Sebastian Stan on Pam & Tommy, Reaching Out to Tommy Lee & the Love Confession

There are so many fascinating layers to the Hulu limited series Pam & Tommy, from the wild love story of two celebrities, to the legal and moral crimes that were committed, to how everything lined up between a video, an obsession with celebrity culture, and the early days of the internet. Based on the true story of how a disgruntled contractor (seth roden) decided to get revenge on the rock star who refused to pay for his work by stealing from him, finding himself in possession of a very private VHS tape that went on to become a global sensation, and altering the lives of actress Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee (sebastian stan) forever.


During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Stan talked about his initial hesitation over taking on the role, that there was no turning back once he was all in, why he decided to reach out to Tommy Lee, the biggest challenge he had to tackle, the stand-out love confession scene, and the context this series was able to provide for what two people went through who didn’t ask for any of the attention that resulted from the crime, regardless of how famous they were.

Collider: First of all, kudos on the work that both you and Lily James did in Pam & Tommy. This kind of story only works, if you believe the actors, individually and together, since the relationship is just as important as the individual journeys they were on with all this, and I was thoroughly impressed with both of you guys.

SEBASTIAN STAN: I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Image via Hulu

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Did you ever hesitate before signing on to do this? What was that conversation like with yourself, about whether or not to do this?

STAN: It was, “I don’t have a single tattoo on my body. I do not play any instruments. I have no experience of what being in a rock band is. These are big shoes to fill, and I don’t know why and how I could do this.” But it was (director) Craig Gillespie. I had a lot of trust in him. These really were well-written scripts, and I was a fan of Lily James and certainly of Seth [Rogen]. I thought it was just scary enough to get on the board.

We often hear that rock stars want to be actors and actors want to be rock stars. Did you ever have that moment of thinking about what it might be like to be a rock star, at any point, before doing this?

STAN: No. I love acting. It’s very different. Growing up, I was really behind with music, actually, because I didn’t grow up here. I come from Europe, so I was really behind in high school, on what was relevant and who was who and what people were listening to. All that stuff came way later for me.

Image via Hulu

When I spoke to Lily James about this, she talked about how she went through a bit of a panic before shooting and thought about quitting. Did you ever have a moment like that, or once you were in, were you just all in?

STAN: Once it started, there was no turning back. It’s just the lead-up to it. I found out in October, and Lily had already been attached. And then, there was November, December, January, February and March. I had to shoot another project in January and February, Freshwhich is [out now]. There was a five-month buildup, until finally, we got to that camera test in April, where we finally had the tattoos and finally we tried the costumes. Up until that point, it was very difficult to see him in myself, in any way, shape, or form.

You’ve said that you reached out and connected with Tommy Lee. You haven’t really said what that conversation was, and you don’t have to give me specifics of that, but did you have questions for him that he answered for you? Was there any insight you got directly from him, or was that not even something you were interested in?

STAN: No, my intention was simply just to introduce myself and raise my hand. I just thought that was the respectful and decent human thing to do, when someone’s alive. You hear someone’s taking on your life and you’re like, “Who’s this person?” I didn’t expect him to have seen anything I’d been in, but in case he wondered, I just wanted to at least say, “Hey, I’m introducing myself. My name’s Sebastian, and I’m here.”

What has it been like to see the final results of the transformation? Now that you can look at it from outside of yourself, what is it like to see that? Have you had a “holy shit,” moment?

STAN: I don’t know. The whole thing happened so quickly. We just finished shooting this in August of last year. I know it’s been five or six months, or whatever it is, but it still feels like we just finished. The fact that it so quickly came out is almost strange and bizarre, in a way. Maybe in four or five months from now, I’ll really be able to look back and go, “Oh, that was a wild time.” But at the moment, it just feels surreal.

Image via Hulu

When you started down the path of preparation for this, what did you think would be the biggest challenges or hurdles for you, in pulling this off, and did those ultimately prove to be the biggest challenges?

STAN: I’m not a drummer. I don’t play an instrument, and I didn’t want to have a double. I wanted to get in there and be able to twirl the sticks and just give it my best. I only really had three to three and a half months to do it, while I was working on an entirely different project. I did the best I could with the time we had, and it was incredible. I ended up loving the drums. I ended up falling in love with them and might even, just for me, continue, just to have that because it was such an incredible experience. That’s what freaked me out the most, especially because he’s one of the greatest drummers in the world.

And had a style he was known for. You’re not just learning how to play the drums, you’re learning how to play with his style from him.

STAN: Oh absolutely. It was that visceral energy with the music. It was an unbelievable, impressive amount of energy. Not only that, he was doing, which we didn’t do, thank God, roller coasters and flipping upside down and playing the drums in every which way. It was just crazy.

He also feels a bit manic, as a person. His ups and downs of him certainly seem more extreme than other people’s. Were there conversations about when to have him go bigger and when to scale him back, and did that become easier to figure out, the longer you played him?

STAN: It was all in the scripts, basically. Every single scene that you’re seeing was written and in the script. There were very few moments of improv, here and there, where we expanded on certain things, but every single level of anything was already in the scripts, thank God. They did such a great job capturing the rhythms and speech patterns. That was the map that we needed to guide us, in terms of where to go.

Image via Hulu

Obviously, one of the things that will always be talked about with this series is the scene when Tommy Lee was having a conversation with his penis. I know that’s something from his book about him, but that does not necessarily mean it would have been included in the show. When did you find out about that? Did they talk to you about it ahead of time? Did you just get a script and read it and go, “Okay, this is going to be interesting”?

STAN: Yeah, it was always in the script. Everybody was sensitive, even when we were shooting. There was still a conversation going, “Hey, can we have this in here? Does it belong here? Is it too much? Is it not? Does it take away from anything? What is this about?” No one really knew, myself included, whether that was gonna work or not, until they saw the whole episode and felt like there was still a place in there. Absolutely, as you said, that was a nod to the book that he had written. Essentially, it’s a confession scene. It’s a guy realizing he’s in love with somebody.

It’s such an interesting moment because it is this fantasy moment, but it’s not really a fantasy to him. Was that tricky to find the right tone of?

STAN: In its written form, it was very much a conversation. It was quite simple, in that way. Essentially, it’s just about falling in love. It doesn’t matter. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve fallen in love, I’ve talked to trees. Have you ever been in love and driven your car, and songs are playing, and have you not talked to yourself? You should read this book, called Your Brain on Loveand you’ll be surprised what happens to our minds when we’re in love.

We know that Jason Mantzoukas ultimately was cast to do the honors, voicing that scene, but who read those lines on set? Was it just some random crew guys standing, off-camera? Was he there?

STAN: No, it was DV [DeVincentis], one of our writers. He actually wrote that.

This entire situation starts with a confrontation between Tommy and Rand, and then you get to have another confrontation with him in the Dodger Stadium parking lot, when he’s trying to blackmail you. How was the experience of working with Seth Rogen, throughout that whole dynamic?

STAN: I’d been a fan of Seth’s for such a long time. I’ve loved so many of his movies of him, and I was really excited to work with him. It was awesome because he’s very generous and he’s very thoughtful. He’s got that big, great laugh. I loved working with him. It was sad that we only had a few of those scenes. We spend the rest of the show, really, not even coming close.

Image via Hulu

One of the things that most struck me in watching this was how angry it made me over the way that everyone treated, objectified, and judged Pamela Anderson. How do you feel now? Do you have a different perception of her from her, from the whole situation, and from Tommy then you did, going into all of this?

STAN: I have to admit, going into all of this, I actually didn’t know as much as I thought I did about the situation. That’s part of the thing here. A lot of people didn’t know about what really happened and how it went down. People have a lot of misconceptions about it. What really made me sad is how many people actually thought they had something to do with it, which is obviously not true. I was fairly young when this whole thing happened. I came to America when I was 12. I’d heard, obviously, about them and I had certainly seen Baywatch. Even in Europe, growing up, that was a humongous show. But I wasn’t very familiar with their story. Obviously, if you were watching MTV or VH-1, towards the late ’90s and early 2000s, you would see them on it. I would see an interview, here and there, with one of them.

One of the things that Lily and I discussed a lot was that our intention was always to just be able to fully represent the pure, intense, passionate, and to some extent, innocent connection that transpired between these two people in this comet-like process , in four days in Mexico. At the bottom of it all, whatever you want to say about them, they wanted to be together. They got married. They were trying to be a couple. They wanted to be parents. They wanted to have a family. She wanted to have kids. She had a miscarriage. She was pregnant, throughout this entire situation. At the bottom of it all, to me, that’s what I always hung onto, and what we always hung onto. I feel that the show does provide a little more context there, in terms of them as humans, then we might have given them credit for, in the ’90s.

Pam & Tommy is available to stream at Hulu.

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