“I will say when I first read it, I think I was scared of it,” reveals Jim Parsons about his role as real-life talent agent Henry Willson in the Netflix series “Hollywood.” The actor’s performance has earned him an Emmy nomination for Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor, his ninth career bid. Parsons previously took home four Best Comedy Actor Emmys for his role as Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory.” But as Parsons told us in an interview prior to the Emmy Nominations (watch above), playing Willson was a new and ultimately rewarding experience.
The role of Willson marked a dramatic departure for Parsons, both physically and emotionally. The actor spent hours in the makeup chair everyday, something that he says enhanced his ability to get into the character’s mind. “I just felt different after I came out of there,” he says. “I’d never been through a hair and makeup process like that. It was a very helpful, freeing thing that I had never experienced before.” Despite Willson being the complete antithesis of Sheldon Cooper, Parsons says that there was a certain connection between both roles. “Really, when I first started playing Sheldon on ‘Big Bang’ was probably the last time, certainly on camera, that I played a character that felt so colorful and complicated to me, at least, and full of possibilities,” he exclaims. “And again, once you get past the, ‘Oh, that’s horrible human behavior,’ for an actor it’s very fun to portray.”
When it came Willson’s bad behavior, which ranged from verbal abuse to sexual manipulation, Parsons went to great lengths to try to get at the source of Willson’s unhappiness. “I do think that there’s just no doubt having to protect himself from his own sexuality being revealed, living in a world that vilified him at several different turns, he knew that whether it was happening to him personally or not, that’s just the way of the world. I think that obviously can cause a self-hatred and help cause bad behavior in that way.”
Parsons says that he felt a very real connection between the series’s period setting and the entertainment world of today, particular in discussions of racial and gender inequality within the industry. “There’s something else going on in the air right now in Hollywood, in the world in general,” he explains. “And that felt good. That felt like something worth doing.”
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