Is George and Tammy Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Dana Hawley/SHOWTIME

Showtime’s ‘George and Tammy’ follows the story of the titular characters whose lives are intertwined with each other through their love for country music. We meet George at the height of his career while Tammy is just getting started. Meeting one another changes the course of their lives. They fall in love and make many songs together. However, their love story is also full of many ups and downs.

George’s alcoholism creates a lot of problems between him and Tammy, who also gets caught up in the things that cause her a lot of pain. Created by Abe Sylvia, the TV show ebbs and flows like a version of ‘A Star Is Born.’ However, the realistic portrayal of characters might make you wonder if it’s based on a real story. Here’s what you should know about it.

Is George and Tammy a Real Story?

Yes, ‘George and Tammy’ is based on the real-life story of country singers George Jones and Tammy Wynette. The show follows their romance while also focusing on their respective careers and the impact they had on each other. It draws inspiration from ‘The Three of Us: Growing up With Tammy and George,’ a memoir written by Tammy and George’s daughter, Georgette Lennon, with Patsi Bale Cox. In the book, Georgette focuses on the rough years in the marriage of her parents and how it affected her own relationship with them.

Image Credit: TammyWynettemusic/Youtube

For the show, however, the story traces the pair’s journey from the start, even before Georgette’s birth. What is now a six-part series was first written as a spec script by Abe Sylvia. After seeing Jessica Chastain in Terrence Malick’s ‘Tree of Life,’ he knew that she was the perfect person to play that role. However, the project didn’t go forward for a long time. By the time it found its way on the screen, it had been turned into a series. For the preparation of their roles, Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain read up on the life and history of George and Tammy.

Both actors had been out of touch with the music of the country singers, so they listened a lot to their hits, read their biographies, and talked to their close family and friends to understand the deep love that the duo shared. Since music had been such an important part of their lives, it was impossible to tell Tammy and George’s story without including their songs in the series. For Sylvia, it was important that the actors playing the lead roles also sang their parts.

Talking about it, Sylvia told THR, “I think that the important thing to remember is George and Tammy themselves conveyed so much pain and beauty and sorrow and joy and happiness and all of this emotion in their vocals, and that’s what we wanted to capture with Michael and Jessica. The vocals are recorded live and you get their true feelings in the vocals at all times, that’s how they’re most like George and Tammy.”

Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon spent months preparing for their roles and found a close understanding of their characters. For the actress, Tammy was quite a “feral” woman who kept her emotions a secret from others, only to reveal them in her songs. With the help of Georgette, she made sure that people saw that side of Tammy, that she was not a victim of her situation, but a survivor who came out stronger from even the most difficult times in her life. The Academy Award-winning actress told NY Post, “She had been seen in that way … but she made choices in her life and navigated her life in the way she saw fit. It wasn’t, ‘Oh, poor Tammy.’”

Chastain added, “I kept thinking when I was playing her she had this sense of rage and ferocity, like ‘Listen to me and see me and take me into account.” For Shannon, too, it was important to focus on the love that the couple shared even after they separated. In a conversation with Forbes about bringing Jones to life on the screen, he said: “There are so many different versions of the story and we’re not saying this is the absolute God’s honest truth, but it’s what moved us and what we felt was important to share with other people.”

The actor continued, “If you’re going to make a series like this, you might as well make it about the love between them, whether or not people speculate about what that is, or were they the love of each other’s lives? We chose to think they were.” Considering this, we can say that while some elements of the story might be fictionalized, the show more or less covers the events that actually happened in the lives of George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

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