Entertainment

Creator/Showrunner Abe Sylvia and Crew On ‘George & Tammy’


“I grew up in Oklahoma and on George and Tammy’s music,” says creator-showrunner Abe Sylvia. “I was doing research on another project when I came across a photograph of George and Tammy hugging one another. And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, no one’s done this yet, and I don’t know why.’ It’s so operatic and it’s one of the greatest love stories.”

Starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain as the titular George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Showtime’s George & Tammy takes a look at the complicated and emotionally-charged relationship between the country music power couple. Wynette’s hit song “Stand by Your Man” led her to be known as the “First Lady of Country Music,” while George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is lauded as the greatest country song of all time. The series is based on Georgette Jones’ book The Three of Us: Growing Up with Tammy and George, but Sylvia says the book was just the beginning, as the collaboration with Jones opened up a “whole world of research for us.”

Makeup artist Linda Dowds previously worked with Chastain on a very different Tammy, with The Eyes of Tammy Faye. “Tammy Faye was larger than life, it was a lot of makeup,” says Dowds. “For Tammy Wynette, I was quite surprised… the makeup was much more subtle than I would’ve anticipated.” Compared to some of the more “larger than life” looks in country music, Dowds found Wynette to be a more subdued, natural beauty. “I saw a lot of elegance in her, and a lot of soft beauty, and that’s really what we play to throughout the show.”

For Wynette’s hair, stylist Stephanie Ingram says Chastain wanted everything to be perfect. “Jessica wanted it to be on point, even with the hair colors,” says Ingram. “In different periods, the hair color changed. It was still a blonde but a different variation of a blonde.” While the makeup was more subdued, Ingram says the hair was very much in line with country music. “In that period, and definitely down south, they always had big hair,” she says. “It was either go big or go home, or the higher the hair, the closer to god, in every capacity.”

Costume designer Mitchell Travers was excited to show the evolution of Wynette’s clothing as she becomes involved with Jones. “For me, the most exciting part for designing both of these characters was the idea that you get to feel Tammy get pulled in,” he says. “Like this gravitational pull towards George, and you get to watch his stylistic influence wash over her.”

After reading through the script, production designer Jonah Markowitz was taken with the writing as it eschewed the theatrical, “over the top story that we had all seen,” he says. “It was clear that [Sylvia] really wanted to show what their life was like. Sort of on a meta level, I quickly realized… that we wanted to kind of go in a more impressionistic direction than just a biographic one.”

Music producer and engineer Rachael Moore was tasked with getting Chastain and Shannon ready to perform. “They came to Nashville and we basically treated them like artists,” she says. “For a few months before filming and through filming, they were artists. They were singing everyday for at least an hour and they were practicing and they got their vocal cords in shape.”

The first episode of George & Tammy is available to stream on Showtime, with new episodes released every Sunday.

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