It feels like just yesterday when Sarah Paulson publicly admitted regret in adding padding to play Linda Tripp for Impeachment: American Crime Story. Yet Renee Zellweger, star and producer of NBC's The Thing About Pam, is also fat-suiting up for the title role of Pam.
During NBC's Press Day last week, journalist Whitney Friedlander craftily asked the question many of us have been wondering since the first "Renee Zellweger Unrecognizable" headlines appeared about a week prior: Why cast Renee Zellweger in a fat suit instead of a fat actor?
Based on the 2011 murder of Betsy Faria, which resulted in her husband Russ’s conviction, this brutal crime set off a chain of events that would expose a diabolical scheme including several episodes of “Dateline NBC,” and a popular 2019 podcast, “The Thing About Pam”. Joining star Renée Zellweger is Josh Duhamel, Judy Greer, Katy Mixon, Glenn Fleshler, Gideon Adlon, Sean Bridgers, Suanne Spoke and Mac Brandt.
Chris McCumber, president of Blumhouse (and former president of USA Network & SYFY), responded to Friedlander's question, stating that when Two-time Oscar winner, Renee Zellweger, says she wants to play Pam Hupp, and produce the project, "I mean, you say, 'Yes, yes, yes, and yes.'"
While understandable, McCumber's statement makes financial sense, it's also deeply insufficient.
As writer Gennifer Hutchinson pointed out on Twitter, "If you [cast fat actors instead of using fat suits] consistently enough, those fat actors will become stars too and be just as bankable as the thin actors. But you have to give them those opportunities first." The reason we don't have any plus-size Oscar winners who could step into this role is because the industry does not give them roles that were literally calling for them. It's the same circular logic we see with disabled actors, trans actors, etc. When marginalized actors are only permitted to play roles within their community, those roles must be given to them. If you won't hire a fat actor in a "traditional" leading role, at the bare minimum they should be hired for the fat roles.
But honestly, McCumber's business-minded argument doesn't hold water. If Zellweger wanted to play Oprah, would he have said the same? Where is he drawing the line?