Jeremy Pope and Jake Picking, who play Archie Coleman and Rock Hudson, respectively, in Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix series Hollywood, sat down with MTV News for a conversion (below) about their casting, how they developed their characters, and what the show means in the larger scope of things. [Mild SPOILERS ahead]
The show’s synopsis: “Hollywood follows a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers in post-World War II Hollywood as they try to make it in Tinseltown — no matter the cost. Each character offers a unique glimpse behind the gilded curtain of Hollywood’s Golden Age, spotlighting the unfair systems and biases across race, gender and sexuality that continue to this day. Provocative and incisive, Hollywood exposes and examines decades-old power dynamics, and what the entertainment landscape might look like if they had been dismantled.”
Said executive producer/writer/director Janet Mock: “With the present so fraught and the future uncertain, we turned to the past for direction, uncovering buried history to spin an aspirational tale of what ifs: What if a band of outsiders were given a chance to tell their own story? What if the person with greenlight power was a woman? The screenwriter a black man? What if the heroine was a woman of color? The matinee idol openly gay? And what if they were all invited into the room where the decisions are made, entering fully and unapologetically themselves to leave victorious and vaunted, their place in history cemented. Hollywood is a love letter to our little industry town where dreamers dwell, stars are born, and magic transcends reality.”
Pope, a Tony-nominated Broadway actor, and Picking, a relative unknown, said they got to know each other before shooting started and had a meeting off-set where they learned a lot of details about each other’s lives, which they agreed was helpful because the “first day on set was like all of our intimacy moments,” according to Pope.
Said Pope of his character, an aspiring screenwriter: “I don’t think Archie could have made it the way that he did without having Rock by his side, without having the one thing that felt consistent that he could come home to that was going to love him unconditionally, no matter the color of his skin. And the same thing with Rock. Someone who’s going to love him for all the things he is, the trauma that he comes form, and just kind of cater to that, be like medicine for him. Because he knows he’s in a toxic situation with his agent but he also knows that’s the only way he’s gonna become the huge star that Archie sees him to be.”
Added Pope of his own casting: “Hopefully there’s someone out there that is going to see this show, see the representation on the show and feel kind of seen and heard and know that there’s something tangible out there for them to get.”
Said Picking: “It’s a healthy form of escapism but it’s also a commentary on the abuse of power. Even in the entertainment industry itself, in everything, unfortunately, there’s going to be an abuse of power. It’s okay to be who you are no matter what anybody is telling you.”
Watch their full chat:
In a separate lengthy interview with Variety, Pope talked about developing the character with Murphy: “Early on I did know about the sex work and why it was important to talk about in the show — in a way that was not looking down on it. It was a theme that coexisted with these young dreamers, which I thought was interesting. But early on Ryan did ask me to trust him about what the concept of the show was. I was able to do so because one of my first questions for him was about how we’re talking about this black, gay man who had to exist in a different way in the ’40s than right now. I wanted to be very conscious of that, and I asked him if there would be directors or people of color in the writers’ room to have that voice and experience writing those conversations for me. And he assured me of that.”
Pope also talked about his initial meeting with Picking: “Me and Jake, we met early on, before we started filming, to get a sense of each other and talk about life and experience. One thing that I shared with him was that I had just come off this Broadway play and sometimes people have all of these ideas of how you are going to play this character and what they feel it should be like. While I think all of those things are important, I think it’s just as important to find your own voice and version and lend your gift to this person’s legacy or whatever it is they left behind. I told him that early on and said, ‘Listen, we’re going to create our own dynamic because what we’re creating doesn’t exist.’ It didn’t exist, so what we had to lean into was just being available for each other and being open for each other. We talked early on about if people would be offended because that’s not Rock’s life, but again, it’s a fantasy world so we have to lean into the ‘What ifs.’ And there’s power in loving individuals for who they are and I think Archie and Rock find that very early on.”
Read the full Variety interview HERE.
Picking gave an interview with MTV News in which he talked about what brought him to Los Angeles, and acting, and said that he hoped to bring authenticity to his role as Hudson, who died of complications from AIDS in 1985: “I felt like it was my duty to capture the essence of who Rock Hudson was and pay homage to his legacy. … I wish he was alive today to see how far we’ve come. I think that’s the tragedy in his life, but I do believe he was a hero, because he progressed through that. He’s just resilient, you know?”