The wishful thinking of Ryan Murphy’s latest, the Netflix limited series “Hollywood,” raised a few eyebrows among critics who said the show should have dug deeper into the injustices prevalent throughout the post-war film industry, but star Holland Taylor argues that such a response is unfair.
“The fact is, to call something nonsense when it’s a fantasy is kind of like, well what do you mean? You can call it nonsense if it purports to be a history and tells it very inaccurately or carelessly,” Taylor said in an interview with TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman on this week’s episode of “TheWrap-Up” podcast. “But if it is a purported fantasy that blends complete fiction with fact, then how can you call it nonsense? It doesn’t purport to be a literal recounting.”
“Hollywood,” which premiered earlier this month, tells the story of a fictional movie written by a gay black man, directed by a half-Asian director, starring an African-American lead actress that improbably goes on to win Best Picture in 1948 after the film’s popularity overwhelms racial protests. The series incorporates real-life historical figures in both major and minor roles to envision a more tolerant and progressive version of Hays Code-era Hollywood.
“It does what it wanted to do,” Taylor said. “It may not do what somebody else wanted it to do. [But] the use of the historical characters is really no different from using the Paramount lot or an iconic place. It’s to add a patina of the real thing.”
In its review, The Atlantic described “Hollywood” as “earnest nonsense.” The piece pointed to Eleanor Roosevelt’s sudden descent on the film studio in support of the project and the unlikely popularity of the movie as deus ex machina-type solutions to complex, real-world issues. “Much of ‘Hollywood’ functions this way–using the revisionist nature of the show as a narrative crutch,” the piece read.
Taylor said such criticism misses the point. “It’s all made into a wish-fulfillment, a fantasy. A fantasy of what the world could have been if people had this kind of goodwill,” she said. “If you’re writing a fantasy, whatever you say goes … He’s created a world where that’s what happens.”
“There’s no question that it has stimulated a tremendous amount of conversation,” Taylor continued, “And that’s the proof in the pudding right there.”
Listen to the full podcast below.