RED HOT HOLLYWOOD
- By Dennis Petrone
- Photo Courtesy of Netflix
What if you could rewrite the story? That’s the question executive producers Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan pose to audiences as they delve into the lives of a cast of characters not just seeking to become a part of Hollywood’s glitterati of the 1940s, but rather to shape it! Murphy calls the show his “love letter to the Golden Age of Tinseltown,” and in staying true to his brand of portraying the traditionally under-portrayed, Hollywood, he adds, is really an “aspirational tale of what ifs.” What if a black writer could script a blockbuster, a black actress could become a star, an interracial couple could be revered as the talk of the town, or gays could be out and proud on the red carpet? The limited series of seven episodes released through Netflix on Friday, May 1st is the escape everyone needs right now. Set in post-WWII Los Angeles, Hollywood follows a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers — some based on real people, some imagined — as they try to make it in Hollywood.
Real people featured in the story include: Henry Wilson (Jim Parsons of Big Bang Theory), a talent agent largely credited with creating what’s known as the “beefcake craze” of the 1950s; Rock Hudson (Jake Picking of Patriot Days and Top Gun: Maverick), the prominent heartthrob of Hollywood’s Golden Age; Hattie McDaniel (superstar Queen Latifah), a stage and screen singer-songwriter best remembered for playing Mammy in Gone with the Wind; and Anna May Wong (Michelle Krusiec, Hawaii Five-0) who’s considered to be the first Chinese-American actress to gain international recognition.
A whole slew of star-studded giants make up Hollywood’s cast of imagined characters. To name just a few there’s Darren Criss (The Assassination of Gianni Versace, Glee), Dylan McDermott (The Practice, American Horror Story), seasoned actress Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men, The Truman Show), Broadway legend Patti LuPone (Evita, Les Misérables), Joe Mantello (Angels in America), and comedian Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally, The Princess Bride).
Hollywood carries with it all the magic of contemporary legend Ryan Murphy. Murphy’s unique creative lens and voice on the industry has earned him more than just accolades, it’s earned him the respect of the communities he chooses to represent. Representation and visibility in television, film and media matters. When kids grow up not seeing people like themselves, or worse, seeing poor depictions of the people with whom they identify, it can adversely affect an entire community’s sense of self. Murphy has shown time and time again how his aptitude and passion for busting stereotypes and elevating communities can change hearts and minds.
Nip/Tuck was Murphy’s first critically-acclaimed television series. But it was with Glee, which followed, where he started to really find his stride. A whole generation of young people who thought of themselves as misfits tuned in each week to see how students of William McKinley High School’s glee club would manage against the bullies (think the famous slushy in the face) to win the day. Mercedes (Amber Riley) owned her bodyweight. Rachel (Lea Michele) learned to value the size of her nose. Kurt (Chris Colfer) allowed himself to truly love! It’s these simple stories that struck a chord with audiences and won Murphy the day. Another decade of producing critically-acclaimed programming led him to his most recent hit series, Pose, which tells the story of the trans community in New York’s now-famed drag-ball culture of the 1980s.
It’s not only Murphy’s work that earned him his place, though. It’s his character and tenacity. He once told an interviewer at a Paley Center for Media on-stage event that his mantra has always been that he’s not afraid of rejection, and he’s not afraid of no. Hollywood reminds all of us out there trying to make it to do what others say can’t be done. Stay true to who you are, not who you’re told to be. And most importantly, take your shot!
“Hollywood” is now streaming on Netflix.