In the Hulu miniseries Pam & Tommy, the makeup and hairstyling team recreated ’90s icons Pamela Anderson, a model and actress, and Tommy Lee, drummer for the Los Angeles rock band Motley Crue. During that decade, the two performers met, shacked up, got married, and created an infamous sex tape, around which the miniseries is centered. To effectively recreate the notable characters, a prestigious team of makeup and prosthetics artists, hairstylists, and wigmakers were brought aboard the show, which starred Lily James as Pam and Sebastian Stan as Tommy.
In the primary makeup artistry role was department head David Williams, with Barry Lee Moe serving as hair department head. In the role of special makeup effects designer was Jason Collins, whose firm, Autonomous FX, creates prosthetic appliances and makeups for film and television.
Though James and Stan bore little physical resemblance to their characters, they came ready to be transformed, and luckily, the creative artists responsible for that transformation had two months’ lead time to strategize and do detailed research since neither James nor Stan were in Los Angeles at the time.
Williams and Moe poured over photos and footage of Anderson and Lee from their well-documented courtship and marriage, and eventually, the determination was made to take a full-body lifecast of James, plus a digital scan of Stan, created remotely, then serviced back to L.A. In the case of James, the artists created overlays of images of Anderson to note the structural differences in the two women’s faces. As such, the decision was made that facial prosthetics would be required to have James’ features in the miniseries approximate those of Anderson.
According to Williams, one of the most noticeable differences between James and Anderson is their forehead spaces. “Lily’s forehead space is a considerably less percentage of the face than the total face that is Pam’s,” Williams said. “We wanted to best replicate that as much as we could, ultimately deciding on a prosthetic forehead, which gave us the ability to cover Lily’s notable brows and put lace piece brows on top of the prosthetic, which was covering Lily’s natural brows. It also gave us the ability to move that prosthetic forehead up past Lily’s natural hairline. Barry was able to set her wig back slightly farther than Lily’s natural hairline, again, replicating Pam’s look. 25 to 30 pairs of brows were made, using very, very fine lace pieces done by Sasha Camacho Van Dyke.”
After extensive testing and resculpting, the prosthetic forehead piece was attached to James, with that being the lone prosthetic on her entire face. Critically, James’ forehead appliance went across the bridge of the nose and into the crease of the eye. Williams was then responsible for applying non-prosthetic makeup to James to recreate the Anderson look, including contouring and shading, and classic corrective makeup. “I’m not referring to correcting any flaws in either of the people,” said Williams, “because both of these are beautiful women — we’re turning one beautiful woman into another beautiful woman. A corrective makeup helps us to enhance the structure and do character and period makeup, and beauty makeup on top of that.”
In creating James’ prosthetics, in addition to the ample forehead appliance, instead of doing appliances on her lips to give her fuller ‘Anderson lips,’ Collins and his team of 15 artists and technicians at Autonomous FX built dentures for James which built up the gums strategically in sections so that he could push her lips out from underneath. Monumentally, James also fashioned a full breastplate for James that was particularly contoured to James’ body cast. Originally sculpted in an oil-based clay, the breastplate wrapped it all the way around the front of James’ upper torso and connected to James’ back. “When you catch profile shots or when she’s completely nude in the scene,” Collins explained, “instead of ending [the breastplate appliance] on her side, where she twists and you get a lot of that thin skin movement on the rib cage, we went ahead and covered all of that with our material and blended off on a harder section back. When she’s moving, you’re not catching all that artifact, where an edge would be from fake skin to soft skin.”
During 90 percent of principal photography, James wore the prosthetic breastplate, which was coordinated with the costume designer, Kameron Lennox. “We really realized when we saw Kammy’s designs,” elaborated Collins, “the way that those outfits are cut, you see a lot of side-boob, and you see a lot of deep plunging cleavage. Now you can’t get away with getting a push-up bra –you really have to have the appliances on. We were able to get away with it some days, when she’s at home, just wearing, like, a normal t-shirt. At that point, you don’t need to have the full fake appliances on.”
Once the breastplate was applied, what Collins called ‘seated into place,’ section by section was glued perfectly to James’ torso and back. Then, makeup artists would work on the edge, so it blended off flawlessly with James’ own skin. After that was completed, the artists utilized an alcohol-based makeup to airbrush her full upper body. “We’re able to airbrush and tie in the colors of my silicone appliances into Lily’s skin tone,” stated Collins. “Now we have a base to start with; after that was done, we gave her a whole-body spray tan. She was tanning naturally, but we wanted to darken her a shade, so now you have one, single, unified color.”
In addition to the facial and bodily alterations necessary to turn James into Anderson, intricate work was undertaken to create the Pamela Anderson hairstyle for James in the miniseries, courtesy of four custom wigs manufactured by Robert Pickens’ Wigmaker Associates in Beverly Hills. “Anytime you have a custom wig made for someone,” said Moe, “you have to do a head wrap, which is basically taking a detailed analysis of a head. You wrap it in plastic to get the actual shape so that we can build the wig to fit Lilly’s head exactly. Because I knew we were going to use the [forehead] prosthetic, I was able to look at photos of Pam’s hairline, and recreate that with the wig and the wigmaker. They ventilated that hairline and built that wig, hair by hair, sewn into the lace to replicate the shape of Pam’s hairline, which, ultimately — once applied on top of the prosthetic — really gave that beautiful forehead that Pam has and really changed Lily’s total silhouette.”
First thing in the morning, James would sit with Moe, who covered all of her hair under a wig prep, to make sure that the makeup team would have a blank slate with which to initiate the makeup process. “That gives me something to secure the wig to,” Moe said of the wig prep, “but it also cleans up the whole space so that they can place the forehead on, because it did extend quite a bit beyond the hairline. They needed to have all of that done ahead of time, so I was the first stop, and then she would jump over to makeup.”
Once James arrived in the makeup department, Williams organized two separate, complete teams for James and Stan due to the heavy lifting required for each character. “On Team Pam, we had Jennifer Aspinall and Mo Meinhart,” said Williams. “They worked with Jason with the prosthetics in the beginning. Jennifer had a previous commitment, and she was only able to be there for about a month. When Jennifer left, Abby Lyle came in. On Team Tommy, I had Bill Myer and Dave Snyder, so it was the boys and the girls, respectively, with Team Pam and Team Tommy. I was back and forth with both of these teams, doing what needed to be done at any given time. When it came time for the makeup for Pam, they would do it at prosthetics — they would do the body painting. For the beauty makeup for Pam, then I would step in.”
Regarding Stan’s depiction of Tommy Lee, the only prosthetic appliances that Stan wears are nipple covers, so that the makeup team had the ability to put real nipple rings in, which function as if they are in his natural nipples. Heavy tattooing on Stan’s entire body accentuated his Lee likeness, which included three hours of makeup and hair on a daily basis; it was four hours for James, going up to five hours due to the delicate nature of her costumes. “You’re already looking at 16, 18-hours-a-day before they have to remove everything at the end of the night,” said Moe. “These were long days for both of them — I couldn’t say enough how gracious they were with their time and energy. They were all-in, 100 percent, and I think it really shows in their performance how dedicated they were.”
Underscoring Moe, Williams noted how judicious James was in her use of time during production while she was in makeup and hairstyling. “She was studying videos every single day, watching interviews, doing dialect with a dialect coach,” said Williams. “She utilized that time to further perfect her character. Lily and I were walking across the parking lot in her full Pam regalia, and a grip was on the back of the truck, talking on his cell phone, and [he] literally almost fell off the back of the truck. We want the audience to fall off the back of the truck.”
Pam & Tommy is currently streaming in its entirety on Hulu.