How did Emmy Rossum manage to embody someone who she herself describes as an "enigma"?
The short answer? A lot of research and one amazing dinner.
Rossum stars as Angelyne, the real-life figure who loomed large over Los Angeles in the '80s—literally, with billboards across the city—in Peacock's new series of the same name. "She was all anybody could talk about," Rossum told E! News' Daily Pop in an exclusive interview. "I think she's absolutely a fascinating icon. She's the original influencer...the first person to say, 'I'm going to be famous for who I am, not something that I do.'"
But even as Angelyne and her pink corvette rose to notoriety in L.A., the woman herself remained a mystery. "There are so many wild, often very contradictory stories that exist about her," Rossum said, "so our show is a very, very unconventional look at all of the different mythologies that are surrounding this trailblazer."
In order to sort out all the stories, Rossum went to work. Luckily, she's a "nerd when it comes to stuff like this."
"I read everything that I could about her, I listened to every piece of audio that I could find, every piece of video from every single interview or even a news piece that she had appeared in," Rossum recalled.
She also worked with several coaches to perfect Angelyne's patterns, dialect and movement. However, what really informed her performance was meeting the real-life Angelyne—something that Rossum described as "an out-of-body experience."
The meeting took place at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel—Angelyne's "lucky contract signing place," according to Rossum—and ended up lasting four hours.
"I think I was probably a little over-prepared by that point," Rossum said, admitting she was "very, very nervous" to be meeting the real Angelyne. "I had probably bought her meditation tapes on eBay and memorized every word of them; I listened to them falling asleep, listened to them in the bathtub."
So, Rossum arrived an hour early—only for Angelyne to be a no-show for awhile. At least, that's technically what happened. "She was on time but then ended up being an hour late because she was outside getting mobbed by fans selling merch out of the trunk of her car," Rossum recalled. "But I loved it. I could see it out the window." (And yes, she ended up purchasing a few pieces of merch herself after they finished dinner.)
That's not even the best part of the pair's meeting, though. According to Rossum, the first thing Angelyne said to her was, "So, why do you have such a hard-on to play me?"
Added Rossum, "I was like, 'That's exactly why.' She's a rebel, she's incredibly unconventional, she's powerful, she's hyper feminine. She's like pure fantasy but she's always in control. And I just told her from the heart how moving I find her life, her power, how original she is, what a kind of renegade I think she is and what I hope to achieve with this story, which is to embue it will all of the kind of magic and whimsy and fairytale storytelling that she has made her performance art of."
In return, Angelyne gave Rossum a helpful piece of advice for portraying her. "I'm a mirror," Angelyne said, according to Rossum, "so whatever you see, however me as an icon speaks to you, that's the story that you should tell."
Hear more about Angelyne and Rossum's transformation in the above E! News' Daily Pop interview.
Angelyne premieres Thursday, May 19 on Peacock.
(E! and Peacock are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)
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