Before social media influencers, there was ‘Angelyne’

Emmy Rossum stars as '80s LA pop culture icon

Emmy Rossum stars in “Angelyne,” premiering Thursday on Peacock.

Before the Kardashians became famous for being famous, there was “Angelyne” — a self-made pop culture icon at the center of a new limited series on Peacock.

Premiering Thursday, May 19, the drama stars Emmy Rossum (“Shameless”) as Angelyne, a blond bombshell with a kewpie-doll voice who in the 1980s launched herself to fame simply by renting billboards around the Los Angeles area and putting an image of herself posing suggestively on them.

This caught the attention of local media outlets and soon the Polish immigrant born Ronia Tamar Goldberg was receiving offers for movie roles, TV appearances and magazine interviews. As her celebrity grew, she became increasingly identified by her trademark Pepto-colored Corvette Stingray.

Also starring Martin Freeman, Alex Karpovsky, Hamish Linklater and Charlie Rowe, the series is an exploration of fame and identity — who we think we are versus who our history says we are. It’s a passion project for Rossum, who began work on the series four years ago and actually met with the real Angelyne, now 71, to secure the rights to her story.

“She really is an enigma …,” says Rossum, also an executive producer here. “The first thing that she said to me was, ‘So, why do you have such a h…-on to play me?’ And that’s exactly why. I think she’s a complete rebel. She’s a total trailblazer. She’s the original influencer and she has this indefatigable positivity that is kind of miraculous. And I loved my time with her – I think I melted and fan-girled. After that, she met with our writers and (showrunner) Allison Miller and our director Lucy Tcherniak and after that she decided to grant us the rights.”

As Angelyne, Rossum is virtually unrecognizable in the skin-tight pink outfits and blond tresses of her glammed-up character, a stark contrast to the scrappy, decidedly unglamorous Fiona Gallagher who she played for nine seasons on “Shameless.”

Despite outward appearances, Rossum sees similarities between the two characters.

“In a certain way, I think they’re both feminists,” she says. “I think they’re both incredibly empowered in their bodies. I think they’re in control in a lot of rooms that they walk in and I think that they know that people will underestimate them based on how people perceive them. And I think they both use that to their power.”

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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