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Hollywood’s Jake Picking on breathing new life into the personal tragedy of Rock Hudson

The fast-rising star speaks to Hudson's friend Sharon Stone in the Attitude August issue, out now.

By Will Stroude

When Ryan Murphy’s glossy period drama Hollywood hit Netflix earlier this year, it subverted all expectations with a revisionist portrayal of an industry which had long silenced the voices of women, queer, and black people.

At the centre of it all was perhaps one of Tinseltown’s most famous stars, Rock Hudson, whose career spent in the closet before his death from Aids in 1985 became a symbol of the human cost of institutional homophobia.

Breathing new life into Hudson’s own personal tragedy was fast-rising star Jake Picking, who, as he leads the Attitude August issue – out now to download and to order globally – reflects on the ongoing legacy of silence that still casts a shadow over Hollywood.

Jake wears jacket by Bally, top by Hugo Boss, chinos by Porsche Design (Photography: Dennis Leupold)

“I think there are so many qualities that make up a human being, and to initially judge someone, in any way, based on who they are, or who they love, or what their skin colour is, is closed-minded and toxic,” Picking, 29, says.

“I read somewhere, that a secret isn’t real unless it’s painful to hold on to, and I feel like that’s what Rock was doing with his truth and there is a tragedy in that. Not being able to express who you are.”

He goes goes on: “I initially connected with Rock’s loneliness that he described. When he first moved to LA, he would stand alone in his uniform in front of the studio gates, hoping for a connection to the business, or a helping hand, you know. I was feeling that.”

Sharon Stone, who befriended Hudson when the pair appeared in 1984’s The Vegas Strip War together, is full of praise for Picking’s performance as she reflects on the man she knew and the life he could have led under different circumstances.

Jake wears shirt by Ralph Lauren, jewellery by Natalya Lagdameo (Photography: Dennis Leupold)

“What you really did capture of him was how kind he was. He was the kindest person,” Stone tells Picking. “To this day, no one in the business has ever been as kind to me as Rock. Absolutely kind and decent and genuinely loving.

“And I believe that if Rock had the opportunities that Ryan provided in the series and that you played, that he would have been the guy that you played. He would have been that loving, that decent, that open.

“And his relationship with Elizabeth Taylor got to allow his intentions to live on through her. And then, ultimately, in some ways, through me. And I’m very, very grateful for what you did.

“I’m so grateful for that series, that people got to re-imagine what a kinder world could look like.”

Despite its popularity, Hollywood divided critics who struggled to accept its typically Ryan Murphy-esque tone and twisting of historical fact, but Picking, whose performance has already been garnering plenty of buzz ahead of Emmys season, is resolute in his belief that the show’s commitment to demonstrating a better world was – and is – possible has power.

“I hope the show is encouraging”, he reflect. “The war is still being waged today for women and people of colour and members of the LGBTQ community.

“I think the show is triumphant and, hopefully, the audience will garner an empathy for these characters.

Jake wears trousers by Emanuel Ungaro (archive), shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo (Photography: Dennis Leupold)

“And I think when Ryan was weaving in these amalgamations or fictional narratives… I think we’re hoping for change and looking, like you said, at things in a positive light.

“Why not choose, if you have the choice, to think positively because really, not to get too deep, but that’s what life is — just a consequence of our thoughts and actions.”

The Attitude August issue is out now to download and to order globally.

Subscribe in print and get your first three issues for just £3, or digitally for just £9.99 (that’s just 77p per issue!) until midnight on 26 July.