Telling a revisionist history of Tinseltown in the 1940s, new Netflix drama Hollywood delves into lives of acting greats, from Rock Hudson, to Hattie McDaniel and Anna May Wong. However, the show portrays their lives alongside fictionalised characters, such as half-Filipino aspiring film director Raymond Ainsley (Darren Criss) and Second World War veteran Jack Castello (David Corenswet).
Doubtlessly entertaining, it’s an odd mix, one that could leave viewers asking a key question: how real actually is Hollywood?
Answer: very. At least, that’s according to showrunner Ryan Murphy, who recently revealed the meticulous research into depicting the show’s real-life characters.
“We were very, very careful, however, that anything involving them was very heavily researched and vetted,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
“For example, the Hattie McDaniel [Queen Latifah] stories about the Academy Awards and not being let in — we checked and double-checked the details, down to the colour gardenias she wore in her hair. We were very, very specific.”
A similar level of research was conducted for Anna May Wong, the Chinese-American actress played by Michelle Krusiec, and her audition scene.
“We found bits and pieces of her screen test that we studied,” explained Murphy. “At one point, I was looking at seven different accounts of people who had been in that screen test and talked about how she was told she didn’t get the part. So we recreated all of that very painstakingly.”
The writer also said stories of Rock Hudson (portrayed by Jake Picking) were based on several witnesses, “down to the very idea that Henry Willson made Rock Hudson pull out all of his teeth and wear false teeth and caps because Henry just didn’t think he could be a movie star looking the way that he did”.
Murphy added: “We spent a lot of time making sure that all of that Hollywood lore stuff was very, very true.”
Wanting to find out more about the backstory of Hollywood’s main characters? Thought you’d ask: that’s why we put together a guide to the real-life story of Rock Hudson and Henry Willson.
Hollywood is available on Netflix now. Check out what else is on with our TV Guide.