Tom Holland’s hand double – and taught the star how to draw – on the set of Apple TV+ psychological thriller The Crowded Room has been revealed by a respected New York artist.
Natalie Frank, 43, a Fulbright Scholar and Yale and Columbia alumnus, works in world-renowned collections including the Whitney, the Brooklyn Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago – while she has exhibited internationally among dozens of designs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, London Museum of Art and Yale University Design.
In February 2022, when mega-producer Alexandra Milchen cold-emailed her to ask if she’d be interested in contributing to an undisclosed Apple TV+ project, Natalie didn’t think twice.
‘I called him immediately,’ he told Newstimesuk.com in an exclusive interview.
Tom Holland, 27, turned to artist Natalie Frank, 43, for on-camera training for his role as troubled artist Danny in the Apple TV+ mini-series The Crowded Room.
Natalie spent two days on set filming sequences as Tom’s hand double
Tom’s character Danny has a crush on Annabelle, played by Emma Laird
Natalie marveled at Tom’s ability to copy his movements ‘barbatim’ for zoomed-out shots to show his character drawings. Tom’s hand in the picture
While house-sitting in an abandoned house, Danny meets a new alter-ego: party-girl Ariana
Amanda Seyfriend plays psychologist Rhea, who tries to get to the bottom of what’s going on with Danny’s mental state.
At one point in the show, Rhea discovers Danny’s sketchbook and realizes that Ariana’s portrait matches the description of Danny’s accomplice in the shooting.
Danny’s sketchbook eventually helps Rhea solve the puzzle of Danny’s confusing behavior
Danny’s character continues to create artwork depicting those closest to him – such as his crush, Annabelle. Here Amanda’s character Rhea is looking at her notebook
Natalie has exhibited work at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, London Museum of Design, Yale University Art Gallery and numerous other international venues.
The acclaimed, New York-based artist is an alumnus of Yale and Columbia
As Milchen outlined for her, the team producing The Crowded Room wanted to pull from Natalie’s extensive body of work—which spans paintings, drawings, performance designs, and book illustrations created over the past two decades—to put across the entire set of the show.
Natalie was also tasked with rendering dozens of original drawings to represent the artwork of Tom’s character Danny.
That’s how he came to work as Tom’s hand-double, eventually spending two days on set filming two drawing sequences as his character.
The mini-series, which premiered on June 9 and concludes on July 28, follows Danny, played by Tom, 27, a socially isolated young man and aspiring artist.
The first of the series’ 10 episodes begins with Danny being arrested after the shooting at Rockefeller Center.
While awaiting trial, Danny finds himself in an extended interrogation conducted by a psychologist named Rhea, played by Amanda Seyfried.
As Rhea begins to grill Danny about his background and recent past, she discovers that he spends most of his time with a rather strange bunch, supposedly his various friends. And everyone seems to be in the habit of popping up whenever Danny is in any number of mentally trying situations.
Eventually, Rhea discovers that Danny has multiple personality disorder. His various alternate personalities – or alters – routinely carry out elaborate schemes intended to ‘protect’ him and his emotions – but in reality, send his life into a tailspin.
Danny’s fictional twin, Adam, becomes his first alter when Danny begins to be sexually abused by his stepfather.
‘The portraits I create discuss what it means to be a person,’ Natalie describes her work, reflecting on why it was perfect for the show.
Natalie recalls her first day on set having to paint tied to a stone wall
Natalie explained that the crew digitally ‘undone’ her entire drawings so that she could appear to be finishing them while pretending to be Danny on camera.
In flashbacks, viewers discover that Danny is an avid artist who loves to sketch his loved ones.
In the show, examples of Natalie’s work — old pieces as well as original drawings and paintings she created especially for the show — can be seen hanging salon-style on the walls of Danny’s home and prison cell.
Older works visible throughout the episode include selections from Natalie’s recent artbooks: including The Wondered Storyteller (Yale University Press, 2023), which includes illustrations of five gothic-horror fairy tales by German Romantic-era author ETA Hoffmann; as well as The Island of Happiness (Princeton University Press, 2021), which showcases Madame d’Aulnoy’s interpretation of the 17th-century French fairy tale Natalie.
Also featured are selections from the artist’s widely acclaimed Grimm’s Fairy Tales drawings, as well as several related images he created for a 2019 Ballet Austin production inspired by the original 2014 series titled Grimm Tales.
‘I think a lot of my work revolves around dark interiority, and psychological narratives that are created to reveal different aspects of myself and things that I want to investigate,’ Natalie reflected on why her aesthetic seemed appropriate to represent the art of Danny, an artist with multiple personality disorder.
‘The portraits I make talk about what it means to be a person. And I think that’s what [Danny’s] Drawing did it for him. It created a world in which he could locate himself in a kind of shifting psychological landscape.’
One of Danny’s changes is freewheeling high-schooler Mike
Johnny’s personality represents Danny’s mischievous side
Yitzak Safdie is an ultra-tough-guy alternate personality who takes over whenever Danny is under physical threat.
Emmy Rossum plays Danny’s mother Candy
For production design, Natalie created more than half a dozen character portraits, which she based on image composites of each actor. These include portrayals of Danny’s mother Candy (Emmy Rossum) and his love interest Annabelle (Emma Laird).
He also provided on-paper renderings of Danny’s alters, who appear early in the show as if they were his real-life companions.
Among them: Ariana, played by Sasha Lane – a troubled party girl who engages in sexual exploitation on Danny’s behalf; Yitzhak Safdie, played by Leor Raz – a super-tough guy who takes the reigns whenever Danny is physically threatened; and a free-spirited high-schooler named Mike, played by Sam Bartholomews.
As a child, Danny also has an imaginary twin brother named Adam (Zachary Golinger plays both children). Adam becomes his first alter ego when his stepfather begins sexually abusing him – an event that, as alleged in the show, is the key to his developing multiple personalities.
For another of her drawings for the show, Natalie rendered the twins side by side.
Johnny, who embodies Danny’s mischievous-yet-rich side, is notably played by up-and-coming actor Levon Hawke – son of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke. Regarding drawing and later meeting Levon, Natalie noted that he struck her as ‘such a star’.
In the show, Natalie’s work can be seen spanning the walls of Danny’s home
His work is also front and center in a scene where Danny’s crush, Annabelle, marvels at his artistic genius.
Natalie’s work is also seen in Danny’s prison
Scene works on sets throughout the show represent selections from Natalie’s practice over the past 20 years – as well as Natalie’s original contributions to the production.
A month or so after Milchen’s introductory email, Natalie found herself in an Uber on her way to an unknown location where filming was underway.
‘I didn’t know where I was going. We drove for about an hour and a half. We ended up in a primary school,’ he recalls.
There, he was greeted with his very own trailer – inside which was a pair of corduroys and a long-sleeved tee – which was ‘a copy of what Tom Holland wore’ when he played Danny.
‘Unfortunately, because she has very thin hips, the pants didn’t zip,’ Natalie laughed.
Later, she meets a makeup artist who ‘travels exclusively’ with Tom.
‘He sat me down in a chair and looked at my hands and then said, “Well, we’ll have to rouge our knuckles, because Tom has very pink knuckles.”
‘She gave me a manicure and applied some foundation to my hands. Then, when Tom and I were together, he rubbed some gouache on both of our hands in the same color and pattern … to make it look like the same hand, which I thought was great.’
After Natalie wrapped up with wardrobe and makeup, she was taken to film the first drawing sequence.
‘I was told painting materials tied to stone walls. They took my paintings [of the cast] and digitally undo to different levels of finish.
‘And then, in take after take, I was filming with the camera hovering above me – and probably 60 people watching me – in pants that wouldn’t zip, straddling a stone wall,’ he recalls of the on-set grind.
Arriving on set for the first time, Natalie discovers she has her own trailer
Inside the trailer hung a t-shirt and slacks that mimicked Tom’s outfit for Danny – although, as Natalie discovered, the pants didn’t quite fit him.
He trained Tom how to act like he was in the middle of creating a drawing or painting for shots that required him to show his head and hands.
‘What was really, I thought, incredible, was that he would watch me draw, and then – quite naturally – he would sit in the chair and copy my gestures, verbatim. means, from [every] tiny [detail] – The way, I tapped the brush on the jar, the way I wiped everything with a paper towel before starting.
‘He is an amazing actor. And [in real time] He actually learned how to draw – or act like he was drawing,’ she said of her experience collaborating with Tom.
He asked a lot of questions about how to paint, how to layer materials, what different materials do, how I started drawing,’ he continued. ‘And she was beautiful. Like a very good listener. Again, very clever in how he saw, perceived and translated the drawings.’
An unexpected hiccup leads to a moment of collective panic on set when Natalie goes to start painting on-camera for the first time – only for the crew to realize to their horror that she, unlike Tom, is left-handed.
The moment the showrunners noticed the potential gaffe, Natalie recalled, ‘the cinematographer was hovering over me, and I put my left arm out, and I think there was like a gasp.
‘And a very quick decision was that Tom would then be left-handed.’
Could he have faked a right-hander for the sake of the shot? ‘If they wanted good art, it wouldn’t be! It took about an hour on set to paint a few minutes on film. So, it had to be really real.’
What’s more, Natalie wasn’t made aware that she was going to be filmed until the day.
‘I’m glad they didn’t tell me before they brought me on set that I’d be drawing because I had no idea… I probably would have been a lot more nervous,’ she admits.
But it didn’t take him long to catch on to how fast things had to move to keep up with the filming schedule. ‘You’re very aware that time is precious, and the pace is fast and … there’s hundreds of people on set and they’re all waiting for you,’ she said.
‘And so the director Colonel [Mundruczó] will shout, “Draw it,” “Draw it,” “Draw it faster,” “Make it more interesting!” Natalie reminded.
Asked how she processed all that stress on the spot, Natalie said succinctly: ‘Well, I remember, Tom Holland is the star, and I’m a hired hand.
‘And I want to be as fast as possible!’
To see more of Natalie Frank’s work, visit her Instagram here.
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