NEW YORK (AP) — In her new NBC limited series, “The Thing About Pam,” Renee Zellweger wears prosthetics and padding to appear heavier in the role of a convicted killer. It’s a decision that some critics have questioned, arguing a larger actor could have filled the role.
Zellweger famously gained weight twice for “Bridget Jones’s Diary” in 2001 and “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” in 2004. The character had settled into her goal weight (or Zellweger’s natural size) for “Bridget Jones’s Baby” in 2016.
The two-time Oscar winner chose prosthetics this time rather than to gain weight because her character is a real person whose looks, Zellweger believes, factored in to why she was initially not a suspect.
“We’re talking about a person who looks like somebody who we easily project our own beliefs onto about who she is: ‘Well, she’s clearly kind, and she’s clearly sweet and fun and funny and warm and thoughtful and a great friend because she’s always there and she’s always so generous.’ And we more easily dismiss anything that might be thought of in another circumstances, peculiar behavior.”
Zellweger says to match Hupp’s appearance this way left nothing to chance.
“I know the results of a ‘Bridget Jones’ experience and this is not a fictional character who’s up to my interpretation and just seeing what happens.”
The prosthetics process wasn’t an easier one because Zellweger also says she’s allergic to adhesive. “There’s a lot of chemicals involved in the application and removal of these prosthetics. You feel it.”
Zellweger portrays Pam Hupp, the best friend of Betsy Faria, a Missouri woman who was stabbed to death in her home in 2011. Police arrested Faria’s husband for the crime and he was found guilty after Hupp testified against him in court. He served three years and was exonerated in a second trial. Meantime, investigators circled around Hupp who was the last person to see Faria alive. She had convinced Faria to sign over a life insurance policy to her just days before she was killed.
To create a diversion for police, Hupp then posed as a producer for the NBC true crime series “Dateline” and paid a disabled man named Louis Gumpenberger to come to her house to create a fake 911 call. Hupp shot and killed Gumpenberger and told police he was an intruder. She tried to make it look like Gumpenberger was working with Betsy’s husband to steal her insurance money.
Hupp is now serving life in prison without parole for Gumpenberger’s murder. She was charged in 2021 with killing Faria and is under investigation in the murder of her own mother.
“Dateline” first produced an episode on the case, fronted by Keith Morrison, and later turned into a podcast. That’s how Zellweger first heard of the story. She was sent the podcast by a business partner and listened while on a long drive to the vet with her rescue dog, Chester.
“I binged that sucker,” Zellweger said. “I was talking to (the podcast) as if I was watching television and screaming at the news. I was talking to the radio and Chester kept lifting his head up, like, ‘Eh?’ because I’d be like, ‘No, no, no.’ And Chester’s like, ‘What? I’m just sitting here. Like, what?’ It was insane. At the end of it, you know, you find that you’ve asked yourself ‘why’ and ‘how’ a hundred times. I was really curious to explore that further. It just seemed like a really interesting project to dive into.”