The Thing About Pam Showrunner Promises 'Theatrical' Renée Zellweger Scenes

Pam Hupp was such a "convincing storyteller" that it was important for Renée Zellweger to "lure" listeners in the same way as her real-life counterpart, Jenny Klein told Newsweek.

The showrunner for The Thing About Pam explained how she used a method she dubbed "Pamvision" to convey the convicted killer's theatrical, over-the-top lies during the investigation into the 2011 murder of Betsy Faria.

NBC's true crime drama explores Betsy's friend Pam's involvement in the trial, which resulted in the wrongful conviction of her husband Russ, and its aftermath, including the death of Louis Gumpenberger.

Klein promised the show will be even more "theatrical" as it goes on by referencing the show's first episode, which sees Zellweger's Pam detail her "perfect" life in a dream-like sequence that begs belief.

Jenny Klein on How The Thing About Pam Will Continue

"In our research, we noticed that Pam often portrays herself as both the hero and victim of her own story and we wanted to set the table for that in the opening sequence of our pilot," Klein said.

"She has a way of touting her busy lifestyle, for example saying how $150,000 is 'not a lot of money' to her, prattling on to Detective McCarrick (as shown in episode 2, based on a real video) about her very full plate as a doting mother, a caregiving daughter, a businesswoman flipping houses, the many doctors she sees for her physical problems, which could ironically correlate to a laundry list of her schemes.

"Early in episode 1, we decided to capture these boastings in a stylized 'Pamvision'—visualizing Pam's hyperbolic way of telling stories—a device we use throughout the series that will become increasingly theatrical as our season goes on, as Pam's lies become more and more over the top.

"Pam is a convincing storyteller, luring in the listener not so much by what she says but how she says it, so unless we actually visualize the technicalities of her words, it's easy to get lost in her logic and just string along (as many did early on in the Faria case).

"So right off the bat, we wanted to make it clear that there's the story Keith Morrison is narrating, and then there's the way Pam sees things."

Praising Renée Zellweger's Transformation into Pam Hupp

Klein went on to hail Zellweger for being a "master at disappearing", particularly praising the Bridget Jones' Diary star for the hard work she put into portraying Pam because the devil was in the detail, so to speak.

"Renée is such a chameleon, she's a master at disappearing into any role she takes on, but I got to see first-hand how she is one of the toughest, hardest working people I've ever met," Klein told Newsweek.

"I'd come into the makeup trailer every morning to rehearse the day's scenes with her and the director, and Arjen [Tuiten, the show's Special Effects makeup artist] would be gluing silicon to her face as she's squinting at her phone screen, studying a courtroom video of Pam.

"The devil really was in the details with our show, and Renée was so dedicated to getting it right. She nailed Pam's emphatic way of 'talking' with her hands, her particular cadence of speech, her physical carriage.

"She is brilliant at finding character moments that were beyond the writing. She talked about how Pam was 'between the lines', where you can see Renée reveal Pam's authentic moments of calculation and calibration, the true scheming peeking out from the friendly mask."

Working with the Real People in the Betsy Faria Murder Case

Given how the show is based on true events it was important for Klein and her writing team to work closely with the real people involved in the case such as Russ Faria and his attorney Joel Schwartz, who are portrayed by Glenn Fleshler and Josh Duhamel respectively.

Klein said they "were lucky that many were willing to be interviewed, including people involved in both the Faria and Gumpenberger murder cases, and people personally close to Pam Hupp."

"Russ Faria, Joel Schwartz and Nate Swanson in particular were incredibly helpful sources as we explored this case on our show," she explained. "Russ, Joel and Nate visited the writers' room, and were swift to answer any questions that we had along the way.

"Details of the case, but character details too, like the fact that Joel plays guitar and is in a band. If we had more time on the show, there could've been a whole storyline with Joel's band of hockey dads!"

Klein also teased what's to come in future episodes of the show when she discussed the role Betsy's daughter Mariah (played by Gideon Adlon) had and the way they wanted to put her story into the spotlight.

"It was an honor to bring the story of Betsy Faria's resilient daughter Mariah to the screen," Klein reflected. "Her voice is one that hasn't been heard as much in coverage of this case, and it was important for Mariah to have a real voice on our show.

"As our limited series traverses a period of five years, Mariah will come into her own by the end of the season, and Gideon Adlon plays Mariah with such love and respect, the role felt safe in her hands."

Jenny Klein on the Fine Line Between Fact and Fiction

Klein also spoke about the way in which she and the writers tried to seamlessly blend fact with fiction, and the challenge with telling the story as truthfully as they could in just six episodes.

"Our show is a dramatic retelling based on real events, so we used creative license in some areas such as forming composite characters that represent the views of multiple people we interviewed, but we based scripts on fact as much as we could -- because the truth really was stranger than fiction in this case!" she exclaimed.

"For example, in episode 2, Leah Askey really did tell Joel to use Google to understand the raw data in Pam's cell records. That was from a pre-trial transcript, one of many in a treasure trove of public record material curated for us by NBC News Studios.

"The writers and I worked closely with Liz Cole, [the] President of NBC News Studios and Dateline producer Cathy Singer, who originally covered this case and served as a Consulting Producer on our show, to ensure that we had research to support key moments on the show."

Klein added: "This show was unlike any I've done before, where I'm literally interviewing our show's characters and what they're telling me is generating dramatic story.

"There were entire storylines we couldn't fit in our six 42-minute episodes, which was a bummer, and contributed to some of our fictionalized elements like condensing timelines.

"Areas we fictionalized were usually a result of building out a character's emotional arc for an episode."

Likening The Thing About Pam to Jurassic Park, she went on: "This may be a strange analogy, but it's made me think of the animated Mr. DNA 'making a dinosaur' sequence in Jurassic Park, where you have your basic building blocks for dinosaur DNA, or in our case, the DNA of the real events, but to make a dinosaur they had to fill in the blanks with frog DNA, while we filled ours with fictional blocks to create a complete emotional strand for the viewer while keeping it as faithful to the research as possible."

The Thing About Pam airs every Tuesday at 10 p.m. on NBC.

The Thing About Pam
The Thing About Pam
The Thing About Pam
The Cast of "The Thing About Pam"

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