Actor Jim Parsons, who plays Rock Hudson’s real-life agent Henry Willson in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix series Hollywood, talked about playing the cutthroat character in an online Zoom discussion with the cast, and unpacked one of his key scenes, in which he tries to impress Hudson by performing Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils in his living room, in a separate interview with EW. [Spoilers ahead]
“As far as research went for this, because I was one of the people that played somebody who was actually real, I got to read a fair amount about Henry Willson, who I played, and Rock Hudson, because they were so well connected,” he told the cast in the Zoom discussion (which you can watch in full below). “It ended up being a very moving experience to me because Henry was somebody who was a gay man in that time and that’s just one aspect of it but it was nice to be able to have several little anecdotes that he had partaken in that gave a lot of color to how I felt about what we were doing.”
It also involved this scene, equal parts brutally vulnerable, pathetic, and hilarious.
“That episode came down once we had already started, and I opened the script and because I am at heart a shy person, my first instinct upon reading that was, Oh God, no,” said Parsons. “I don’t know if it was 10 minutes or 10 days, but it took me a little hump to get over it — to go from Oh God, no to What a gift!“
Added Parsons: “I wasn’t afraid of looking stupid because I didn’t really have much choice. I’m a man doing the Dance of the Seven Veils for Christ’s sake. But I wanted to make sure it had meaning for Henry. There’s a person inside him dying to be an artist, that wishes he could have been a performer, and he connects to that.”
Parsons said he choreographed it himself and just tried to remember what he had done with each subsequent take.
In their Zoom “squaretable,” the actors also talked about what real-life star from the early Hollywood era they would love to play, their favorite drinking spots in L.A., the opening credits and actually hiking to the Hollywood sign, auditioning, mid-Atlantic accents, and speaking with veneers.