Renée Zellweger, 52, makes her broadcast TV debut in the six-part series The Thing About Pam (NBC, Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET). The A-list movie star wore heavy prosthetics to play killer Pamela Hupp in an incredibly twisty true-crime story previously covered in NBC Dateline’s most popular episode ever as well as its 2019 podcast.
Hupp’s accusations helped convict Betsy Faria’s husband, Russell, for her death. But after he won a $2 million lawsuit for wrongful conviction, prosecutors alleged that it was actually Hupp who killed Mrs. Faria — to collect a $150,000 insurance policy — and framed Russ Faria. Hupp is now serving a life sentence for a different murder, in 2016. But the original prosecutors could not imagine Hupp as anything but innocent. Zellweger, who studied the cases, executive produced the series, and hired Breaking Bad veteran Scott Winant to direct it, tells AARP how she got that story onscreen.
Who is Pam Hupp, and why did you want to play her?
Ms. Hupp is currently serving a life sentence in Missouri for the 2016 murder of Louis Gumpenberger.
Our show covers Pam’s role as a witness in the 2011 murder investigation of her best friend, Betsy Faria, through her arrest in 2016, and explores that very question: Who is Pamela Hupp? Like millions of people, I binged The Thing About Pam Dateline podcast in 2020 and the story resonated with me.
Why make your broadcast TV debut in a true-crime story?
I predate on-demand bespoke entertainment, and remember the thrill of waiting for something special to air. The opportunity to make a show in the tradition of old-school “event television,” which is simultaneously available to stream, was exciting to me.
I’m fascinated by this story and its illumination of how social and personal bias, white female privilege and the invisibility of middle-aged women in America come into play in our communities and criminal justice system.