Dylan McDermott tells AARP about his first role with gray hair — as failed actor turned nice-guy pimp in Hollywood, Netflix's series about 1940s showbiz — and how he's handling life in quarantine.
His mysterious ‘Hollywood’ character, Ernie West
A character like Ernie comes along once in a rare while, and you fall in love. He's partly inspired by Scotty Bowers [who claims in his memoir that his Hollywood gas station was a front for an elite escort service for Tinseltown titans, male and female]. If Scotty Bowers and Clark Gable had a love child, it would be Ernie West. Ernie is kind of stolen from them, and I made up some stuff myself. It's always kind of a cocktail, isn't it? Each character is a mix.
His full head of gray hair
Ryan Murphy [producer of Hollywood and American Horror Story] wanted me to be all gray, with a crewcut. I was down with the all gray, but the crewcut I wasn't sure about. I showed him some pictures of Clark Gable and he went for it. I have a poster of The Misfits in my house. I look at him every day, so I think unconsciously he's always around somewhere.
The secret he keeps under his hat
I have some gray now, but not gray like Ernie. I don't think anybody knows, but Ernie's gray hair is a wig. It's actually a beautiful European woman's hair. They did a great job, didn't they? It looks very real.
Falling in love with Old Hollywood
Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe — I love that era of Hollywood. Everybody looked so impeccable back then. There was a glamour that we don't have anymore. Back then the movie star was everything. We [castmates Darren Criss, Jim Parsons, Holland Taylor, Patti LuPone, Mira Sorvino and Rob Reiner] captured a little bit of that in the show.
Is ‘Hollywood’ fiction or fact?
This show is revisionist history — “faction,” as Ryan calls it.
What part of Hollywood's story never happened but should have?
To have women [LuPone's and Holland's roles] who run a studio. To have people of color as movie stars in the ‘40s. To not have gays in the closet and be who they really were and not have to hide. If that had happened back then, it would be wonderful to see where we would be today.