Lily James‘ notable performance in Hulu’s original limited series, Pam & Tommy, is, without question, the best part. James continues to be a commendable actress whose range knows no bounds, and as supermodel Pamela Anderson, she proves that there is no role she cannot take on with utter grace and brilliant embodiment.
Pam & Tommy is relatively insulting as a series—the lack of consent from Anderson herself and the exploitation of the sex tape by focusing far too much on Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogan) and Uncle Miltie (Nick Offerman). Their story isn’t the one that’s drawing audiences in, and opening up the series by focusing on them was the first big mistake when its star player should be Lily James’ Pamela Anderson. But all that aside, through each and every scene, James shows the audience how Hollywood has wronged Anderson and most women in similar situations with their partners.
Lily James is able to touch on such nuanced details of Pamela Anderson’s career that it’s riveting to watch her escape into a role that she clearly cares for. No matter what the situation is here, nothing is more evident to the audience than the fact that Lily James cares to honor to actress’ legacy and all that she has gone through by painting her in a more layered, relatable light.
The hair and makeup department do a remarkable job of ensuring that James physically resembles Anderson, but it’s up to her throughout the series to embody the actress’ mannerisms and the traits that make her stand out. Nothing is more evident than the fact that James has watched plenty of interviews and featurettes to ensure she does right by Pamela Anderson. (Though this would’ve all been lovelier if Anderson had consented to the series’ production as well.)
James isn’t just unrecognizable because of the uncanny resemblance to Pamela Anderson, but ultimately, because of how she’s fled into the role. It’s hard to believe this is the same woman who plays my personal queen, Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia II: Here We Go Again!, Ella in Disney’s live-action Cinderella, or even Juliet Ashton in Netflix’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—that’s how exceptional her performances continue to be because with every spoken word, every move she makes, James shows us that she’s an actress whose talents should never be questioned. She isn’t someone who should ever be typecast into a role, but she is someone to be trusted in this industry.
In every way, Lily James is the star of the show despite it also being about Sebastian Stan‘s Tommy Lee. Stan is great, but James is utterly sensational, and we’re certain he wouldn’t have a problem with us saying so because surely everyone watching could agree that what she does with this performance deserves accolades left and right. Whether it was every extraordinary transition and the stirring memories we got in Episode 6 “Pamela in Wonderland” to the heated mention of how she knows the reasoning behind the case’s dismissal is due to her position as a woman, and the choices she makes in “Destroyer of Worlds,” James doesn’t miss a single beat in bringing emotions front and center.
In the final episode, “Seattle,” James is on an entirely new level of exceptional with the harrowing range of emotions she brings to life from start to finish. There’s fear in Pamela Anderson, contentment, joy, and a rebirth, which James brings to life masterfully through her expressions and physicality. When she’s on-screen, no one else’s story matters. When she’s off-screen, we’re waiting in anticipation to see her again.
Pam & Tommy could’ve been a great show, but instead, it falters, and without Lily James, it’s hard to imagine any part of it working because it victimizes the wrong people and sidelines the only woman who matters. Except when James is acting, she’s demanding we pay attention. She’s allowing us to see how much trauma Anderson consistently bore that everyone around her, Tommy Lee included, always dismissed. And with that, at the very least, Lily James does the best job of honoring Pamela Anderson.
Because nothing is more apparent than the fact that James cared about this role and she cared about doing right for the women whose stories are disregarded. If anyone deserves to take accolades home for this series, it’s James, and we won’t get tired of vocalizing that at every chance we get.
Pam & Tommy is now streaming on Hulu.