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Fact-Checking Pam & Tommy: Did Pamela Anderson Really Stand Up to Jay Leno Like That?

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Hulu’s limited series Pam & Tommy tells the real-life story of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s sex tape being stolen by electrician Rand Gauthier and circulated via the internet in the late ’90s — but not every scene the series includes actually happens. In episode 7, “Destroyer of Worlds,” airing this week, we finally see the second half of an interview with the show’s Jay Leno, played by Adam Ray, as Pam (Lily James) completes a press tour for her new movie Barb Wire. The whole Hulu series began with a close-up of James’ Pam after being asked by Ray’s Leno about the sex tape on-air: “What’s that like?” he asks, “You know — to have that kind of exposure?”

In this week’s episode, we finally see James’ Pam respond to that question about her and Tommy Lee’s (Sebastian Stan) sex tape: But how much of what she says is real? Much like how creator Robert Siegel handled Pamela Anderson’s miscarriage, the content is largely real, but the timing is fabricated for dramatic effect. Read on for how James’ Pam responds in episode 7 of the Hulu series and how it differs from what the real Pamela Anderson said to the real Jay Leno on air in the ’90s.

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In this week’s episode of Pam & Tommy, Pam answers Ray’s Leno like this when he asks what it’s like to have her sex tape out there: “What’s it like? It’s horrible. To have something so intimate stolen from you, something private from inside your marriage, and have it taken without permission and exposed to the world, it’s devastating. This is devastating to us.”

James’ Pam holds for a moment, letting Jay and the audience simmer in their discomfort, before breaking and turning the audience like she’d just cracked a big joke: “What?” she coos, smoothly letting Jay off the hook.

In real life, Pamela Anderson’s many interviews with Jay Leno never seem to have gotten quite this uncomfortable — but the exchange seen in episode 7 is essentially a combination of two appearances Anderson did on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 1996. The wardrobe for Lily James’ Pam is modeled after Anderson’s appearance in early 1996 (watch the clip HERE via YouTube), when she’s still pregnant with her eldest son Brandon Thomas Lee and she’s still promoting Barb Wire, as she is in the show. Both in real life and on Pam & Tommy, Jay Leno asks her about her pregnancy (though in real life, he also nearly gropes her while attaching a mic, a gag the show mercifully skipped). But their exchange about the sex tape is nearly all taken from a different interview later that year.

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Pam (Lily James) and Jay Leno (Adam Ray) HULU.

In that other 1996 interview (see the clip HERE via YouTube), Anderson calls Leno out for all the times he’s talked about her and Tommy Lee’s sex tape on the air, noting that husband Tommy Lee has been “taping them” (which tracks with Pam & Tommy showing Sebastian Stan’s Tommy up in arms over at least two different Leno segments), and in fact echoing the line from this weeks episode: “This is devastating to us.”

“You’re supposed to be my friend and you’re like, you jumped on the bandwagon, everyone’s making fun of us,” Anderson accused Leno on-air in 1996 (again, see HERE via YouTube.)

“I maybe told one little joke or something,” Leno hedges.

“One? Tommy’s been taping them. I’ve got it here,” Anderson counters — and they let a reel of Leno making jokes about her and Tommy Lee air. He continues to try to laugh it off, at which point she says — not quite as starkly as Lily James, but seriously enough nonetheless: “It’s not funny. It’s not funny. This is devastating to us.”

In 1996, the extent to which Anderson did stand up for herself in this interview is nothing short of miraculous, with no one around her to condemn the way Leno talked about her on the air or the widespread consumption of her stolen sex tape.  In 2022, we have a vastly different view of how Anderson was treated in 1996, as Pam & Tommy endeavors to point out week after week. But letting Lily James say things as Pamela Anderson that the real Anderson could not isn’t quite righting the wrong of our treatment of her. James’ passionate monologues as Pam about how she’s been judged and discarded end up feeling more like a defense of the show’s character than the real-life Anderson — and in the second-to-last episode of the series, as it casts about for its final defense of what this re-telling adds, the show has already begun to hint at the uncomplicated redemption it has in mind for all involved.

New episodes of Pam & Tommy are released on Hulu every Wednesday at 3 a.m. ET. 

How to watch Pam & Tommy for free

You can watch Pam & Tommy on Hulu for free by subscribing to either the ad-supported plan or the no-ads plan. With both plans, you can watch Hulu original and exclusive content any time you want for the first 30 days of your plan. After that, the price points will kick in. Hulu’s ad-support subscription means that you’ll watch your favorite shows and movies with some advertising interruptions from time to time. After your 30-day free trial, the $6.99/month (or $69.99/year) begins.

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But let’s say you’re not particularly keen on having ads interrupt your viewing time. Hulu’s no-ad plan is just a smidge more expensive. After your 30-day free trial, the no-ad subscription plan will kick in at $12.99/month. There is no annual option for this plan. Either way, you’ll get to watch Pam & Tommy for free for the first 30 days of subscription. And you can cancel at anytime.

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