Netflix's new limited series Hollywood, which stands as a revisionist retelling of Tinseltown's Golden Era is looking like a hit. Though it's only been on the streaming network for four days, the show has already hit the top 10 streamed projects according to executive producer Janet Mock. People have come to love the cotton candy drama that reimagines the actual histories of queer stars, giving them happier endings than the ones they lived. But the choices that series creator Ryan Murphy made were intentional, mostly arising from his own history.
“I wanted to do something specifically on three Hollywood icons who had, I believed, really been treated poorly,” Murphy told The Advocate in a recent interview. “That was Rock Hudson and Anna May Wong and Hattie McDaniel. I was very interested in them, even as a kid.” In the series, Wong and Hudson find their success, uncompromised by their identities while McDaniel functions as a bit of a mentor for a rising starlet, enjoying things she previously couldn't through her mentee's success.
“I was writing a lot about my own experience and my own pain and my own background in this piece, maybe more so than anything since I've done since The Normal Heart,” Murphy said. The Normal Heart is the 2014 film starring Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, and Joe Mantello based on the play of the same name. “When I came to town, the men in power could really give a shit about me. I was never mentored. It was the women who were the outsiders who said, 'You have something unusual; I'm going to give you an opportunity.'”
“That role [Avis] was me paying tribute to all of the women who have pushed my stuff through the system,” Murphy continued. Avis is played by Patti LuPone, a Murphy favorite. “In the case of Holland and Patti, I think it's a very powerful thing to write women as objects of desire and power, let alone, Holland and Patti are both in their 70s. People always put an expiration date on women.”
But the writing wasn't only influenced by Murphy's experience, it included Mock's as well.
“One thing that is tough for me as someone who comes from all of these different communities, as a femme, as a woman, as a trans person, a native Hawaiian, a Black woman, and as a former sex worker as well, is that I have to constantly try to validate my experience and why I'm worthy of voice and taking up space in this industry," she told The Advocate.
“If we were to say that back then in 1947-48, that that was the beginning of a revolution in terms of representation that now, baby Janet coming up in the industry, I would be able to just write, I would just be able to direct, I would just be able to create, then that's what I hope for every single creative out there, that they get to do that.” And it's something she ends up showing through the characters of Archie and Camille.