In “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Jessica Chastain plays Tammy Faye Bakker throughout the course of her adult life, from her courtship with Jim Bakker and the formation of their televangelist empire to the scandals the couple endured that derailed it. The film also chronicled the compassion Tammy Faye Bakker displayed in 1985 when she became the first televangelist to interview a gay man with AIDS, which was broadcast on the couple’s PTL (Praise the Lord) Television Network. “I loved her, and her family and her kids,” Chastain told Gold Derby. “I wanted to acknowledge her for the incredible things she did.”
Wanting to do justice to Bakker’s legacy, of course, contributed to the said “abject terror” she felt in wanting to breathe life into Bakker, the on-stage performer as well the person off-screen in real life. In the end, exposing Bakker’s soul was harder than exposing herself, quite literally, in other roles, Chastain told Gold Derby.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done, and I just really felt in some sense, it’s easier doing full nudity because there was something so exposing about this in terms of the voice and the silliness and the camp, but also the pathos,” Chastain explained to the publication. “I just felt really exposed.”
Chastain’s performance as Bakker exposed so much of the televangelist’s soul in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” that it earned several industry accolades, including a SAG Award for best female actor in a leading role and an Oscar for best actress.