PAM & TOMMY
June 20th, 2022 by Nya Patrinos SDSA
Set Decorator Nya Patrinos SDSA
Production Designer Ethan Tobman
Production Designer David Batchelor Wilson
“Set in the Wild West early days of the Internet, PAM & TOMMY is based on the incredible true story of the Pamela Anderson [Lily James] and Tommy Lee [Sebastian Stan] sex tape. Stolen from the couple’s home by a disgruntled contractor [Seth Rogen], the video went from underground bootleg-VHS curiosity to full-blown cultural obsession when it hit the Web in 1997. A love story, crime caper and cautionary tale rolled into one, the limited series explores the intersection of privacy, technology and celebrity, tracing the origins of our current Reality TV Era to a stolen tape seen by millions but meant to have an audience of just two.” --Hulu
For some insider perspective on PAM & TOMMY, we spoke with Set Decorator Nya Patrinos SDSA via email, as she’s currently working on another project on location in the Dominican Republic. In a wonderfully candid e-conversation, she shares some of her experiences, both behind-the-scenes and how she got there.
SETDECOR: Were you committed to having the sets convey the essence of the characters and place, or did you have the mandate to re-create as exactly as possible?
Set Decorator Nya Patrinos SDSA: We had some reference for Pam and Tommy’s house, but we really didn't work directly from the reference, we used the essence of it. I talked to people who had been there, and I looked at photos, but the Pam and Tommy in the script are not the actual Pam and Tommy. It's a take on them, an idea about them. There are some things we didn't do because we thought they weren't right for our Pam and Tommy. We wanted to convey the period accurately, but we also wanted to convey this specific take on the characters for our story. The idea is that Pam moves into Tommy's house, so it's more his place. Then there's the remodel that's going on, then the period 1995 to 1997-98 and then, Pam changes and she even moves out in the end. It's a journey. It's her journey.
I remember someone saying on Facebook that they weren't interested in watching the show, “Because it's such a dumb idea.” And I thought, “It's a great show. You are missing out.” It's a feminist story. When Pam is in that conference room and the men with power are accusing her of being a whore and making her narrate the sex tape—and really getting off on it—it's heart breaking.
Conference room. The tape falls into the hands of Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione. Pam [Lily James], Tommy [Sebastian Stan]. Photo by Erin Simkin ©2021 Hulu.
She's so vulnerable. She's so abused. She's suffered a life of abuse from men, and at the same time, she makes her living because men love the way she looks. And we, as the audience, get it. I get it. I've been there without any power as a woman. Abused, vulnerable. And Lily James just does it so well...shows this pain and paradox.
This is the pre-"me too" world. It's when people didn't believe our stories of abuse. We were supposed to nod, smile, be quiet. I was there. I got it. She is me.
And in the end, she says, “No more.”
And we think, “I can say no more, too. I can reclaim my agency, as she does.”
It's really powerful.
Tattoo legend Mark Mahoney’s studio. Mahoney as himself, Lily James as Pam. Photo by Erin Simkin ©2021 Hulu.
Appropriate that the studio of the legendary founder of the “Black & Grey” tattoo movement would have a black & grey & white floor...and a multitude of iconography. Photo by Erin Simkin ©2021 Hulu.
SD: How did you become involved in the project?
NP: I was called to do it after another decorator backed out. Craig Gillepsie was attached as a Director, and I loved I, TONYA. It was great timing, because I was just about finished with my work on THE MORNING SHOW. Pam Anderson is 54 and I'm 52, I felt I understood the time period, not just visually, but culturally. When I was prepping, I read Joseph Campbell’s book 1995: THE YEAR THE FUTURE BEGAN. He describes 1995 as “A year of extraordinary events, a watershed at the turn of the millennium.” It was really interesting, this time period.
Pam & Tommy’s Living Room. The huge set was built onstage, as was the entire mansion. Set Decorator Nya Patrinos SDSA describes the palette as, “golds, silvers, creams and blacks...and color! Sun, warmth, excess.” Photo courtesy of Hulu.
SD: Tell us about your collaboration with the keys and your crew...
NP: Both Ethan Tobman and David Batchelor Wilson are fantastic Production Designers. with lots of ideas. So, I listened to what they had to say and brought my own ideas to the table as well. Ethan, who established the look of the show, really encouraged a lot of risk-taking and pushing the envelope. Sometimes, some of the sets were so ugly or even garish, but we just went for it.
Luckily, we had many interesting Directors who were visually minded, especially Craig Gillepsie and Lake Bell. DP Paula Huidobro, who did CODA, had a lot of opinions about the mood, lighting and the practicals. I listened and tried to accommodate.
Pam & Tommy’s Dining Room. Photo by Erica Parise © 2021 Hulu.
My relationship with Costume Designer Kameron Lennox was really important to me on the project...she offered friendship and moral support. We were both working an incredible amount of hours. We acknowledged each other, and our hard work, and we were just there for each other, comrades in arms.
Also, Casey Shaw, the Propmaster, always had my back and helped me with a lot of technical stuff. We were often on the phone, supporting each other, saying, “I can do this, can you do that?” Or the reverse.
It was such a big project, that I brought in some great other Set Decorators to help—SDSA Set Decorator Members Linda Sheets, Jen Giron and Kelsey Fowler. And I had amazing Buyers, who are so talented, especially Peter Ayala SDSA Associate, Eric La Bonte SDSA Associate, Carrel Shaw and Mac Gaspard, who were there with me for the thick of it. The Set Dressing Team worked incredibly hard, I so appreciated their dedication. We shot all around LA and even in Ventura, where we faked Cancun Beach.
“Pam & Tommy's house has the most modern of everything. They are cutting edge ‘90s—crisp, bright—and they have a lot of money and not a ton of taste. They were very into Asian spirituality.” Photo by Erica Parise © 2021 Hulu.
Pam & Tommy's Master Suite. Photo by Erica Parise © 2021 Hulu.
Pam & Tommy's Master Suite. Photo by Erica Parise © 2021 Hulu.
SD: Building backstory into the sets - the other key sets, not just the P&T house...
NP: In the story, everyone is experiencing loss/disappointment. Pam wants to be more - like Jane Fonda. She wants to be a great actress and she just isn't. Tommy's best days are behind him and he's jealous of Pam and wants to be relevant again. Rand has never made it - and he's lost the woman he loves. Erica has lost her naivety and is just making her life work for her the best she can. No one especially has it all together. But Erica is the most.
Rand’s apartment and Erica's apartment are completely fabricated from our imaginations. And they are important characters. Rand is a failure. He lost the woman he loved. He has nothing, and Tommy is horrible to him. And I get it, too. I feel for him. I wanted to give him dimension in his apartment but also show it's not working out for him.
Erica is his ex-wife. She's a porn star. She's complicated, layered, nuanced. She's had a journey. And she's kind. She's always kind, even when she shouldn't be. And her current relationship is in a good state. I tried to convey that.
Erica’s apartment. “She's complicated, layered, nuanced.” Photo courtesy of Hulu.
Erica’s apartment. “This is my favorite set because it's so eclectic and so beautiful. I can just imagine her gathering things from thrift stores and the streets and putting it all together in her apartment.” Photo courtesy of Hulu.
Erica’s apartment. “She loves costumes and textiles. I just think she's so interesting. She's had such a journey.” Photo courtesy of Hulu.
“Erica's place has a nostalgia to it, with turquoises and pinks...and is a bit worn. She is not living the life she imagined in Los Angeles. She had an idea of Hollywood that brought her here, and although she's not the actress she'd hope to be, she does work in the porn industry and is respected, and has a good relationship. She has a heart too.” Photo courtesy of Hulu.
Editor’s note: For more sets and photos, click on SEE MORE PHOTOS below!
SD: You do such a variety of projects, is there something you’re always glad to have in your back pocket?
NP: I have a Certificate in Illustration, a BA in Environmental Design, and an MFA in Set Design. I really studied design. I spent many years learning about line, color, texture, shape, volume. For the MFA in Set Design at UCSD, we worked on character, on story and how to convey it, and got my first experience working on projects, talking to directors, working with professional shops. I've been doing it for so many years now, I think you get better at it. At least I have. I think you achieve some sort of mastery. Experience matters. I couldn't have done this project 10 years ago.
I feel like I know what I'm doing handling a story and the characters. As a set decorator, I help bring the characters to life. I think about how this character is unique and how shape, color, line, texture, volumes and style are going to support my decorating decisions. You need to really come to know the characters and how they fit in the story. Then, when you are shopping, you know exactly what will work.
SD: Would you like to mention yoga and how that informs your day, your sets, your perspective?
NP: I trained as a yoga therapist because yoga has been really important in my journey towards being whole and healed. I practice yoga and I teach yoga. Sometimes more and sometimes less. During PAM AND TOMMY, I didn't really have time to do much yoga and I suffered for it. My emotions were really raw, and I was tired mentally as well as physically. But when I am on a project and I'm doing my yoga and meditating, everything is just so much better.
Yoga helps me be more resilient. I inhabit these characters. I want to get them right, whatever that means! Many times when I am working, I lose myself. I just become like a machine working to service the demands of the story, the designer, director, actors and characters.
Yoga helps me remember my true self.
It helps me come back to who I really am and what matters most.
Set Decorator Nya Patrinos would like to acknowledge the SDSA Business members she and her crew worked with for this project, especially:
Advanced Liquidators Office Furniture | Aero Mock-Ups |Air Designs|Air Hollywood | E.C. Prop Rentals | Faux Library Studio Props | Hand Prop Room | History For Hire | Hollywood Studio Gallery | I Communications | LCW Props | Lennie Marvin's Propheaven | Lux Lounge EFR | Luxury Fabrics | Nest Studio Rentals | Objects | Omega Cinema Props | Pinacoteca Picture Props | Playback Technologies | Practical Props | Premiere Props | Prop Services West | R.C. Vintage |ReStore by Habitat for Humanity, Greater LA | Universal Studios Property | Warner Bros. Studios