An revered New York artist revealed what it was like being Tom Holland‘s hand double – and teaching the star how to draw – on the set of Apple TV+ psychological thriller The Crowded Room.
Natalie Frank, 43, a Fulbright scholar and alum of Yale and Columbia, boasts work in world-renowned collections including at the Whitney, Brooklyn Museum and The Art Institute of Chicago – while she’s exhibited internationally at the likes of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, London Museum of Design and Yale University Art Gallery, among dozens more esteemed venues.
Back 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 her immediately,’ she told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview.
Tom Holland, 27, turned to artist Natalie Frank, 43, for coaching in drawing on camera for the role of troubled artist Danny in Apple TV+ mini-series The Crowded Room
Natalie spent two days on set to film drawing sequences as Tom’s hand double
Tom’s character Danny has a crush on Annabelle, played by Emma Laird
Natalie was awed by Tom’s ability to copy her movements ‘verbatim’ for zoomed-out shots showing his character making drawings. Pictured are Tom’s hands
While squatting in an abandoned house, Danny meets a new alternate personality: party-girl Ariana
Amanda Seyfriend plays psychologist Rya, who is trying to get to the bottom of what’s going on with Danny’s mental state
At one point in the show, Rya discovers Danny’s sketchbook and realizes Ariana’s portrait matches the description of Danny’s accomplice in the shooting
Danny’s sketchbook eventually helps Rya solve the puzzle of Danny’s delusional behavior
The character of Danny tends to create artwork depicting those closest to him – such as his crush, Annabelle. Pictured here is Amanda’s character Rya looking at his notebook
Natalie has exhibited work at the likes of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, London Museum of Design, Yale University Art Gallery and countless more international venues
The lauded, New York-based artist is an alum of Yale and Columbia
As Milchen laid out for her, the team producing the The Crowded Room wanted to pull from Natalie’s expansive oeuvre – which spans paintings, drawings, performance design and book illustrations made over the past two decades – to place throughout the sets of the show.
Natalie was further tasked with rendering dozens of original drawings meant to represent the artwork of Tom’s character, Danny.
That’s also how she came to serve as Tom’s hand-double, ultimately spending two days on set to film two drawing sequences as his character.
The mini-series, which premiered June 9 and concludes July 28, follows a socially isolated young man and aspiring artist named Danny, played by Tom, 27.
The first of the series’ 10 episodes opens with Danny getting arrested after carrying out a shooting at Rockefeller Center.
While awaiting trial, Danny finds himself in an extended interrogation conducted by a psychologist named Rya, played by Amanda Seyfried.
As Rya begins to grill Danny about his background and recent past, she discovers that he’s been spending much of his time with a rather strange bunch, supposedly various friends of his. And each one seems to be in the habit of popping up whenever Danny is in any number of emotionally trying situations.
Eventually, Rya figures out that Danny has multiple personality disorder. His various alternate personas – or alters – regularly carry out elaborate schemes devised with the intention of ‘protecting’ him and his emotions – but, in reality, send his life into a tailspin.
Danny’s imaginary twin, Adam, becomes his first alter when Danny begins getting sexually abused by his stepfather
‘The portraiture I make talks about what it means to be a person,’ Natalie described of her work, reflecting on why it was a fit for the show
Natalie recalled of her first day on set that she’d had to straddle a stone wall and draw as
Natalie explained the crew had digitally ‘undone’ her completed drawings so she could appear to be finishing them while on camera pretending to be Danny
In flashbacks, viewers discover that Danny is an avid artist who enjoys sketching the likenesses of those dearest to him.
In the show, examples of Natalie’s work – including older pieces as well as original drawings and paintings she made especially for the show – can be seen hanging salon-style on the walls of Danny’s house and jail cell.
Among the older works visible across the episodes are selections from Natalie’s recent artbooks: including The Wounded Storyteller (Yale University Press, 2023), which includes her illustrations of five gothic-horror fairytales by German Romance-era author E.T.A. Hoffman; as well as The Island of Happiness (Princeton University Press, 2021), which displays Natalie’s interpretations of Madame D’Aulnoy’s 17th-century French fairytales.
Also featured are selections from the artist’s widely acclaimed Grimm’s Fairy Tales drawings as well as several related images she 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 express various sides of myself and the subjects that I want to investigate,’ Natalie reflected of why her aesthetic felt fitting to represent the art of Danny, him being an artist with multiple personality disorder.
‘The portraiture I make talks about what it means to be a person. And I think that’s what [Danny’s] drawing did for him. It created a world where he could locate himself in a kind of shifting psychological landscape.’
One of Danny’s alters is freewheeling high-schooler Mike
The personality of Jonny represents Danny’s mischievous side
Yitzak Safdie is an ultra-tough-guy alternate personality who takes the reigns whenever Danny is under physical threat
Emmy Rossum plays Danny’s mom, Candy
For the production design, Natalie whipped up portraits of more than a half-dozen characters, which she based on image composites of each actor. These include illustrations of Danny’s mom Candy (Emmy Rossum) and his love interest Annabelle (Emma Laird).
She also delivered on-paper renderings of Danny’s alters, who early on in the show appear as though they’re his real-life companions.
Among them: Ariana, played by Sasha Lane – a troubled party girl who engages in sexual exploits on Danny’s behalf; Yitzak Safdie, played by Lior Raz – an ultra-tough-guy who takes the reigns whenever Danny is under physical threat; and a free-spirited high-schooler named Mike, played by Sam Vartholomeos.
As a child, Danny also has an imaginary twin brother named Adam (Zachary Golinger plays both children). Adam then becomes his first alter when his stepfather begins sexually abusing him – an event, as it’s alleged in the show, that is the root cause of his developing multiple personalities.
For another one of her drawings for the show, Natalie rendered the twins side-by-side.
Jonny, who embodies Danny’s mischievous-yet-resourceful side, is notably played by up-and-coming actor Levon Hawke – the son of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke. Of drawing and later meeting Levon, Natalie mentioned that he struck her as ‘such a star.’
In the show, Natalie’s work can be seen strewn across the walls of Danny’s house
Her work is also front and center in a scene in which Danny’s crush, Annabelle, expresses amazement at his artistic acumen
Natalie’s work also shows up in Danny’s prison cell
The works on view in the sets throughout the show represent selections from the past 20 years of Natalie’s practice – as well as Natalie’s original contributions for the production
A month or so after Milchen’s introductory email, Natalie found herself in an Uber en route to the undisclosed location where filming was taking place.
‘I didn’t know where I was going. We drove for about an hour and a half. We ended up at an elementary school,’ she recalled.
There, she was greeted with her own trailer – inside of which were a pair of corduroys and a long-sleeve tee that ‘was a duplicate of what Tom Holland was wearing’ while in character as Danny.
‘Unfortunately, because he has very slender hips, the pants did not zip,’ Natalie said with a laugh.
Next up, she met with a makeup artist who ‘travels exclusively’ with Tom.
‘She sat me down in the chair and looked and my hands, and then said, “Well, we’re gonna have to rouge the knuckles, because Tom has very pink knuckles.”
‘She gave me a manicure and applied some foundation on my hands. Then, when Tom and I were together, she rubbed some of my gouache on both our hands in a similar color and pattern … to make it look like the same hand, which I thought was wonderful.’
After Natalie wrapped up with wardrobe and makeup, she was led to set to film the first drawing sequence.
‘I was told to straddle a stone wall and given drawing materials. They had taken my drawings [of the cast] and digitally undone them to various levels of finish.
‘And then, in take after take, I drew with cameras hovering above me – and probably 60 people watching me – in pants that would not zip, straddling the stone wall,’ she recalled of the on-set grind.
On arriving to set for the first time, Natalie discovered she had her own trailer
Inside the trailer hung a tee-shirt and slacks mimicking Tom’s wardrobe for Danny – though, Natalie discovered, the pants did not quite fit her
She also coached Tom on how to act as if he was in the midst of creating a drawing or painting for shots that required him to show his head and hands.
‘What was really, I thought, incredible, was he would watch me draw, and then – very casually – he would sit down in the chair, and copy my gestures, verbatim. I mean, to [every] miniscule [detail] – the way, I tapped the brush on the jar, the way I wiped it on the paper towel before I started everything.
‘He is a remarkable actor. And [in real time] he really learned how to draw – or learned how to act like he was drawing,’ she gushed of the experience of collaborating with Tom.
He asked a lot of questions about how to draw, how to layer the materials, what the different materials did, how I approached the drawing how I started a drawing,’ she continued. ‘And he was lovely. Like a very good listener. Again, very astute in how he watched, perceived and translated drawings.’
One unforeseen hiccup led to a moment of collective panic on set when Natalie went to begin drawing on-camera for the first time – only for the crew to realize in horror that she, unlike Tom, is left-handed.
Of the moment the showrunners noticed the potential gaffe, Natalie recalled, ‘The cinematographer was hovering above me, and I took out my left hand, and I think there was like a gasp.
‘And there was a very quick decision that Tom would then be left-handed.’
Could she have faked right-handed-ness for the sake of the shot? ‘Not if they wanted good art, it wasn’t going to happen! To get a few minutes of drawing on film took about an hour of drawing on set. So, it really had to be real.’
What’s more, Natalie hadn’t been made aware that she was going to be filmed until the day of.
‘I’m glad they didn’t tell me before they got me on set that I’d be drawing on film because I had no idea… I probably would have been a lot more nervous,’ she admitted.
But it didn’t take her 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 so precious, and the pace is fast and … there are a couple hundred people on set and they’re all waiting for you,’ she said.
‘And so the director Kornél [Mundruczó] would yell, “Draw this,” “Draw that,” “Draw faster,” “Make it more interesting!”‘ Natalie recalled.
Asked how she processed all of that pressure on the spot, Natalie put it succinctly: ‘Well, I just remembered, Tom Holland is the star, and I’m a hired hand.
‘And I just need to be as fast as possible!’
To see more of Natalie Frank’s work, check out her Instagram here.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-12312561/Female-artist-served-Tom-Hollands-HAND-DOUBLE-Crowded-Room-lifts-lid-REALLY-like-work-actor-set-revealing-pretend-LEFT-HANDED-mirror-style.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 EXCLUSIVE: Female artist who served as Tom Holland’s HAND DOUBLE in The Crowded Room lifts the lid on what it was REALLY like to work with the actor on-set – revealing he had to pretend to be LEFT-HANDED to mirror her style