The Thing About Pam starring Renée Zellweger

“I’d never thought about that before, [that I was] slow coming to TV,” she says. “I think it was just circumstance, I think I was just intentionally not busy and then really busy. And I think that’s just it, but [regardless of the medium] good is good. Think about some of the fantastic television programs that were on the 90s. I guess if any of those had come my way, it might have been a different decision. I don’t know.”

One central thread that mattered to Zellweger was the project’s faithfulness to the public record, and also to its source material, a series of Dateline television reports and an original podcast, The Thing About Pamproduced by Dateline‘s Keith Morrison.

“I wanted to play the person represented in the podcast and in the public record, I didn’t want to deviate from that.”

Renee Zellweger

“We did our best to stick to the facts of the public record and to what was presented by Dateline in both the podcast and the program. We stuck to the book, so to speak,” Zellweger says. “There are always, I guess, creative liberties that are taken from timing; you condense certain things and that the timeline gets a little bit moved. And sometimes one character represents a few.

“But in our case, I think we were pretty straight, and we had to be for legal reasons because this is an ongoing case that is not resolved. So there’s a different kind of responsibility that comes with telling a story like this one. License is not exactly something that flourishes in an experience like this.”

For the project, Zellweger says she focused on the script and the podcast. “What’s on the page is essential because you can only say so much in between the lines. What’s between the lines is also crucial obviously, but every resource is invaluable.

“So they were essential tools,” she says. “I watched [the doco] and listened to [the podcast] all the time. Just to form clothes, for little gestures, how she is in whatever way, she’s animated, how she carries herself, how she articulates, what’s her inflection. Her gestures and manner.”

Emily Topper as a young Pam.Credit:Skip Bolen/NBC

What she did not do was meet Hupp herself. (Hupp is presently in Chillicothe Correctional Center, in the US state of Missouri, serving a sentence of life without parole.) I point out to her that her co-star Josh Duhamel met his real life counterpart, for example, and the two became friends. But no meeting was offered to her and Zellweger did not request one.

“It didn’t occur to me that would be that would be useful or correct,” Zellweger says. “I wanted to play the person represented in the podcast and in the public record, I didn’t want to deviate from that. I felt that in some way, I don’t know that, I might compromise it [by meeting with Hupp].

“I just wanted to be respectful. And it felt that if I relied on what was there and what she herself had presented as the narrative and the facts then I would do no harm,” Zellweger adds.

How people will react to her in the role, she cannot say. “After I did Dorothy Boyd in jerry maguire, I got hugged a lot by strangers. And with Bridget Jones, there was an expectation [from people, when meeting her] about my physicality. But I am not sure about this.

“There is a certain energy that you take in the moment when you’re telling a story, just because certain things become habits. The way you carry yourself becomes a habit, the way you communicate becomes a habit,” she says. “People certainly react to that subconsciously. But I don’t guess that people’s perceptions are any of my business.”

The Thing About Pam is on 9Now. Nine is the owner of this masthead.

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