“Pam & Tommy” is one of the few true-story-based television shows where the more bizarre the storyline point, the more likely it was to actually occur. Rand Gauthier was pursued by a biker gang, sent by Tommy Lee? Yes, in the opinion of some parties. Did he include a chapter in his autobiography that was written from the viewpoint of his talking penis? Yes, again. Pamela’s audition background, though, is one narrative detail that may have used a little creative licence in the limited series’ purposefully depressing finale.
It’s entirely plausible that the real-life Pam Anderson tried out for the parts of Elizabeth Hurley in “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” and Kim Basinger in “LA Confidential,” but there is no online evidence of either audition. More likely, the creators of the series choose two roles that would best represent the kind of part Pamela would have left for at that time. Although she would have been a fantastic “Bond girl” parody, Pamela actually came very close to landing a completely different kind of role in the 1990s.
I Want To Believe in Pamela as Scully
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that “The X-Files” actor Gillian Anderson claims Pamela Anderson was first approached about taking on the role she ultimately assumed. From 1993 until 2018, Gillian Anderson intermittently portrayed the witty, sceptic special agent Dana Scully, bringing to life the role in 217 episodes and two feature films. It’s also important to keep in mind that “The X-Files” was created when “Baywatch” was still young, prior to Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s explosive marriage.
According to Gillian in 2008, “They were searching for someone bustier, taller, and leggier than me.” Pamela was a character they were more accustomed to seeing on television at the time. Pamela Anderson hasn’t addressed whether Fox approached her or not, but given that she’s working on a Netflix documentary, perhaps we’ll soon hear her side of the tale.
Gillian didn’t comment on how Pamela playing Scully might have affected the show, but she did seem to believe that the network’s initial lowball offer for the “Baywatch” actress was evidence of their initial lack of confidence in her, saying:
“They couldn’t fathom how David and me could equal success. At the beginning, nobody trusted that I could do anything. I had no body of work behind me at all, and, certainly Fox felt very strongly that I wasn’t the right person for the job.”
It’s difficult to picture Pamela as Dana Scully, despite the fact that she had a more established career at the time “The X-Files” was produced. “Pam & Tommy” undoubtedly shows that the actress may have been underrated in her acting career before the stolen honeymoon footage sparked a wave of institutional misogyny that reduced her job prospects. Her blonde, glossy appearance and upbeat demeanour contrast sharply with Gillian Anderson’s authoritative, no-nonsense portrayal of Scully.
Another flavor of ’90s sexism
The toxic concoction of still-current Hollywood misogyny that is on full show in “Pam & Tommy” gains yet another dimension as a result of this incident. In the series, Pamela is shown to be passed over for roles because she is now perceived as being too sexual; though casting directors don’t explicitly tell her this, it is obvious that they are applying the same reasoning the Penthouse lawyers did, as she explains. She argues that since people can’t just claim that sexually assertive women don’t have rights, “they say something else instead” to justify their actions toward her. The flip side of the sexist argument is Gillian Anderson’s claim that Fox blatantly desired a different body type for “The X-Files” cast member.
Many viewers of “Pam & Tommy” have expressed the reflexive opinion that although times have changed much since the 1990s, superficial and judgmental casting calls are still taking place. Actress Joey King went up to Refinery29 in 2019 about being informed that she wasn’t pretty enough for a role, while actor Andrew Garfield recently spoke out about passing up a significant role due to his appearance. In Hollywood, colorism is a frustratingly pervasive problem that affects actors of colour.
This “The X-Files” anecdote could be interpreted as the story of two Andersons, whose professional paths were divided by two gendered stereotypes. However, it is obvious that this narrative and the film “Pam & Tommy” itself illustrate contemporary challenges in the industry that go well beyond these two accomplished women.