Seth Rogen doesn’t want you to like him this time. Really.

Despite his longtime reputation for playing fake nice guys, Seth Rogen wants to make it clear: He doesn’t want you to like him this time. He don’t like him at all this time.

“I think a lot of people feel like they have to like the people who are playing them,” says Rogen. “Oh god, I don’t do that at all. I do not like him.”

The sociable, dedicated producer and co-star of “Pam & Tommy” is delighted to receive his first Emmy nomination for acting. He was a driving force in creating the double-digit nominated limited series that grew out of a Rolling Stone article written by Amanda Chicago Lewis about the infamous Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee sex tape that was released.

“I assumed it was something they were putting out into the world. I assumed they would benefit from it,” Rogen says of the video, which was leaked in his adolescence. “I was completely wrong and in fact the understanding that I had was incredibly destructive in many ways on many levels.”

He wanted to share with the audience his surprise at seeing a popular narrative turned on its head. He wouldn’t play Tommy Lee, Motley Crue’s bad boy drummer. He certainly wouldn’t play iconic ’90s sex symbol Pamela Anderson. Those roles went to Sebastian Stan and Lily James. Rand Gauthier, the crawling, remained Handyman and occasional porn performer who stole the couple’s intimate video. The problem? Rogen’s innate sympathy.

A man with shaved hair stands in front of a painting for his portrait.

Seth Rogen is nominated for an Emmy for his role in Pam & Tommy.

(Annie Noelker / For the Times)

“I wanted the audience receive the guy, but the danger for me was having the audience how the guy,” Rogen says of finding the line between empathy and sympathy for someone who has done something objectively horrific. “I know I’m a naturally likeable actor. I go to test screenings; People like the characters I play on screen. If anything, I’m amazed at how many horrible things the characters I play can get away with. [This] was a deliberate attempt to keep the audience at bay. It was a reductive thing: smile less, laugh less. I don’t think I’m really laughing at any point on the show because that’s something people are really drawn to.”

The series stars Gauthier as a struggling sad sack still in love with his ex-wife, a porn actress. He does some work for Lee and is understandably upset when the multimillionaire rocker not only refuses to pay, but threatens him with a gun (according to Gauthier’s account).

A man stands out in a scene in a home music studio "Pam & Tommy."

Handyman Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen) seeks revenge on the celebrity client who doesn’t pay him in Pam & Tommy.

(Erica Parise / Hulu)

“You have to understand why he thinks he’s right, but she could never think [he’s] right,” says Rogen. “There are times when you’re like, ‘Yeah, f— Tommy Lee.’ Maybe in a distorted sense he’s entitled to get revenge on Tommy or seek justice, but the way he did it is the worst way imaginable.”

Rogen came on set with an interpretation he’d spent two years honing, described by Gauthier as “calculating” and “hostile”.

“It basically became invalid in about a minute,” he says with a laugh. “First day of shooting, Craig [Gillespie], the director, opined, “I think the less you do in a way and the emptier he seems, the more you get.” If you just look at what the person has done, Rand, he’s not someone who really thought so much about his actions. He never thought two or three or four steps ahead.

“It’s your instinct as an actor to do it [characters] seem deep and complex. And as you get older, you meet a lot of people who just aren’t as deep and complex. Just don’t think too much. Instead, it’s like he’s a sad, hurt guy who acts very emotionally and doesn’t think at all about the ramifications of his actions.”

Seth Rogen, with cropped hair, is bathed in blue light for a portrait.

Seth Rogen, photographed in his office, doesn’t feel bad. The longtime comic actor, writer and producer just received his first acting Emmy nomination for his role as Handyman in Pam & Tommy.

(Annie Noelker / For the Times)

Rogen didn’t speak to Gauthier but was given access to the “raw, raw… rambling” full-length interview he gave to Rolling Stone.

“The real guy was maybe a little bit more angry and maybe a little bit worse of a guy. He’s probably less likeable than the character I’m portraying. Honestly, there’s little things like … he was casually racist at times in the interview,” says Rogen, who’s now free to let out his signature laugh.

“His background in the porn industry was interesting and the fact that he was kind of known for being a guy with a small penis. When you look at Tommy Lee and the sex tape, you think, “Those are deeply emotional motivations for someone.” This guy [Lee] has a huge penis and is pointing a gun at him. A huge phallic weapon. It is like displaying divine justice.”
So while Rogen and company worked their way towards understanding the character, Rogen notes that he could only guess at Gauthier’s actual motives since he never met the real person. And he doesn’t really want that either.

“I’m not particularly interested in what he has to say about anything,” Rogen says, scorning how little Gauthier considered the impact of his actions, particularly on Anderson. “If I saw him from across the room, I’d say, ‘No, I’m fine. I’ll stay over here.« ”

He laughs heartily.

An abstract framing of a portrait of Seth Rogen.

Seth Rogen.

(Annie Noelker / For the Times)

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-08-09/why-seth-rogen-doesnt-want-you-to-sympathize-with-his-pam-tommy-character Seth Rogen doesn’t want you to like him this time. Really.

Sarah Ridley

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