HFPA in Conversation: Jeremy Pope On Rewriting Hollywood History

by Kirpi Uimonen Ballesteros June 10, 2020
Actor Jeremy Pope

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What if history could be rewritten?  In Netflix's limited series Hollywood Ryan Murphy reinvents the studio system of the 1940s. Two-time Tony nominee Jeremy Pope plays Archie Coleman, an aspiring screenwriter facing prejudice because of his race and sexuality. “This is a period piece and it is revisionist history. It’s a fantasy of what if. But a lot of the things that we were tackling and talking about feel very real. I’m being candid with you, it’s hard being a black man in this world and in our story a black man who has dreams and aspirations and wants to break those glass ceilings and create a lane of opportunity for his friends, his peers, his people that need to see something that is tangible,” Pope told HFPA journalist Greet Ramaekers on May 29 when this podcast was recorded.

Would the world be different if an openly gay black man would have won an Academy Award for writing 80 years ago? “Archie is being told to strip parts of himself or his name threatened to be taken off of something that he created. And I often wondered, wow, did that happen, are there things that came to pass that we don’t know if a person of color was behind but, in that time, it wasn’t acceptable.”

Pope moved from Florida to New York when he was 17, right after high school. “I was introduced to theater my freshman year of high school. I just loved the community of people I was with and I loved that storytelling experience so I went to New York to hopefully get more of those.”

And he did. After the success of the plays Choir Boy and Ain’t Too Proud he was introduced to Ryan Murphy who hired Pope for his first TV show, Hollywood. “When I was growing up my nickname was Mr. Hollywood. Hollywood was for me as a child, was the dream, was the goal. I feel like a lot of my family members were, that’s how you know you’ve reached success is when you make it in Hollywood. I didn’t know where I fit in in the madness of it all but I knew that that was a place that I hoped to work in and to find success in.”

Listen to the podcast and hear how he got his first acting job; how he felt when he got two Tony nominations in two different categories in 2019; how he met Ryan Murphy, how was it working with him on Hollywood and what he learned from him; how he feels about the sex scenes; what kind of research he did for his role; how the fictitious story resonates in modern time; what gives him hope; what was his childhood like; what kind of relationship he had with his father who is a pastor and bodybuilder; why moving to New York was important for his inner growth, finding his sexuality and shaping him as an actor; why music is his first love; what he is filming next with Ryan Murphy; with whom he wants to work in the future; and what he does for fun.