Netflix's Hollywood Cast Talks Rewriting the Movie Biz's Oppressive History
The 'Hollywood' Cast Talks Rewriting the Film Biz's Oppressive History
Darren Criss, David Corenswet, Laura Harrier, and the rest of the cast talk to PRIDE's Raffy Ermac about starring in Ryan Murphy's new Netflix series Hollywood!
What if you could rewrite the story? That's the question Ryan Murphy's latest Netflix limited series, Hollywood, wants to answer.
A revisionist take on the golden era of the film industry, Hollywood stars an ensemble cast of characters from diverse lives, identities, and backgrounds who share one common goal: wanting to be someone. And one of those someones is a man named Raymond Ainsley (played by Emmy-winning The Assassination of Gianni Versace and Glee star Darren Criss), an aspiring Filipino-American film director who uses his white-passing privilege to create movies written by and starring marginalized people who never really got a chance to break out into the business, like gay, Black screenwriter Archie (Jeremy Pope) and real-life Asian-American actress Anna May Wong (Michelle Krusiec).
"I think Raymond, because he does have an Asian-American or Asian heritage, he takes this as sort of his own personal crusade to use this 'white-passing' access card as a means to battering ram the door down and fight this kind of social justice fight for other Asian-Americans or people that have been historically marginalized," Criss told PRIDE.
Speaking of the similarities between his Hollywood character and creator Ryan Murphy, who has been bringing marginalized people in-front of and behind the camera for his entire career, Criss said, "his M.O. is not too dissimilar from that of Ryan Murphy's, who uses film as a way to push culture forward, in a direction that is more representative of what the world looks like, and he's always looking out for the underdog and the people who's stories have not been able to be told, which is just like Raymond."
Another character who is trying to make it big despite systemic setbacks is studio actress Camille Washington, played by Spider-Man: Homecoming and BlacKkKlansman's Laura Harrier. Camille (who also happens to be Raymond's girlfriend) wants to be a leading lady but is frustratingly typecast in minor, background roles (like a maid) because she's Black. It isn't until the heads of Ace Studios (a team of two women and a gay man) give her a shot at a role in Raymond's upcoming film that she gets to finally live out her dream and be recognized for her work, something many actresses of color are still fighting for to this day.
"I was really honored to be able to play Camille, not just to be part of the show, but to be a piece of telling the stories of so many women of color throughout the years who have been marginalized and haven't been able to reach the success that they deserve or haven't been recognized for their achievements," Harrier said. "I think everyone in this story, be it women or the LGBTQ community or people of color. It's really about telling everyone's stories and acknowledging everyone."
While many people struggled in the industry, there's the lucky few that made it relatively easily, like lead character Jack Costello (played by The Politician's David Corenswet), a gigolo and aspiring movie star who, despite being not that great of an actor, is given a shot at his big-screen dreams via a studio contract. (It's no coincidence that Jack happens to be a conventionally attractive, straight, white man.)
"Over the course of the show, Jack learns that while he sees these young people as talented, you know, with potential, and he sort of doesn't see why they shouldn't get ahead, he gets to learn more about the different obstacles that they face and the extra struggles that they have to endure to overcome," Corenswet told PRIDE about getting to play a character who tries to use his privilege to help his Hollywood friends. "It's also really fun to be able to play the character who then joins that team, and says, 'You know, I'm gonna help you overcome in whatever way I can.' In the end, everybody's helping each other out and elevating each other, and lifting each other up."
Although the story of Hollywood is an inventive reimagining of the movie business in the past (sadly, there's no way queer people, people of color, and women would have gotten the kinds of opportunities they got in the series in real-life 1940s America), Emmy winner Holland Taylor (who plays Ace Studios executive Ellen Kincaid) hopes the series serves as a beacon to show people what diversity can bring to the entertainment industry in the future.
"It's sort of a reverse mechanism, by showing something that did not happen, and making you have a sense of rue and a sense of loss about an opportunity missed," Taylor said. "If it had been that way, if people have had that extraordinary courage 60 years ago, and so, we see what it might have been. But it wasn't that way, and so you experience a kind of sadness and rue and a sense of loss and when you ever have those feelings, that maybe makes you behave differently as you go on in life and you bring perhaps more sense into not wanting to miss opportunities, to exhibit courage in small ways every day and be more aware of others."