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“I, like many people in Los Angeles, was driving the streets for years seeing these billboards and was just so drawn to this iconic image and wondering who is this woman?” remembered Emmy Rossum at the May 10 premiere for her new Peacock show Angelyne, in which she stars as the L.A. personality famous for her self-promoting ads.
She continued, “The more that I learned about her, the more mystery there was with her and I just thought, wow, what a conundrum — how can you be so known and yet so unknown at the same time? And I think she’s kind of done the impossible in a town that’s so fickle: maintain her fun and her fantasy and the joy that she brings everyone in this town, driving around in her hot pink Corvette, and maintain her popularity for over five decades.”
The Shameless actress, who also serves as an executive producer, spent four years bringing the show — based on a 2017 Hollywood Reporter feature by Gary Baum — to life, along the way undergoing a drastic transformation into the iconic blonde and learning to master her voice through hours listening to Angelyne’s meditation tapes. There was also a sit-down meeting with the woman herself, who had some early involvement in the series but was out by the time production began.
“The one thing she told me was that she’s a mirror, so whatever I saw in her that’s the story I should tell and therefore it would be my story and not her story. And I thought that was so empowering,” Rossum told THR. As for what she thinks Angelyne will think of the show, the star added, “I hope that she knows that this is a love letter to the fun and fantasy and the hot pink, Corvette-driving enigma that she is. I hope more people fall in love with her and appreciate her for what a trailblazer she is as the precursor to social media.”
Angelyne — who for decades has been promoting herself and her image on billboards, on merch she sells from the back of her famous car, in previous runs for governor and now, on social media — has been pointed to as the first socialite and influencer, famous for being famous long before the creation of Instagram.
“She understood the power of her image and the fierce control and preservation that that living, breathing performance art needs to survive. She was creating a fantasy and has perpetuated that for decades,” said Rossum, while co-star Alex Karpovsky, who plays a reporter inspired by Baum in the series, called her “the O.G., the first person to promote not a product but to promote her personality and her presence.”
“Her impact is undeniable, and the fact that she did it in an analogue world is that much more impressive,” he added. Rossum’s physical and vocal transformation was also the talk of the carpet, with co-star Hamish Linklater calling it “bone-deep, it’s in her voice and the way she moves,” and director Matt Spicer remembering just how immersed in the character she became.
“It’s so weird because I had a meeting with Emmy before we started shooting, and that was the last time I saw Emmy until we wrapped,” he said. “It was like she was a different person. Even on set, she’d keep doing the voice and stuff to just not lose it, since it’s so specific, and she just looks completely different.”
“There’s a real uncanny valley quality to the whole thing,” described actress Molly Linklater. “She kept up that attitude even off camera and it was sort of intimidating, as my character and as myself, to interact with her. She has this presence as Angelyne the billboard queen.”
Angelyne is now streaming on Peacock.
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