Underneath the big hair, the colorful makeup, and the expensive clothes, infamous televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker was a larger-than-life personality who had a soft spot for the LGBTQ+ community, and her story of compassion and allyship is finally being told in Searchlight Pictures' latest film The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
Full of heart and over-the-top (but in the best way), the new biopic chronicles the humble, triumphant rise and the hard, hard fall of the late Christian media personality (played by Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain). Alongside her first husband Jim Bakker (played by fellow Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield), Tammy Faye rose to national prominence in the '70s and '80s as the co-founder of The PTL Club (short for "Praise the Lord"), a Christian-themed news/talk show (and eventual TV network) that was very popular amongst middle America and shot her to fame and fortune!
Known for her big glam persona (not many "good Christian wives" wore bright makeup, sang songs, and flirted on national TV during those days), Tammy Faye was also a big supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and made TV history when she conducted a very compassionate and empathetic live interview with AIDS activist Steve Pieters.
Out got to sit down with the film's two stars, Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield, to discuss the complicated figure that was Tammy Faye, and what it was like bringing the story of such a beloved and passionate LGBTQ ally+ to the world.
"She just felt so connected to that community, and she felt so loved and supported," Jessica Chastain tells Out about Bakker's legacy as an ally, especially during a time when society was mostly silent about and ignored queer issues. "I think she knew what it felt like to be exiled and thrown out and told that you're undeserving of God's grace. And she didn't believe that that was true for anyone. And so she always reached out to those who felt that they were unworthy or denied acceptance."
"That was one of the first things I learned, that she meant so much and still does mean so much to the queer community. And it makes sense," Andrew Garfield said, speaking about learning just how much Bakker meant to older generations of queer folks. "She was someone that went towards the love, and as we know, that community is pure love. When they choose you, you are jumped in. You are included in the deepest way. She's perfect in terms of being an icon for all of us, but especially the LGBTQ+ community for all the reasons that we're aware of. She's just purely fabulous. And again, just this open, beautiful heart. It was a cool thing to learn more about that, for sure, with Tammy."
The Eyes of Tammy Faye is now playing in theaters.