For the new NBC limited series "The Thing About Pam," Renée Zellweger transformed into Pamela Hupp, a Missouri woman whose story has inspired a popular podcast, multiple books, and now a TV show starring a two-time Oscar winner.
True crime aficionados may already be familiar with the many twists of Hupp's story. In 2011, Hupp allegedly murdered Betsy Faria, a woman she claimed was her best friend, in a bid to collect insurance money. Prosecutors allege Hupp framed Betsy's husband, Russ Faria, who was sentenced to life in prison and served three years before an appeal and retrial set him free. Hupp is currently serving life in prison for the 2016 murder of Louis Gumpenberger. She was charged with Faria's murder in 2021.
But what really is "the thing about Pam" that has inspired such fascination? Zellweger first encountered Hupp's story through the podcast, which she listened to while driving to get her dog's hip replaced, per an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “Like millions of people, I listened to the podcast and was riveted,” Zellweger told TODAY. Those long car rides sparked Zellweger's inspiration to produce the show — and star as Hupp.
Below, find out how the rest of the cast — which includes Judy Greer, Josh Duhamel, and Glenn Fleshler — also transformed into their real-life counterparts for the series.
Renée Zellweger as Pam Hupp
Renée Zellweger is no stranger to transforming for a role. Recently, she donned a brown wig and prosthetic teeth to become Judy Garland in the biopic "Judy," for which she won an Academy Award.
But her role in "The Thing About Pam" required a special sort of commitment: Zellweger began her days on set with up to four hours in the makeup chair. Speaking to TODAY, Zellweger called Arjen Tuiten, the makeup artist who helped her become Pam Hupp, a “genius magician.” Tuiten spent at least 80 minutes of applying prosthetics on her cheek, chin, nose, and neck, before moving on to applying makeup and a wig.
"(Pam) doesn't really seem like the prototype of a person you would suspect of any wrongdoing ... she looks like someone all of us know," Zellweger told TODAY.
Zellweger also wore body padding in an effort to make her resemblance to Hupp as "accurate" as possible, she told Entertainment Tonight.
When asked for a reason as to why producers didn't cast an actor who already fit Hupp's physical description, Blumhouse Television’s Chris McCumber said "The Thing About Pam's" success rested on Zellweger's talent and commitment to the role.
"In this era of peak TV, having an artist of Renée’s caliber is an incredible advantage. When a two-time Oscar winner calls and says, ‘I’m obsessed with this story, and I want to play Pam, and I want to produce,’ you say, ‘Yes, yes, yes and yes.’ And our job, at that point, is to provide Renée, and the rest of the cast, with all the tools that they need to embody these characters," McCumber said at TCA, per Variety.
Glenn Fleshler as Russ Faria
Glenn Fleshler, known for his roles as George Remus on "Boardwalk Empire" and Errol Childress on "True Detective," plays Russ Faria, Betsy's husband of over 10 years.
Katy Mixon as Betsy Faria
Like Zellweger, Mixon used prosthetics as part of her transformation into Betsy Faria. After her makeup and prosthetics were applied, the team also ensured Mixon's wig was as similar to Faria's real hair as possible. The team had seen images of Faria sporting a perm and straight bangs, and replicated the look almost exactly, per Variety.
Josh Duhamel as Joel Schwartz
Josh Duhamel — who you may know from "All My Children," "Safe Haven," "Transformers" and more — gives a striking performance as Joel Schwartz, the primary defense attorney who first believes Russ is guilty, before finding out more about his client.
Judy Greer as Leah Askey
Judy Greer, known for roles in "13 Going on 30," "Grey's Anatomy" and more, plays Leah Askey, the prosecutor in Lincoln County, MO who tried Russ Faria twice for his wife's murder.
CLARIFICATION (March 15, 2022 at 10:20 p.m. ET): This article has been updated to clarify that a charge against Pam Hupp for the murder of Betsy Faria remains pending. Hupp has pled not guilty.