This Netflix limited series takes place in a post World War II Hollywood, Los Angeles. The show re-writes history a little and focuses on a small group of actors and filmmakers trying to make it any way possible in showbiz which at the time was quite a different environment. Along the way these individuals struggle to break away from the norm and what is considered acceptable at the time. In a way each of them deals with risks for a chance at reaching their dreams. And at the heart of this series is that message; nothing is impossible and demand respect.
As the show starts most of the main characters come together to work on a new, and what becomes controversial picture, Meg. The story of the picture being produced is simple enough; focused around a female lead who jumps off the Hollywood sign, having felt she is meaningless and sees no hope for her future. While making this film some are met with resistance or hesitation to work on the project. Some thinking it will be a failure mostly due to the era and the way the industry operated at the time.
Working on Meg among others is a colored homosexual screenwriter Archie Colman (Jeremy Pope), Avis Amberg (Patti LuPone) who is the Jewish wife to studio head Ace Amberg (Rob Reiner), and colored female lead Camille Washington (Laura Harrier). These characters deal with hardships the most throughout the series because of their race, sexual orientation, and societies intolerance. But they are not alone in the face of adversity in Hollywood. Director Raymond Ainsley (Darren Criss), acting newcomer Jack Castello (David Corenswet), gas station owner Ernie West (Dylan McDermott), producer Dick Samuels (Joe Mantello), struggling actor Rock Hudson (Jake Picking) and homosexual agent Henrey Willson (Jim Parsons) round out the main cast.
While I enjoyed watching all the actor's performances there were a few that stood above others. Jim Parsons as Henrey is quite the departure from those who know him as nerdy Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. Henrey is a tough, vulgar, crude but committed forward talking agent for Rock Hudson. He is mostly intense in the portrayal of his character and it works. Patti LuPone (Penny Dreadful) is Avis, an ambitious and sassy mother and wife who struggles to be recognized as a valid woman of power. Joe Mantello as Dick, is a character that grew on me as the series went on; a producer whose frustrations with himself and the company wear him thin. Lastly, David Corenswet (Jack) and Jeremy Pope (Archie) are relatively unknown actors who I can see doing big things with their career. Early in the show both are soliciting sex as gas station employees working for charming entrepreneur Erine (Dylan McDermott). Archie is a screenwriter who, as many others, faces discrimination in and outside of work at ACE studios.
During the making of the film all involved are committed to see it through and know what the motion picture means not only to themselves but for the industry. Meg signifies a moment of change that is needed and overdue. Actress Michelle Krusiec speaks to IndieWire about playing the real-life character Anna May Wong, who was denied an Academy Award due to her race, “Is the industry really changing? The fact that little has changed from when [Wong] was around to today was really tragic and eye-opening.” In another episode Archie Colman speaks out regarding his homosexuality to partner Rock Hudson “All my life, I thought I knew the country I lived in, what it was always going to be… but now… I feel like this ain’t the place I thought it was.” Throughout the series are moments and dialogue like this, people hurting because of the treatment toward them and who they are.
Not only is Hollywood an interesting look behind the scenes of making a film, but more importantly it is about characters telling the world they refuse to hide, and that we are not alone. It is about bravery, being true to yourself, women’s rights, racial and LGBTQ equality and about people supporting each other when they are down. Freedom of expression in the face of censorship and racism. Working hard and ultimately making your dreams happen while fighting for them. That your story is important, and people want to hear it.
Alexis Martin Woodall
May 1, 2020
Hollywood is about bravery, being true to yourself, women’s rights, racial and LGBTQ equality and about people supporting each other when they are down. Freedom of expression in the face of censorship and racism. Working hard and ultimately making your dreams happen while fighting for them.