Angeles in the mid-’90s and I remember a lot of that crowd of people. I was not in it but I was close to them. So a lot of it came from memory, actually. Then I started reading books, Tommyland, [and] a ton of interviews online, [and] I watched a lot of interviews of both of them during that time. I watched Baywatch, Barbed Wire, [and] the MTV interviews in their home (which was a bit after our time). So it was about piecing together the timeline of what I remember and what I was learning in my research.
I typically create mood boards and I think about a person, where they are in their lives when the story takes place, and before, and where they are heading. For real people, it’s easy to dig up stuff yourself. So I had a board for Pamela in the late ’80s when she was modeling for Playboy, until about 1990 and then to the point of the end of our show. I did the same with Tommy, about whom I knew a bit more because he has so many pictures in the ’80s as Motley Crue was very popular.
BTL: Tell me about Tommy and what you were going for with him, what interested you?
Lennox: Well, Tommy came from a very glam background. And where he was heading after the timeline of our show, it was more a metal, rock and roll rap. A mix of styles. During the timeline of our show, though, he was very subtle actually. He wore the boots and jewelry, and hats, but really [it was] a lot of jeans, T-Shirts, and leather pants. Very casual. Nothing was going on in his life during this time other than being married to her. He was trying to find the next thing he was going to do.
You know, right before he met Pamela, he was going through his divorce to Heather Locklear. They had been together for 7-8 years, which I did not realize before. His band was still performing, but Vince Neal had left it. So, it was all starting to crumble for him. Everything that he knew about who he is in the world was sort of falling apart. He was partying a lot. I saw a lot of photos of him at various bars, being Tommy Lee. When he met her, it was almost like this new exciting [elevation] for him. At least that’s my take on it.
And then, [with] the wedding, the paparazzi, Cancun, all of a sudden, it all blew up. It became a media blitz and we touched on it a bit, but he was hanging out and wanted to look casual [in this new situation], so he [became] very careful [about] how he looked. She was famous, and he always stayed home and dressed comfortably in T-shirts and jeans and boots, or maybe he’d wear these really soft, black jersey shorts. One thing I remember reading in Tommyland was that he would get so hot from playing drums, he would play naked or in a G-string, so we [incorporated some of that] in the show.
BTL: Well, what about her? What were you trying to say? Were you trying to confirm or subvert preconceived ideas about her?
Lennox: Well, she is iconic. But I was trying to figure out where she was coming from and the only thing I could think of was Brigitte Bardot, she’s like a ’90s rock version of that. That was my inspiration. I created a lot of images of Bardot and also Marilyn Monroe. That’s where I started. The ’90s is not necessarily my favorite period in time, but it is fine to recreate and dive into the designs of the time. They are very sexy.
What I did find with her, diving into these iconic bombshells, it’s that she had a deep understanding of her body. She knew what accentuated her body. So whenever she was getting dressed, the clothes were not going to change who she was, it was going to be more about how they fit her body. She was so confident in her body and how she dressed herself, she was not trying to make herself look better, or hide anything, she was trying to accentuate what she already had. Lily and I talked about this constantly in the fitting room.
For example, she never wore jewelry. Nothing like that, which would take away from the lines of her body. So we picked designers that would fit that mold. Pamela Anderson had very good taste in designers, and maybe it was paired with things that made it look like she was not wearing Versace or Dolce & Gabbana, but she was. The only thing I tweaked a bit was not putting Lily in the big stacked heels, because Lily is so tall. So I used stilettos from Yves Saint Laurent.
BTL: Those are some big brands — what else did Pamela wear?
Lennox: Vivian Westwood. A lot of stuff with corsets again to accentuate, to present herself in a dramatic way. I really tried to think [about] each piece, how it would lay on her body, and whether it worked. Would it tell the same story if Pamela herself wear it?
BTL: You mentioned jewelry — what other coordination did you do with fellow below-the-line crew members such as those in the hair and makeup department?
Lennox: I worked very closely with hair, makeup, and prosthetics. Every garment that she wears, she is wearing a different kind of chest plate or a bra that was rigging her body. Sometimes we hid the rigging of her chest plate behind her hair. So we had to coordinate to decide which necklines we could use for the hair. Sometimes there were hard choices we had to make, maybe I had a garment I wanted for the scene, but because [of] the time for the day, we could not put her in the chest plate and I had to rethink and do something else.
But yes, there were a lot of conversations with makeup. For example, when she’s in the bathing suit. We had to figure out how to make it work without sitting it on top of her body because she has so much makeup on. It wouldn’t stick, the bathing suit, or even worse, it would lift the tan. So we had trial and error to figure out the right size and fabric. Frankly, a lot of sleepless nights figuring out “how are we going to get this right for tomorrow?” In some ways, it was boot camp for me but everyone was up for the challenge. But everyone wanted to cooperate and coordinate and that was a plus.
BTL: Talk to me about one of the dresses you put on her — which one stands out?
Lennox: Well, the movie she was in, Barbed Wire, the real premiere was in Cannes. We did not show that in the show, we just recreated something. But I put her in a chrome latex dress, and she did wear that in real life, but not for that premiere — she was pregnant at the time. We basically created a maternity version of that latex dress because it felt like the right moment for her to wear that iconic dress. And by the way, for him, we created that suit, the pattern has flames. That was just imagined, something we put together. I wanted to show him pulling some stuff out from his early Motley Crue days. That’s why you have the mesh tank top there too.
BTL: What was your favorite part about working on this project and why?
Lennox: The cast was great, and spending time in Los Angeles was great. I have a lot of respect for Lily though. She worked really hard. She was there four hours before crew. She was learning her line and listening to interviews with Pamela Anderson. It was nice to be around someone who was that invested in their character. Also, she was very open, and we could reach out to each other to discuss something. I really appreciate that because I love collaboration and people willing to work closely to create something. It’s not always the case so when you do meet people like that it’s a dream come true.
All eight episodes of Pam & Tommy are currently streaming on Hulu.