Sebastian Stan says losing weight to play Tommy Lee triggered his body dysmorphia

Hulu’s Pam & Tommy miniseries with Lily James and Sebastian Stan had its finale recently. I’ll reserve commentary on the overall storytelling and tone for now, but will join everyone else in saying Lily James is unrecognizable. Sebastian Stan, of course, plays Tommy Lee. I realized today that aside from Gossip Girl and the Marvel movies, I tend to forget other things he’s been in because he really does disappear into his characters. That’s probably rough mentally when playing a character as obnoxious as Tommy Lee, and it sounds like that role was tough on him physically as well. Sebastian talked to Entertainment Weekly about transforming his body to play Tommy Lee and how that effort affected him.

The actor has spent years bulking up to play comic book antihero Bucky Barnes a.k.a. The Winter Soldier in many big Marvel Universe movies, but he says that losing the drastic amount of weight to play the skinny, lanky Lee was actually the most difficult physical process he’s ever experienced in his career. “I was trying to lose weight and I still felt I didn’t lose enough weight,” Stan tells EW ahead of the series finale. “And people were telling me I was crazy and going, ‘You have body dysmorphia now’ — which I always did anyway.”

Stan spent months where he stopped working out entirely to lose as much weight as possible, and then he went even further than that. “I was just running and trying to get 20,000 steps a day, and then I was fasting for 16 to 18 hours a day,” he says. “And that definitely does something, especially if you’re [driving] in traffic. But I’m proud of the whole thing.” Despite the brutal process of fasting and changing up his exercise routine to lose weight rather than build muscle, he wasn’t too worried about the negative effects on his body.

“Anybody that even has a healthy physique to some extent has body dysmorphia,” he says. “Because once you’re going into a peak, the best look possible, which by the way, I don’t care what they say, unless there’s like, magic formulas out there — which there are but some of us are not in that pocket — your body can only be at peak 100 percent for like maybe a week or something. At least, how I’ve experienced it; and I mean diet and exercise and tanning and water and lighting and everything. And then you spend the rest of the time going, ‘I’m not what I used to be.’ But it’s just all in the head.”

It took a long time for Stan to feel comfortable taking on the role of Lee, purely because of the physical aspect. “When [director] Craig Gillespie called me and said he wanted me to play this part, I thought it was a joke,” he says with a big laugh. “I don’t think I felt good about it… I don’t think I felt like I could do this until the camera test, the first time we applied the tattoos and the piercings and the costume and the hair was dyed and the whole thing.”

When Stan saw himself as Lee, alongside James as Anderson, that’s when he finally felt like he maybe could do this part justice. But that didn’t mean he stopped doubting himself throughout all of filming. “It was always difficult because I just wasn’t the same frame as him,” he says. “I had to lose so much weight, and the drums were a real pressure for me; I’d never played any instrument before and I had to learn. The whole thing felt like this just ginormous mountain to climb and there was always a little bit of an unsettling feeling about it. But I thrive well in discomfort, especially at work. It pushes you and as long as you can manage and handle it well, you can grow from it.”

[From Entertainment Weekly]

I was listening to Sebastian’s episode of the XOXO podcast about Gossip Girl and he said that he likes to look different for roles and do physical transformations. He seems to be a more lean/medium build naturally and he’s talked before about feeling insecure and bulking up to play Bucky Barnes, which included waking up in the middle of the night to eat. Doing the inverse, losing all that weight to play Tommy Lee, is a dramatic fluctuation that sounds just as difficult to achieve and maintain. Is he moving into Christian Bale territory? Sebastian’s putting a positive spin on it and he’s proud of his work, but it does seem pretty unhealthy and wearing, physically and mentally. Like, that example about running and fasting and driving in traffic sounds scary and unsafe!

My friend who is a Sebastian stan (lol, I had to) said he’s talked about having body dysmorphia before in an interview with his trainer from before this role filmed. And it sounds like this role exacerbated that. Everything Sebastian describes to EW sounds like he put a lot of pressure on himself to lose “enough” weight and doubted himself because he “wasn’t the same frame as [Lee].” It seems like he was more worried about the look than the drums! Sebastian is a solid actor and a complete physical transformation wasn’t necessary. Sometimes an approximation and a vibe is fine; he nailed the vibe and I really doubt anyone was like “actually Tommy Lee weighed 6.1 pounds less than you do.” But at least Sebastian is aware that he has body dysmorphia. Hopefully, now that this role is done there are (hot) cheat days like this in his future.

Photos credit: and via Instagram

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17 Responses to “Sebastian Stan says losing weight to play Tommy Lee triggered his body dysmorphia”

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  1. Escargot says:

    It’s seems rare to see a man be open about this struggle, so good for him!

    I have weight to lose, and whenever I get down to business and get some weight off my dysmorphia also goes crazy. Even when the change is for the better, as I am obese and really do need to continue dropping weight, it is the worst and most disturbing feeling.

    • Steph says:

      I’m super busy at the moment so I don’t have time to look for a link for you, I’ll try to get to it later, but Matt McGorey wrote an incredible piece about his body dysmorphia that is so worth a read.

  2. Normades says:

    I won’t be watching this movie because of the issues surrounding it but when I look at the pictures the vibe looks off. It really feels like a fake costume and doesn’t give off the dirty, hard living smarminess Tommy had.
    I don’t approve of Lilly’s choice to do this movie (or any of them) but she really does nail it.

    • NCWoman says:

      Lily’s chest is fake, her hair is fake, even her eyebrows are fake–her forehead you see on screen is not real. It’s much easier to nail the look when you can add things to help the actor out. But when actors get told they didn’t get the look for things they can’t help–height, body type, etc.–and can only approximate, that contributes to the body dysmorphia many of them have.

  3. Driver8 says:

    Body dysmorphia is a horrible thing to live with. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

  4. shads says:

    he looks ridiculous as Tommy Lee I really don’t think he pulls off the role.

    • Cacec says:

      He was never on my radar until “Pam and Tommy” and though he didn’t exactly look like Tommy in the way Lily did as Pam, he really nailed the mannerisms and facial expressions. I watched the movie “Fresh” on Hulu and even though he’s a horrific creep in it he is so attractive. I mistake him for Richard Madden at times while I also found very attractive in “the bodyguard”

    • Heidi84 says:

      I did watch the whole thing and he nailed the part as Tommy Lee. I was very skeptical of him as Tommy Lee and didn’t think it would work when I saw the pictures but he was the best part IMO.

  5. Joan Callamezzo says:

    Stan is not as tall and lanky as Lee but he did capture him.

  6. ReginaGeorge says:

    I enjoyed the series. They made it clear several times that the leak was 10x worse for Pam than it was for Tommy and how shitty is was for Gauthier to leak it.

    I also thought Sebastian did a better job at playing Tommy than I had thought. When I first saw him done up as Tommy on IG, i wasn’t really convinced, but he did his thing.

    I however prefer Sebastian with a little more weight on him. His cheeks were getting sunken in and he was looking older. I like me a healthy looking Sebastian. He’s so handsome.

  7. Hotsauceinmybag says:

    I haven’t watched Pam and Tommy yet. I did just watch him in Hulu’s Fresh last night, which was absolutely terrifying. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you’re into horror, I’d recommend it. I think he was pretty great in his role for it.

    Edited to add that I think he’s super handsome lol

  8. Songs (Or It Didn't Happen) says:

    Sebastian Stan was fantastic in I, Tonya as her husband. I loved him on Once Upon A Time too.

    I will fully admit that I enjoy eye candy on the screen, I am not going to lie about it, but I also really appreciate when actors talk about what being in super pumped shape does to them mentally.

    Also, when people are doing bio-pics or playing real life figures, I think we the public need to be less focused on “they look just like so-and-so!” It should be more about the performance and capturing the essence of someone than of cosplaying them. No one (including, ahem, Nicole Kidman) should be made to feel bad for not looking enough like a complete stranger.

  9. Jamie says:

    I was hoping that they were not going to screw this up and they didn’t. I didn’t agree with them making it in the first place, but the actors that played Pam & Tommy were spot on. I was really surprised. I remember this happening but didn’t realize at the time how bad it was for her. It opened my eyes to the abuse she was given.

    • Coco says:

      ( It opened my eyes to the abuse she was given. )

      And still is getting with this movie that she is against once again profiting off of her abuse .

    • bettyrose says:

      I was in college at the time and only had the vaguest memory of it. I thought the series was sort of fun until it got to the parts about the horrific misogyny. It was so gross, and I would guess it was much worse IRL. That said, I had some thoughts while watching it. The sex tape didn’t kill her movie career. Her acting did. However, it’s absolutely horrifying that she didn’t have the legal right to control images of her own body. And yet, the porn producer who ended up buying the rights from the them so he could shut down all other avenues of distribution found a legal loophole that Pam & Tommy’s army of lawyers didn’t find. I was almost as horrified by that. If the porn producer could buy the copyright, Pam & Tommy could have done that first. Did they sue their own lawyers for incompetence? I hope so.

  10. Dids says:

    I watched Fresh before i watched Tom and Pammy, and i was like… WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED? Why is he so skinny now? I’ve loved him since Once upon a time (of all things…) and I just worry about him having to bulk up AGAIN to do another Marvel project. But yeah, skinny or muscular, he is ALWAYS hot and so very talented. He was awesome in I Tonya. I hope he gets to do all kind of things in the future.

  11. bettyrose says:

    I thought he was so hot in Pam & Tommy, but it wasn’t a body thing (not that it wasn’t nice). His hair and attitude just worked for me. It was such a watered down version of Tommy Lee, who I do not find especially attractive (or desirable). I thought they both did a great job in their roles, but I don’t have any frame of reference for the personalities they were playing, just the looks. I’ve never even seen an interview with real life Pam or Tommy. So IDK.