WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood, now streaming on Netflix.
Ryan Murphy’s latest Netflix series Hollywood is a creative rewrite of the history of the film industry, giving the spotlight to marginalized voices that didn’t had their chance to shine. Murphy uses an interesting blend of fact and fiction, weaving the stories of real people with the characters he has created for the series.
Every character in the series is well-written and are fan favorites in their own right, whether they existed in real life or not. Here is a comprehensive guide to the characters of Hollywood for anyone who loved the series or is looking to learn more about the real people.
This young, handsome aspiring actor is also a World War II veteran, who moves to Hollywood with his young and pregnant wife, Henrietta (Maude Apatow). In his journey to the film industry, Jack (David Corenswet) winds up working at The Golden Tip, a gas station that doubles as an escort meeting point. While Jack did not exist in real life, his looks are based on Marlon Brando and James Dean.
As the fictional half-Filipino aspiring director, Raymond (Darren Criss) is striving to create a more diverse Hollywood. After pitching his ideal film to Ace Studios, which is rejected, he is then tapped to direct Peg, the film at the center of the series. His experience with discrimination clash with his African-American girlfriend, Camille, as she points out how he clearly passes as white; therefore, he doesn’t fully understand her struggle.
As noted, Camille (Laura Harrier) is Raymond’s girlfriend and is also an aspiring actress. After campaigning for the film to be changed from Peg to Meg, Camille earns herself the lead role in a major studio production, being the first woman of color to do so in this universe. This is one of Murphy’s rewritings, and Camille herself is not a real person; although, she is based on Dorothy Dandridge, who was the first black actress to be earn a Best Actress Oscar nomination in 1954.
Archie (Jeremy Pope) meets Jack under unusual circumstances, which leads to him working with Jack at The Golden Tip. Archie reveals he’s a screenwriter who has recently sold a script to Ace Studios because he passed for white on the phone. He becomes the first openly gay, black screenwriter in this universe’s Hollywood and begins a relationship with Rock Hudson; however, Archie did not exist in reality.
As the suave and loveable owner of The Golden Tip, Ernie (Dylan McDermott) is based on a real person. Scotty Bowers, author of the memoir Full Service, is the inspiration for Ernie’s character, as an army vet who moved on to arrange high profile sexual liaisons for Hollywood’s biggest stars. Ernie is a sweet character with a satisfying arc in the series. It’s easy to see why he’s a fan favorite.
Rock Hudson (Jake Picking) was a real movie star, and he gets a reimagination of his life in Hollywood. In the series, he dates Archie, and the two make their relationship public. While the real Rock’s sexuality was an open secret in the industry, that part of his life was out of the public eye thanks to the roles he was cast in and a string of staged relationships. The stories of Rock requiring a huge number of takes on set was true as was his tumultuous and toxic relationship with his agent, Henry Wilson.
Jim Parsons plays the complex villain of the series, Henry Wilson, one of Hollywood’s top agents. In real life Henry was certainly one of the go-to star-makers of the time, representing Rock Hudson and Lana Turner. Just as he’s presented in the series, Wilson was known for abusing and manipulating his clients, having ties to the mob and being an all-around unpleasant person. In the series he takes responsibility for his actions and attempts to right them, but no such story exists in real life.
Avis (Patti LuPone) is a former actress who marries Ace Studio’s head, Ace Amberg, and frequents The Golden Tip. After the incapacitation of her husband, she becomes the first female head of a major Hollywood studio. Avis is a fictional character, but she is certainly one of the most favorable people in the show. She is headstrong, intelligent and does the right thing by ushering in a new, tolerant Hollywood age.
While he doesn’t sit so well with the audience in the first few episodes of the series, the fictional Dick Samuels (Joe Mantello) is another character with an incredible arc. He serves as one of the studio execs at Ace Studios, tasked with commissioning and casting films. Initially he is presented as a bit hard; however, throughout the series, his human side becomes more exposed, and viewers can’t help but love him.
The stunning Claire Wood (Samara Weaving) is one of the actresses on contract with Ace Studios and seems to spend her days wandering in and out of the cafeteria. She’s the daughter of Ace and Avis, and their relationship is tumultuous yet hilarious. She stars in Meg as a Marilyn Monroe-esque character and nails it. Claire is also fictitious, but she is based on the blonde-bombshell look of the top actresses of the 40s and 50s.
Even as the first Chinese-American movie star, Anna May Wong’s career isn’t a perfect Hollywood fairytale. She spends most of her career cast in problematic, stereotypical roles, and is ultimately passed over for the lead in 1937’s The Good Earth. Despite the character being Asian, the white actress Luise Rainer got the role, which she won an Academy Award. In Murphy’s Hollywood rewriting of history, Anna May Wong (Michelle Krusiec) gets the respect, recognition and the ending she deserves.
Queen Latifah makes the absolute most of the recurring role in the series as the legendary Hattie McDaniel, and she steals every scene she’s in. McDaniel is known for her groundbreaking Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress in 1940’s Gone With The Wind. She was the first actress of color to do so, and in Hollywood, she acts as a mentor to Camille.
Another of the Ace Studio execs, Ellen Kincaid (Holland Taylor) is almost inseparable from Dick Samuels since they’re always partnered for work. She’s sweet, headstrong and intelligent, and she acts as yet another excellent example of female representation in the show. As is for all characters in Hollywood, Kincaid’s character gets a lovely ending. Ellen is another of the show’s fictional characters.
While some characters in Hollywood are real and others are fictitious, they all manage to captivate audiences.