“I think Archie’s mission in Hollywood initially is he wants to break the mold,” declares Jeremy Pope about his character of Archie Coleman on Netflix’s “Hollywood.” The limited series from Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan stars Pope as an aspiring screenwriter hoping to break into the 1940s film industry that won’t accept his skin color or his sexuality. In 2019 broke the mold on Broadway by becoming the first male actor to earn two Tony nominations in the same year for roles in a play and a musical: a Best Actor in a Play nomination for “Choir Boy,” and a Best Featured Actor in a Musical nomination for “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Pope above.
Pope admits that there was a great deal of secrecy surrounding the project initially, which made his audition even more of a challenge. “I knew nothing,” he says. “There was no script. It was very vague, so it was very hard to invest in the character and figure out what it was that they were asking for.” After winning the role and then meeting with Ryan Murphy, Pope says he saw certain parallels between Archie and another Black writer of the era. “I’m a huge fan of James Baldwin, a huge fan of his mind,” he exclaims. “In the forties man, that’s two strikes. You have this black man and then he’s openly gay. So I was like, he has to be bold, he has to be daring…and bold and daring to me is James Baldwin.”
Along with that sense of boldness and daring, Pope describes Archie as being rather vulnerable considering everything that the character is investing into his dream. “He wants to be the first person that writes a picture for all people and not just race pictures, which is what most Black writers were doing, ” he states. “There is the very soft and sensitive side to him because he doesn’t have much and this is kind of everything, and he’s sacrificing so much of himself. He’s putting so much of himself out there in order to see that dream.”
Pope emphasizes the importance of the romance between Archie and a young Rock Hudson (Jake Picking). “We really had to trust each other,” he explains. “We had those conversations about how these characters are ambitious and they’re going after their dreams. But we needed a sense of home, of what was home for them, and I feel like they found home within each other.” The romantic scenes between Archie and Hudson were the first scenes Pope and Picking shot together, which helped build the trust that was crucial, Pope says, for the relationship to be authentic. “It kind of set the precedent for how we worked together moving forward, and it was just beautiful. It was beautiful to have that organic relationship with someone off the bat.”
Pope sees the series as as a glimpse into a larger world of opportunities for minorities. “I think that is the message,” he says. “We watch the black kid up and cheering. We watch an Asian family up and cheering. We watch so many different demographics of people just rooting for these singular people to win because it’s bigger than just their win. It’s opening up a door and a light to the community, to this suppressed community that doesn’t get shown a lot of love, especially in the time of the forties.”
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