Model, actress and environmental crusader Pamela Anderson is on a mission of rehabilitation.
Reached at her home in Ladysmith, B.C., she says the goal at hand is to overhaul the six-acre Vancouver Island property where spent her earliest years and now hopes to establish as a multi-generational haven for herself, her parents and her sons. It’s the focus of her new HGTV Canada reality show, “Pamela’s Garden of Eden,” which premiered Thursday.
At the same time, the Hollywood star says she’s been hit with a burst of introspection: while on the property she wrote a memoir due for release at the end of January and she is preparing to release a Netflix documentary about her life.
As much as the large-scale home renovation is a work in progress, “I’m a work in progress,” says Anderson.
“Coming back here was really triggering. For me, it’s very emotional,” Anderson says of revisiting roots to a childhood she’s described as difficult.
“When I came home, I think I was not as happy as I normally am. I came home to really face some things. There’s certain things in your life that you just kind of push aside and it was just so healing for me to come home and it took me a while to kind of grasp what I was putting myself through.”
Further details about her early life and colourful celebrity career will be revealed in the upcoming memoir and streaming project, she assures, acknowledging that the recent reset to small-town life is worlds away from the tabloid-grabbing exploits of her ’90s heyday.
“I’d never been on a plane before when I left this island. You know, I left the island and I went to Vancouver and then I moved to L.A. and then I went around the world and south of France for a year before I moved home,” says Anderson, who first rocketed to fame as a Playboy pin-up and “Baywatch” TV star.
“I was restless when I was here. And I had to learn how to be comfortable, just relaxing and enjoying and putting all my creative juices into this project, making this an art project, listening to other people’s ideas.”
Anderson says she bought the property about 30 years ago from her grandmother, believing she “just needed some Canadian roots” and that she would move there one day. It would take longer than expected, she suggests in a first episode that briefly alludes to years of an “overwhelmed” life in Los Angeles, a busy career and multiple high-profile marriages.
She says it was “gut-wrenching” at first to return to the sprawling waterfront property, which includes three buildings known as the roadhouse, the boathouse and the cabin.
“I felt like this place was like a broken heart, which I really had to kind of turn around.”
These days, Anderson says she relishes the new creative chores that occupy her time – painting, repainting, pottery and vegetable canning among them – while discovering her personal design style.
She acknowledges a lot of trial and error – and possibly conflict – over the design choices, chuckling over the folly of inviting cameras to watch her “melting down over which doorknob to put on your door.”
“I’m not perfect. Some ideas are really bad and some ideas don’t work and some things I’ve refinished and fixed and I waste a lot of money in solving those problems,” says the 55-year-old, who began the venture with a $750,000 budget.
The crew, too, is a collection of “misfits,” she adds.
“I wanted guys (for whom) this is their second or third chance in life. I wanted to bring people here that weren’t, you know, perfect people. I wanted everyone to kind of have a fun project to do as a kind of healing place.”
She introduces one of them in the first episode as her husband, revealing little about their courtship other than that he’s “a normal guy, which is nice.” Anderson declines to say more by phone and a spokesperson for HGTV Canada later says the couple filed for separation in January 2022.
The show gives us a window into Anderson’s goofy side as she wisecracks with the crew, and her well-established love of nature as she discusses the local wildlife and walks barefoot on the beach in loose, flowing dresses.
It’s a far cry from from the big-coiffed, bombshell version of Anderson that made her a beauty icon, she agrees. But it’s genuine, she adds, and is in part an overture to her two adult sons who urged her to do the show because they saw a disconnect between her public persona and the woman they know.
“My sons were (like), “Mum, people don’t understand who you are,’” she says of Brandon Lee, a producer on the series, and Dylan Lee.
“That doesn’t really bother me – I am me. But it bothers them.”
Anderson is happy to say her sons are spending “more and more” time at the property as the renovation comes together, and she boasts of personal triumphs including a 460-square-metre garden bursting with produce. The “heart and soul of the property” is a rose garden featuring Anderson’s favourite hot pink variety.
“I had them in all my flower arrangements all around the world. Wherever I was, whoever I was with, always knew this was my rose,” says Anderson.
“I got 75 of these roses … and planted them myself.
“They all survived, which was a miracle.”
Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, in a social media post, expressed thanks to Anderson and celebrated the fact that Pamela’s Garden of Eden is set in Ladysmith after the town was previously transformed into Green Hills, Mont., for Sonic the Hedgehog, and Patience, Colo., for Resident Alien.
“Ladysmith is back on the television map…” the mayor exclaimed. “We’re so thankful to Pamela for her investment in her beautiful family property and sharing the story and heritage of our little hometown.”
In tonight’s season premiere episode, Anderson will start with transforming the basement of the roadhouse into a laundry area, pantry and mudroom, but the series will ramp up as it goes along, culminating with turning the shoreline boathouse “into an architectural masterpiece.”
Along the way, the series promises “stresses, struggles, budget and time constraints.”
Pamela’s Garden of Eden premieres tonight and airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on HGTV Canada. and streams Fridays on StackTV.
—Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press, with a file from Black Press Media