How Emmy Rossum Transformed Into Mysterious Hollywood Icon 'Angelyne' (Exclusive)

The star and executive producer talks to ET about bringing her passion project to life on Peacock.

Emmy Rossum transforms into Angelyne, the enigmatic blonde Hollywood icon, in Peacock's latest limited series, which drops Thursday, May 19. A passion project for the actress and executive producer, the series -- which she's worked on for four years -- explores "fame, identity, survival, billboards, Corvettes, lingerie, men, women, women teasing men, men obsessed with women, West Hollywood, crystals, UFOs and most importantly of all, the self-proclaimed Rorschach test in pink, glow-in-the-dark queen of the universe, Angelyne."

"This is absolutely a dream project," Rossum told ET's Lauren Zima. "I first saw Angelyne's billboard when I was about 13 years old driving around L.A. in a Hertz rental car with my mom to auditions. And it was this image of this woman who had captivated an entire city through her image, through her billboards, who drove around in a pink Corvette spreading joy like the unicorn of L.A."

"Everywhere she went, she makes people smile and lifts the spirit and there's something also incredibly profound about her power in that she created her own identity and defined herself. But also empowers others to give her whatever definition they see in her and in that she is a mirror and says more about the person that is seeing her than it does about her," she noted. "She is ultimately a really, really fascinating figure. She is the original influencer. She was the first person to raise her hand and say, 'I have something to share with the world and it's me. I am going to share myself with the world. My energy, my spirit, my fierce commitment to the positive.'"

The 35-year-old star called Angelyne -- whose true story was uncovered in a Hollywood Reporter deep-dive in 2017, which serves as the basis for the series -- "the ultimate fantasy."

"What I find most interesting about her is that there were these rumors about who she was, where she was from and she did nothing to dispel those rumors because she knew that they helped fuel the mystique around her," Rossum praised. "She has done the impossible, which is maintain that mystery and that mystique for decades. I absolutely love her as I am sure you can tell. I am a little bit of a fangirl and the opportunity to play her and bring a character that is based on the mythology of her to life is really nothing short of a dream come true."

Isabella Vosmikova/Peacock

Rossum recalled meeting the real-life Angelyne at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel as she prepared to step into her high heels. 

"By that point I had read every interview she had ever had, I'd watched her in every film that she had made and documentaries that had been made about her and I had bought her meditation tapes on eBay and basically memorized them in multiple bubble bath sessions. I was over-prepared for the meeting, I think you could say, and I showed up an hour early. She was on time, but she got delayed because she was selling merch out of the trunk of her car to fans that were waiting, which I loved," Rossum shared.

"And when I sat down, she said, 'OK, why do you have such a hard-on to play me?' And I just thought, That's why, because she's not only a savvy businesswoman and completely authentic and completely unconventional. But, she is also this beacon of positivity and fun and fairy tale. She described herself as a mirror and told me that whatever I saw in her, however I was inspired by her image and by her stories, that is the show that I should make."

Angelyne has an incredibly distinctive look -- from her voluminous, wavy blonde locks to her bright pink, skin-tight outfits to her voluptuous chest to her unique voice. Rossum went through a rigorous transformation process to become the titular heroine.

"There's the physical aspect of it and then there's a vocal aspect of it. We really wanted to authentically honor and recreate her billboard poses and just embody her spirit," she said of their detailed approach. "We had an incredible hair and makeup team and costume designer who, with the help of our director and our showrunner, helped bring this to life. We did multiple tests because I get the chance to play her in age in both directions, so some mornings I was in the chair for three hours. Some mornings I was in the chair for seven hours before I would go to work. For me it was really an opportunity to ease my way into the work day and to connect to something that was positive and fun. It's really an out-of-body experience to get to see yourself and not see yourself. It's pretty liberating."

Rossum credited Angelyne for being "the original gangster when it comes to [being an influencer]." 

"She was the first person to raise her hand and say, 'I'm going to be famous for being me, not something that I do.' And prior to that she had made films and she continues to make music and paint art, but she really is the art. She has dedicated her life to being a living, breathing piece of performance art and I think art serves to inspire people," she said, before addressing comparisons to people like the Kardashians who have come after her. "Influencers are arguably one of the most powerful components of pop culture, which is basically just culture now, and so I think the hyper-curation of an image, styling, commitment to the way an image can make people feel and transform their state of being, you can see her influence in all of those women who came after her. Besides the fact that there are small comparisons, right? That they love pink cars. This is something that is that kind of pop and whimsy where she started it before everyone."

Angelyne premieres Thursday, May 19 on Peacock.


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