Costume designer Kameron Lennox had a very busy Emmy season with her one-two punch of Apple TV+’s “Physical” followed by Hulu’s “Pam & Tommy”, a feast of two decades worth of fashion in two bright television packages. But for the latter, one thing became apparent for the 1990s-set look at America’s then most-notorious couple, Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee — always make sure your actor’s thong is on point from Day 1.
“Something that happened on our first day of shooting was we had created the G-string thongs that Sebastian Stan [playing Tommy] wears, and we had to modify it to the size of the prosthetic,” Lennox says. “But the process of the prosthetics kept shifting and changing because there were many meetings, so when we went to shoot on the first day, Sebastian went to put on the thong after his prosthetics and it was too small, and it wasn’t covering it. It was an emergency moment for all of us. My tailor Lydia and I ended up making a drawer full of them so he could go in and get one at any time.”
But the day was saved, and the result was an eye-popping recreation of this era, with Stan’s tatted-and-studded Tommy Lee (who even had a prosthetic puppet penis for one much-discussed bit in the miniseries) and Lily James’ fashion-forward Pamela (outfitted with incredibly realistic prosthetic breasts, among other parts). Lennox credits having “Physical” as a good barometer going into her work on ”Pam & Tommy”, given both projects involved a lot of contouring to the actor’s bodies and makeup work.
“On ‘Pam & Tommy’ we were recreating real people, so there was a real pressure to get it right,” Lennox says. “We were very protective of both of our characters. We tried to keep it true to who Tommy was at that time, but not ever mock him. And the same with Pamela Anderson, we really wanted to show her as this real person making these decisions to wear these things and how they accentuated her body. People are still replicating this looks today. I’ve heard the term Pamcore many, many times.”
The trick to this particular series was that it involved not creation, but a lot of re-creation, especially for Anderson, as the miniseries follows her many acting projects through the 1990s, including her failed movie opus “Barb Wire” and her hit show “Baywatch”, in which the actress was always trying, often in vain, to rise above the eye-candy status the show positioned her in.
Says Lennox of the former: “The funny thing about the ‘Barb Wire’ costume is I contacted somebody that worked on it, Salvador Pérez Jr., and he was the assistant costume designer [for the film] and now he’s the president of my union! So, I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to be recreating your work.’ And he was like,’ Go for it.’ He was very grateful for the call, but also very much ‘Do what you need to do’”.
But the “Baywatch” costume needed a few modifications since costume designers are often not allowed to do exact replicas of existing pieces that include certain factors. “Clothing really isn’t copyrighted, but the graphics are. The original graphic for Baywatch we were not allowed to use, so we recreated our own. And if you notice, comparing Lily to Pamela, the patch is on the other side, so it’s little tweaks that we had to do to not get ourselves in trouble, but it’s still very similar. I think you have to change things maybe 30% to be able to use them.”
And all of this is, of course, after a whole lot of hair and makeup is done (Stan and James prepped for shooting in the makeup chair for up to three or four hours quite often). Lennox notes this was a particularly sticky situation, sometimes literally. “The last thing you want to do is add double-stick tape that then pulls off all this hard work that these people have been doing all morning. So, it was a lot of trial and error on our part,” Lennox says. “I was in Lily’s trailer almost every day, helping her get ready just to try to figure out how we were going to do it — how to rig under wigs, how we could not rip her prosthetic body, and where’s the battery pack? So, it was a lot of discussions and last-minute putting out of fires.”
“Pam & Tommy” is streaming on Hulu.