Interview with Actors Josh Duhamel, Renée Zellweger, Judy Greer, Glenn Fleshler; and producers Liz Cole, Jenny Klein and Chris McCumber of “The Thing About Pam” on NBC by Suzanne 2/11/22
This show is very well done, so I hope you can watch and enjoy it. It’s a sort of docu-drama, where real actors portray real people in their real situations (in this case, murder), but it’s also done with a slight bit of humor. It has a great cast.
I was very happy to be able to speak to Josh Duhamel, who’s one of my favorite actors. It was great to see Renée Zellweger and Judy Greer, too. Of course Renée is not only the star of the show, but she’s the most famous person in the show and in our panel. Greer does one of the voices on “Archer” on FX, so I’m quite familiar with her. She’s done a lot of other acting, as well. Almost everyone in the press asked Renée or the producers a question, so I was glad to be able to ask Josh one. I felt bad for the other actors that were ignored.
WINTER 2022 TCA VIRTUAL PRESS TOUR
NBC The Thing About Pam
Josh Duhamel, Talent, “Joel Schwartz”
Glenn Fleshler, Talent, “Russ Faria”
Judy Greer, Talent, “Leah Askey”
Renée Zellweger, Talent, “Pam Hupp”/Executive Producer
Liz Cole, Executive Producer/President, NBC News Studios
Jenny Klein, Showrunner/Executive Producer
Chris McCumber, Executive Producer/President, Blumhouse Television
Virtual via Zoom February 11, 2022
© 2022 NBCUniversal, Inc. All rights reserved.
“The Thing About Pam” is based on the 2011 murder of Betsy Faria that resulted in her husband Russ’s conviction, although he insisted he didn’t kill her. He was later exonerated. This brutal crime set off a chain of events that would expose a diabolical scheme deeply involving Pam Hupp. A thorough examination of the scheme was featured on several episodes of “Dateline NBC,” becoming one of the show’s most popular subjects. It also became the subject of a popular 2019 podcast, “The Thing About Pam,” which has been downloaded over 20 million times. “The Thing About Pam” will premiere Tuesday, March 8th, at 10 p.m., and run for six episodes.
Here was my question for Josh: “What can you tell us about your character, Joel?”
He replied, “Gosh, where do I begin?” He told us that he became “pretty good friends” with Joel “throughout this process.” The Joel in the TV show “was just a really fun character to dive into. He’s a defense attorney and has defended the worst of the worst, and I think [he] came into this expecting the same as what’s he done in the past, [which] is defending a guilty man, and [then] he quickly finds out that …Russell didn’t do this.” He enjoyed picking Joel’s brain about how “he evolved throughout the process.” At first Joel was just doing his regular job, but then he realized that his client was not guilty, so he was determined, “like, a dog with a bone” by the end of it. He “really took it personally and really wanted to see justice. And I think that that’s what was really fun for me.” He added, “You know, obviously, it wasn’t as much of a stretch, this character, as it was for Renée or, you know, Glenn, or even Judy, but it was really fun to sort of try to [act out] the frustration that he had to feel throughout this process [because it] was something that was [difficult], but at the same time, he was a really cool dude; never really lost his temper, except for a few times….Me, as Josh, I would have lost it several times, but Joel Schwartz didn’t.” What was interesting for Josh was figuring out how Joel handled that. “And so, he was a really valuable resource for me throughout this whole process, and turns out to be a really great dude.”
Of course, almost everyone wanted to speak with Renée, the star. First, she was asked about her return to TV, since she’s mostly done films. Renée answered that she really liked it. The pace and everything suits her. She said, “I love that it’s quick, and you have to think fast on your feet. Yeah, I enjoyed it a lot. Not so different from making the independent films. You know, you’ve got to make the most of the little bit of time that you have. So, it’s good training, I think, for independent films,” she laughed.
She was next asked to compare the role she played of Judy Garland in he 2019 film with playing Pam, since both were real life people. The reporter figures that she had more leeway to play Pam, since she’s not as famous.
Renée mostly agreed with what was said. There is a lot more material of Judy to use than Pam Hupp. She’s not sure that she has much more freedom to play Pam, since there is some information out there already, and they had to recreate her as best as they could so that people who were familiar with her could recognize her. She admitted, “Yes, of course, I could see that people project their own life experiences in making assumptions about the character of this person, whom they think they know. That felt important. And it’s pretty well established, her looks. So, we did what we could to come as close as we could.”
Renée was also asked how much the prosthetics, costumes and wigs affect her performance and whether those present any special challenges. Renée laughed at that question and said that most of them would agree that using those things benefit an actor as it’s “part of your toolkit that makes it …easier to achieve what it is that you’re trying to, in terms of telling someone else’s story.” Speaking as an actor, she said that “the further you are away from yourself, the safer you feel to explore.” All of the actors went through “pretty remarkable transformations” to represent the real people. She asked Judy if that was “half the fun.” Judy agreed that it does make it easier to act like the person when you “have all that stuff on” and that it is like you’re “hiding” and “don’t feel as vulnerable.” She added, “And the crew is always surprised to see what you really look like when you do show up as yourself.” She laughed.
Josh joked, “Personally, I loved the wig. It made me feel like I had a full head of hair again. Like Judy said, I looked like Tom Hanks in ‘Splash.'” Everyone laughed at that. Judy made a joke at her expense that “Splash” is “such a hip reference. I got my finger on the pulse, you know?” which evoked more laughter.
Renée was asked next what about the character or the writing brought her to the series.
Renée confided that the script hadn’t yet been written when she signed on to the project, but she wanted to be part of the process of creating the show from the materials that were available, such as the podcast and the episodes of “Dateline.” She said that it was “Thrilling to be …alongside to witness that.” She remarked that it was the kind of story that “you couldn’t make up.” She shared with us that she listened to the entire podcast “when I was driving up and down the 5 Freeway, going to take my dog to get his hip replaced up in San Francisco, and I couldn’t believe it.” She called it an “experience of escalating absurdities.” She felt it would make an interesting show and would also allow them to “discuss some really important, current, relevant social issues.” Some people laughed at this as well.
The next reporter asked the producers how they figured out what tone they wanted to use for the series, since it was true crime, and how they cast Renée, and how she had to change her looks to play Pam.
Producer Chris let us know that Renée was the one to call him: “I’ll say this, and I’ll keep it really simple: When a two time Oscar winner calls and says, ‘I’m obsessed with this story, and I want to play Pam, and I want to produce,’ I mean, you say, ‘Yes, yes, yes, and yes.’ And our job, at that point, is to, you know, provide Renée, and the rest of the cast, with all the tools that they need to embody these characters.” He concluded that it was an easy choice, with this cast.
Creator/Producer Jenny also added, “Yes, we’re so lucky to have Renée embodying this totally unique character, and on the show, a lot of the absurdity comes from Pam herself.” She addressed the question about the tone of the show. She described how they had to have a real balance between the tragic story and how it was “so disturbing and unspeakable,” as well as showing the “absurd details that Pam really did or said.” The heart of show, she relayed, was Betsy and her family, and “that grounding emotional center with Russ, or Betsy’s daughter, Mariah. And so, when you’re really feeling their raw pain and frustration, it can actually make Pam’s actions all the more upsetting. So, I’d say it’s a real push and pull between the levity and the drama. It’s like a hybrid.”
Chris praised Jenny’s pitch, where she described the tone of show using examples from “Fargo.” The dark streak of humor comes from Pam’s psyche.
Jenny admitted that she’d never seen someone like Pam on TV before. She’s “completely unfazed when caught in a lie, and changing her story so much. It almost creates like a game for the viewer, where they’re the only ones actually tracking Pam’s lies through her world because they’re the only ones taking in the show as a whole.”
They were also asked why this murder case was different from the others that they wanted to make it into this miniseries.
Jenny let us know that the cooperation between NBC and all of the reporting done by Dateline, along with the other production companies were what infused the horror and other elements into the show. She believes that, “it’s a true-crime story that, in some ways, won’t leave you feeling depressed, but will keep you on the edge of your seat because there’s so many twists and turns.”
Chris asked Liz to chime in on this particular question. Liz revealed that they’ve wanted to make a good script based on one of the “Dateline” stories. This story about Pam Hupp was the only one they considered because it’s so rich and resonates well with “Dateline viewers. She added, “when we first embarked on this, I don’t think I imagined, in my wildest dreams, that we would have Renée Zellweger staring as Pam, and the rest of the incredible cast, and, you know, working with Blumhouse has just been a joy. So, it’s been a wonderful partnership.” Chris agreed with those comments and praised the partnership.
Josh also put in his two cents, saying, “I can’t believe this hasn’t happened earlier” because he’s a long-time “Dateline” fan and remembered thinking that this story would make a great movie or TV show. He stated, “You wouldn’t believe this story if it weren’t true.” To this note, Liz added that they called their second episode “Stranger than Fiction.” She also jokingly said to Josh that they needed to send Josh his own “Dateline” hat. He replied, “Please do. And if you could have Keith Morrison send me a Christmas card every year, that would be great, too.” Liz postulated, “An audio card.” Then, Josh did a fantastic imitation of Keith Morrison, saying, “Merry Christmas, Josh”, so everyone laughed.
The next reporter asked two questions in one, even though we’re not supposed to do that. He or she asked whether any of the real-life family members were involved in creating the show, as well as asked Renée how she prepared to play such an evil person, when she’s not that way at all in real life.
Jenny replied that they took their responsibilities of bringing a real-life story to life seriously. They contacted many of the people involved with Pam Hupp’s case who knew her, and many spoke with them so that they could get the full story. However, she stipulated that they also had to make it a dramatic story for TV, so some of it is fiction. Renée added her answer to what Jenny said. Hearing about the real life Pam, seeing videos, reading books etc. helped prepare her for the role.
Renée was also asked about using prosthetics on the show to look like Pam. This type of process was pretty new to Renée, so she learned quite a bit about it. Apparently the pieces often fall off or turn into something else by the end of the day. She had to learn to act more with her whole body covered in these prosthetics. She had to learn a new skill. At the beginning of shooting, it took “about four hours” by prosthetic makeup designer & creator Arjen Tuiten and his team, but then because of his “genius,” they were able to cut it down to 2 1/2 hours. She found it to be quite “fun creatively.” Then she reflected that it might make her “a crazy person to find that fun, gluing stuff to your head every day, but I did find it fun.” She said that Judy also had some prosthetics, but Judy replied that she just put on a wig. Everyone laughed at that. Josh pointed out that she also had contacts to deal with.
Glenn added that he just had to sit there. He couldn’t imagine what Renée had to go through every day, spending hours putting the prosthetics on, and then “show up on set with the spirit that she had and has every day, it’s really remarkable.” He praised her quite a lot.
The next journalist asked about Renée’s accent and how she put on Pam’s attitude. He/she asked if Renée visited a lot of “convenience stores” to get more of a feeling for them (which seemed like kind of an odd question).
Renée said kindly that she loves to take road trips, so convenience stores are not new to her. She had a hard time getting the accent right, saying it was “elusive.” She found that even within the region she lived, Pam had a “peculiar” accent that was uniquely hers. She listened to a lot of recordings of Pam, repeating what she said until she got it right.
Next the producers were asked how they’re able to have the actors portray real-life people (other than Pam) – whether they have to be sensitive to how they are and whether they worry about having them be too comical or whether they get permission.
Jenny replied that they tried as much as possible to stick to the facts, which they had from court transcripts and video coverage (thanks to NBC news). She pointed out that “there’s certainly the law enforcement and prosecution side of the story that is very specific to this town and brings out one of our greater themes, which is about confirmation bias, and what happened to Russ Faria.”
They were also asked about what challenges they faced with creating a fictional story based on a pretty recent true story.
Jenny told us that the goal is to make the viewers feel heartbroken when they should be (about the families involved) and to also “recognize the absurdity” about it.
Chris jumped in to say that they also had the goal to make it a “really great entertaining piece of premium television.” He mentioned that it’s difficult in today’s TV landscape to get people’s attention and to create an event that will make the show break out from the other “millions of hours of shows.”
The producers were also asked about how they went about making this fiction and not just another retelling of the Dateline episodes or a podcast. Jenny praised their “amazing cast” for “bringing these people to life in ways that a podcast, by its nature, simply can’t.” They also “were able to just delve deeper into who Pam is” and really show the emotion of the story to the audience that those other outlets couldn’t do.
When the panel concluded, and the host said that the next panel would be for “Law & Order,” Josh joked, “Can I be on that one, too?” and Jenny replied, “No.” That ended the panel with more laughter. All that laughter is the sign of a great panel, and they also made a great show on top of that. It airs Tuesdays, 10/9c.
The Thing About Pam
Tuesdays on NBC (10-11 p.m. ET); Series Premiere: March 8
NBC’s “The Thing About Pam” is based on the 2011 murder of Betsy Faria that resulted in her husband Russ’s conviction, although he insisted he didn’t kill her. He was later exonerated. This brutal crime set off a chain of events that would expose a diabolical scheme deeply involving Pam Hupp.
A thorough examination of the scheme was featured on several episodes of “Dateline NBC,” becoming one of the most popular topics to ever air on the hit franchise. It also became the subject of a popular 2019 podcast, “The Thing About Pam,” which has been downloaded over 20 million times.
The series stars Renée Zellweger, Josh Duhamel, Judy Greer, Katy Mixon, Glenn Fleshler, Gideon Adlon, Sean Bridgers, Suanne Spoke and Mac Brandt.
“The Thing About Pam” is executive produced by Renée Zellweger, Carmella Casinelli, Jenny Klein (showrunner), Mary-Margaret Kunze, Scott Winant, Jessika Borsiczky, Liz Cole, Noah Oppenheim, Jason Blum, Chris McCumber and Jeremy Gold.
Blumhouse Television, NBC News Studios and Big Picture Co. will produce.
Pam Hupp, “The Thing About Pam”
Renée Zellweger stars as Pam Hupp in the NBC limited series “The Thing About Pam.”
Zellweger most recently starred as the legendary Judy Garland in “Judy,” winning the Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Critics Choice awards for the film.
She will soon begin production on the feature film “The Back Nine” in the role of a former golfer who set her clubs aside to make way for her husband’s pro career and raise her son, only to then turn pro during the “back nine” of her life. Zellweger serves as an executive producer on both “The Back Nine” and “The Thing About Pam” through her production company, Big Picture Co.
Zellweger is known globally for her starring role as the seminal British everywoman in the film “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” for which she received an Oscar nomination, and the sequels “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” and “Bridget Jones’s Baby.” She also earned an Academy Award nomination as convicted killer Roxie Hart in “Chicago” and won her first Oscar in the category of Best Supporting Actress for Anthony Minghella’s “Cold Mountain.”
After graduating with an English degree from the University of Texas, Zellweger made her feature film debut in Richard Linklater’s seminal coming-of-age film “Dazed and Confused.” Other film roles quickly followed, including “Reality Bites,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” and “My Boyfriend’s Back.” Zellweger soon after won the affection of audiences with her breakthrough role in “Jerry Maguire.”
Additional credits include “One True Thing,” “Nurse Betty,” “Me, Myself & Irene,” “White Oleander,” and “Cinderella Man.” She has also lent her voice to such animated features as “Shark Tale,” “Bee Movie” and “Monsters vs. Aliens” and made her television debut in the Netflix limited series “What/If.”
Joel Schwartz, “The Thing About Pam”
Josh Duhamel plays Joel Schwartz in the NBC limited series “The Thing About Pam.”
Duhamel most recently starred in the Netflix original series “Jupiter’s Legacy,” based on the comic series of the same name. Next up, he co-stars opposite Jennifer Lopez in “Shotgun Wedding,” which is slated for a summer release. Duhamel also recently wrapped the bank heist thriller “Bandit,” alongside Mel Gibson, and the action crime film “Blackout.”
On television, Duhamel is known for his role on the NBC drama “Las Vegas.” Additionally, he lent his voice to Nickelodeon’s Emmy Award-winning animated series “Fanboy & Chum Chum” and starred in several seasons of the long-running ABC soap opera “All My Children,” for which he received three consecutive Daytime Emmy nominations. Other recent TV credits include CBS’ “Battle Creek” and the J.J. Abrams mini-series “11.22.63” on Hulu.
Film credits include “Think Like a Dog,” “The Lost Husband,” “Love, Simon,” “Transformers” and “New Year’s Eve.”
Duhamel made his directorial debut at the 2019 Mammoth Film Festival with “The Buddy Games,” for which he also co-wrote, co-produced, and starred.
Russ Faria, “The Thing About Pam”
Glenn Fleshler stars as Russ Faria in the NBC limited series “The Thing About Pam.”
Fleshler recently played Randall in “The Joker,” opposite Joaquin Phoenix, and continues to recur on Showtime’s “Billions.” Previously, he portrayed the terrifying Yellow King on the first season of HBO’s “True Detective.”
Other TV roles include “Barry,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “For Life,” “Watchmen,” Waco,” “The Twilight Zone” and “The Night Of.”
In film, Fleshler has worked with A-list directors that include Barry Levinson, Woody Allen, Kenneth Lonergan, Tom McCarthy, JC Chandor, Todd Phillips and Andrew Jarecki. In the theater, he has worked with directors and playwrights that include Mike Nichols, Tony Kushner, Edward Albee, Tom Stoppard and David Hare.
Fleshler earned an MFA from the NYU Graduate Acting program.
Leah Askey, “The Thing About Pam”
Judy Greer stars as Leah Askey in the new NBC limited series “The Thing About Pam.”
Greer’s career in both film and television has been extremely prolific, with her appearing in nearly 200 roles to date, including the Blumhouse reboot of “Halloween, directed by David Gordon Green and starring Jamie Lee Curtis. She most recently filmed HBO’s limited series “White House Plumbers,” opposite Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux, and will be co-starring in “Reboot” from “Modern Family” co-creator Steve Levitan.
Greer’s feature credits include “The Descendants,” “Jurassic World,” Driven,” “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” and many others.
On the TV side, Greer’s many credits include “Archer,” “Kidding,” “Let’s Go Luna,” “Married,” “Arrested Development,” “Casual,” “Two and a Half Men” and “Masters of Sex.”
Greer made her feature film directorial debut in 2018 with “A Happening of Monumental Proportions.” The film premiered at the Bentonville Film Festival where it won the Audience Spotlight Award. Previously, she directed an AOL original short that documents the practice of Transcendental Meditation and how it has changed the lives of teachers and students who learned the practice from the David Lynch Foundation.
Executive Producer, “The Thing About Pam”
Chris McCumber is the President of Blumhouse Television. In his role, he oversees all aspects of the television business for the company, known for pioneering a new model of studio filmmaking: producing high-quality micro-budget films and provocative, award-winning television series.
The multimedia company is one of the most successful independent studios in history with more than $4.8 billion in collective box office receipts from its films and has produced over 150 films and television series.
McCumber oversees a development slate of more than 20 sold projects, with several in production for Netflix, NBC, HBO, Disney+, Peacock and Epix, including the ongoing series “The Horror of Dolores Roach.” Since joining the company a little over one year ago, he has secured rights to develop elusive and highly sought after IP, including Patricia Cornwell’s “Kay Scarpetta” series of books; the WWE’s first dramatic scripted series, “The United States vs. Vince McMahon”; and “Battersea Poltergeist,” based on the wildly popular BBC Radio 4 podcast. He was instrumental in Blumhouse Television and ITV America’s exclusive pact to produce unscripted, large-format television series, developing projects such as “Escape the Maze,” a genre-themed escape and competition format, and “Celebrity Castle,” based on the international hit “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!”
Upcoming is the highly anticipated NBC limited series “The Thing About Pam,” starring two-time Oscar winner Renée Zellweger; John Lee Hancock’s film “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” based on the Stephen King novel for Netflix; “Torn Hearts,” starring Katey Sagal and airing on Epix; and “Worst Roommate Ever,” a docuseries for Netflix.
Before being named President of Blumhouse Television, McCumber held several positions at NBCUniversal over a successful 20-year tenure, most recently as President, Entertainment Networks from 2016-20 overseeing the company’s USA and SYFY cable networks. Prior to that, he held several leadership roles at USA as Senior Vice President, On-Air Promotion and head of marketing before becoming President, USA Network, during which time USA remained the #1 entertainment network on cable for 14 consecutive years – the longest streak in television history – and launched top-rated and award-winning original programming, including “Mr. Robot,” “The Sinner,” “Suits,” “Chrisley Knows Best,” “The Purge,” “Monk” and “Psych.” McCumber also oversaw USA’s long-term relationship with the WWE, including the top-rated marquee programs, “Monday Night Raw” and “NXT.”
Before joining USA, McCumber was creative director for the media and entertainment practice at Lee Hunt Associates and Razorfish, where he led teams focused on brand strategy and creative solutions for linear and broadband entertainment companies. While there, he worked with more than 100 media brands, including NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX/News Corp, Disney, HBO, SiriusXM and Turner Networks
McCumber began his career at MTV Networks as associate producer before joining the on-air promotion team that launched Comedy Central. An accomplished commercial film director, he helmed 14 short films for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” titled “Fuzzy Memories by Jack Handy.”
McCumber is a government and law graduate of Lafayette College and currently serves on their Board of Trustees. He was recently named to Variety’s 2021 Dealmakers Impact Report alongside Blumhouse CEO and founder Jason Blum and Blumhouse President Charles Layton.
Executive Producer, “The Thing About Pam”
Liz Cole is the president of NBC News Studios, a new division of NBC News that produces premium documentaries, docuseries and select scripted programming. She is also the executive producer of “Dateline NBC,” the longest-running series in NBC primetime history.
Since launching NBC News Studios in 2020, Cole has developed and executive produced an array of premium documentaries and docuseries, including “Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11,” which screened at the Toronto Film Festival, and the upcoming “Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets,” which will premiere at SXSW next month.
Serving as executive producer of “Dateline NBC” since 2011, Cole is responsible for the production of all episodes, investigative reports, podcasts and special series. Now in its 30th season, the series airs across NBC, cable and in broadcast syndication, with hundreds of hours available to stream on Peacock’s Dateline 24/7 channel. The newsmagazine, which was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 2019, also reaches millions through its #1 podcasts and its showcast.
Cole has won six Emmy Awards. She is also the recipient of two Peabody Awards, three Edward R. Murrow Awards and two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards.
Cole graduated from Vassar College, where she co-founded the campus TV station, VCTV. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Christian Martin, and their two children.
Executive Producer, “The Thing About Pam”
Jenny Klein is executive producer and showrunner for NBC and Blumhouse TV’s limited series “The Thing About Pam.”
Klein is currently in a first-look deal with Blumhouse Television and was previously under an overall deal at Amazon Studios, serving as co-executive producer on the upcoming limited series “Daisy Jones & the Six.” Her past work includes Marvel’s “Jessica Jones” and “The Witcher” for Netflix, for which she co-wrote the #1 Billboard rock single “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher.”
Klein is from Skokie, Ill.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda