Tag Archives: The Eddy

All that jazz

Pitch-perfect music meets Parisian drama in a Netflix series about an American jazz club in the French capital. Writer Jack Thorne and star Joanna Kulig invite DQ to The Eddy.

The story of how Bafta-winning writer Jack Thorne and Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle came to partner on The Eddy, a television series about an American jazz club in Paris, begins in LA several months before Chazelle would burst onto the Hollywood scene.

Thorne was there to attend a workshop when his agent suggested he speak to an up-and-coming director about his next project and sent over his latest film to watch, which turned out to be Whiplash, the 2014 music drama about the relationship between a young jazz drummer and his abusive bandleader that scored Chazelle an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay. He would later win a directing statuette in 2017 for La La Land.

After watching Whiplash, “I went, ‘Jesus Christ, this guy is incredible,’” Thorne recalls. “Then I discovered Alan Poul was involved, who had made Six Feet Under, The Newsroom and, most importantly for me, My So-Called Life, and [songwriter and composer] Glen Ballard [was also involved]. It was just one of those crazy things. I went in and met them, they had two pages of what they wanted to do – an American jazz club in Paris – and they had all the music.”

Jack Thorne

At that time, Thorne was writing international crime thriller The Last Panthers, which was originally set in Paris but later moved to Marseille. His love of the French capital and his father’s experience as a town planner meant he had an “obsession” with the city’s ring road and how it had created inclusive and exclusive places, leading him to want to tell a story that reflects the multicultural, multi-class melting pot of Paris.

“I used to be a teacher and was in London at the time they were closing the Aylesbury Estate, and I became very aware of how many people were campaigning to stay, even though it wasn’t the nicest block of flats in the world,” he explains.

“But they were aware of being shunted out of London. It feels interesting to look at who the people are who live on the edge of that [in Paris], and jazz is a very good form to explore that with. I talked about all those things, they read The Last Panthers and, thankfully, they hired me. It was a long development process, during which time Damien became a superstar.”

The Eddy, which launches worldwide on Netflix on May 8 following its world premiere at Berlinale in February, is set in a vibrant multicultural neighbourhood of modern-day Paris, where Elliot Udo (André Holland), a once-celebrated jazz pianist in New York, is now the co-owner of the struggling titular club. Managing the house band fronted by on-off girlfriend Maja (Joanna Kulig), he learns that business partner Farid (Tahar Rahim) may be involved in questionable practices, while secrets come to light that have also been hidden from Farid’s wife Amira (Leïla Bekhti).

When Elliot’s troubled teenage daughter Julie (Amandla Stenberg) suddenly arrives in Paris to live with him, his personal and professional worlds quickly start to unravel as he confronts his past, fighting to save the club and protect those closest to him.

Chazelle is the lead director, alongside Poul, Houda Benyamina (Divines) and Laïla Marrakchi (Le Bureau des Légendes), while The Eddy’s band is composed of real-life musicians Randy Kerber, Ludovic Louis, Lada Obradovic, Jowee Omicil and Damian Nueva Cortes.

Damien Chazelle (left) with The Eddy star André Holland

As you might expect of a series set in a jazz club, music is a constant presence, from the house band performing on stage in front of a packed crowd to numerous characters spending a moment in contemplation tickling the ivories at home.

Each episode is also focused on a single character, so in the writers room, Thorne found himself asking three questions: what is the character arc, how does that impact Elliot and what’s the song?

“Glen and Randy wrote 60 songs together, so we had this raft of stuff to choose between and it was case of what song speaks to the story you’re trying to tell,” Thorne says. “With episode one, it’s about The Eddy, so the song ‘The Eddy’ felt right. Then it was about breaking it down into pieces so you could see this song being discovered, and that becomes the story of the episode, in some ways, as everything else goes along.”

Throughout, however, Elliot is at the centre of the story and the world of The Eddy, with his relationship with daughter Julie also at the core of the eight-episode series. “But like in jazz, it had to be democratic. It had to have space for everyone to have their moment and for us to get an understanding of them,” the writer continues.

“The question when creating the character of Elliot was why would someone be in Paris and why would they be running a jazz club? He became a jazz musician in exile and then the question became in exile from what? Everything built from that and his selfishness and his myopia. And then, hopefully, through the show you see those scales falling away as this becomes a coming-of-age story for him and his daughter, which grew through the writing process.”

Another notable quality about The Eddy is the way the characters, many of whom are not native French speakers, bounce between languages.

Holland plays club owner Elliott, while Joanna Kulig is Maja, singer in The Eddy’s house band

“The thing we always stuck to was that when people are at their most emotional, they tend to speak their own language, because that’s our basest means of communication,” Thorne says. “We were constantly analysing what language is important and when. Elliot’s French is good but he speaks with an American accent. Julie’s French is not very good, she’s learning, but she’s got a very good brain and is picking it up very quickly. In the band, Jude [Nueva] is Cuban, so he speaks French and English with an inflection. Katrina [Obradovic] is Croatian. Everyone comes from different places – this is a boiling pot of seeing how everyone works together.”

Language was also a big factor for Kulig, who plays Maja, Elliot’s on-off girlfriend and the singer of The Eddy’s house band. The Polish actor faced speaking and singing in French and English, something she says was “a huge experiment” that pushed her out of her comfort zone.

Kulig first met Chazelle and auditioned for the role in LA in 2019 when she was part of the Oscar campaign for Polish historical drama Zimna wojna (Cold War), about a musical director who discovers a young singer (played by Kulig) and their subsequent love story.

Matters were complicated by the fact she was due to give birth just two days later, but she met Chazelle in Santa Monica and talked about The Eddy for two-and-a-half hours. Then, on her due date, she met Ballard and Kerber for a music audition, while her husband, writer and director Maciej Bochniak, waited outside in the car with her suitcase ready to race to the hospital.

Kulig won the role, and a week later, on Valentine’s Day, she gave birth to baby Jan. Days after that, she was at the Oscar ceremony, and a further week on, preparations for The Eddy began.

Kulig’s character was reimagined to better suit the Polish actor

“When Jan was five weeks old, I came back to Warsaw. They sent a music coach from LA and we worked for three weeks, and later we went to Paris and spent six months together,” Kulig says. “It was one huge adventure – an Oscar campaign, then the baby and working with Damien Chazelle. I’m super proud because this project wasn’t easy. It was my dream but it was hard too. There was the live music, a lot of different cultures and different languages.”

Maja wasn’t originally Polish, with the character at one point an American called Kelly. But Kulig’s performance in Cold War saw the character changed to fit the actor. “I was super happy because this project was being developed for many years but they didn’t have the finances. Then Netflix gave them the money for this very artistic project, and they were very happy that it would be possible to show a large audience this art-house and jazz project. I jumped in at the last moment, which is why I was really lucky.”

Having lived with Elliot in New York, Maja follows him to Paris, but she soon begins to struggle with life in France. “They have a difficult relationship because Elliot is introverted and Maja wants to talk about feelings,” Kulig explains.

“She loves him very much. But when we meet them, she’s quite depressed. They have a very hard relationship. The communication is hard. Step by step, she becomes stronger and more independent, and she doesn’t want to be in this kind of relationship, so we see her progress through the series. Her episode is number five, so this is the moment when she changes and decides to be stronger and more in control of her life.”

Filmed on location in Paris, production called for Kulig to spend many hours on stage, having learned all the shows’ songs by heart. Sometimes she would have to sing quietly if dialogue was being recorded inside the club while the band was performing, before raising the volume when she was in front of the camera.

Alan Poul, one of the show’s directors, in conversation with Holland

“We had to concentrate a lot,” she admits. “We always did one song on one day – I don’t know how many times I sang each song, but Cold War was always 25 takes, so I knew this process. It was very interesting having jazz musicians acting because we had three cameras in a documentary style so we could be more free. They were great actors – they have something about them, they’re open to new things. We connected and we became The Eddy band. I had my own band!”

As for working with Chazelle, Kulig says she sometimes found improvising tough but describes the director as very gentle and sensitive. “He had a good connection with his musicians, they’ve known each other for years. And he knows all the shots. He knew how the series would look.

“I enjoyed it because you have to leave your comfort zone and use different areas of your brain. It’s scary, but what was interesting on this project was all the actors had different comfort zones. For André, it was working with European directors and singing; for me, it was the language; and for the musicians, it was how to act. All of us found different areas scary but we were together and we shared our feelings. It’s something special.”

The diversity on screen was replicated in the writers room, where Thorne was joined by Rachel De-Lahay, with whom he had worked on Kiri, while Netflix suggested he bring in Hamid Hlioua (Cannabis), whom execs at the streamer felt could speak to the French-Arabic experience. Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Secret Diary of a Call Girl) also joined alongside Phillip Howze (Mindhunter).

“Rebecca’s amazing and she also has a sense of Eastern Europe. Then Philip, who is an African-American writer, was incredibly vital because there were questions about the identity of Elliot and Julie that I was really struggling with, and Philip brought that perspective to it,” Thorne says. “We had that boiling pot of music and directors and we needed writers who were also reflective of that, rather than us attempting to tell it without that complexity.”

Music is a constant presence in the series, from the house band to characters playing at home

Thorne describes location-hunting across Paris with Chazelle as “amazing,” with the creative duo learning more about their characters through the places they would live and work, while Poul was a constant sounding board for ideas. Thorne also did a lot of work with Ballard, discussing how the live music would interact with the story.

However, he says his biggest challenge was finding Elliot’s path through the series. “We had all these different elements – a crime story, which I wanted to be a minor story where we still had space to tell the character journeys; we had music that had to play a huge role, and there were going to be long takes of live music; and this idea of each character helming an episode – so it was like, ‘How do we find the space to tell Elliot’s story well?’”

Thorne, who wrote the first season of BBC and HBO’s His Dark Materials, is now working on the fantasy drama’s second season, based on Philip Pullman’s A Subtle Knife, while he is also “thinking seriously” about the potential third instalment, based on Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass.

But given the chance, he would return for an encore of The Eddy. “I still think there’s more story to tell, I hope, but it’s a strange old show! I really hope people watch it,” he says. “Netflix took a big chance on us because it is a bit different. It isn’t conventional in how it draws viewers in, so it all depends on metrics. I’d really like to do more of it.

And how does it compare to his previous series, which are often deeply rooted in social realism, such as the This Is England series, National Treasure, Kiri and The Accident? “I see this as social realism too, but it’s got music in it,” he adds. “No one breaks into song at any point. This is just the story of musicians in Paris. And Paris, I think, is fascinating. I hope that’s enough.”

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Series to Watch: May 2020

DQ checks out the upcoming schedules to pick out 10 new dramas to watch this May, from American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy’s love letter to Tinseltown to the eagerly awaited sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer.

We Got This!
From: Sweden
Original broadcaster: SVT and SVT Play
Starring: Schiff Musarra, Olle Sarri, Alexander Karim, Anki Bengtsson, Sandra Andreis
Air date: May 1 (SVT Play), May 3 (SVT1)
Described as The Big Lebowski meets true crime, We Got This! stars creator Musarra as George English, an American living in Sweden who finds a way to pay off his tax debt: claim a SEK50m  (US$4.98m) reward to solve the 1986 murder of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme. He is unaware of evil forces lurking in the dark – but are they ready to meet him?

From: US
Original broadcaster: Netflix
Starring: David Corenswet, Darren Criss, Jeremy Pope, Laura Harrier, Samara Weaving, Dylan McDermott, Holland Taylor, Patti LuPone, Jim Parsons, Jake Picking, Joe Mantello, Maude Apatow
Air date: May 1
Co-created by Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story) and Ian Brennan, Hollywood follows a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers in post-Second World War Hollywood as they try to make it in Tinseltown, no matter the cost. Each character offers a glimpse behind the gilded curtain of Hollywood’s Golden Age, spotlighting the unfair systems and biases across race, gender and sexuality that continue to this day.

Isolation Stories
From: UK
Original broadcaster: ITV
Starring: Sheridan Smith, Robert Glenister, Tom Glenister, Darren Boyd, Angela Griffin, David Threlfall, Eddie Marsan
Air date: May 4
A series of four short dramas depicting life in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, produced by Jeff Pope (Little Boy Blue). Smith is Mel: alone, heavily pregnant and fed up with life, she faces having to go through birth without the married father of her child – who has chosen to stay with his wife and family – and without her own family, who have given her the cold shoulder. Father and son Robert and Tom Glenister play Ron & Russell. The former is ill with the virus and is confused about where he is and what’s happening to him, while Russell is trapped and isolating with him.
Boyd and Griffin star in the third story, Mike & Rochelle, in which the worst fears of paranoid, self-absorbed hypochondriac Mike have come true and his psychiatrist Rochelle must try to talk him down from the precipice. Finally, Karen sees a grandad (Threlfall) resolves to bring his broken family together, passing by his son-in-law’s house on the way to the grocery store and stopping outside their window to lark about and make his grandkids smile. But his son-in-law (Marsan), still suffering after being left by his wife Karen, doesn’t welcome these daily visits.

The Eddy
From: US
Original broadcaster: Netflix
Starring: André Holland, Joanna Kulig, Tahar Rahim, Leïla Bekhti, Amandla Stenberg
Air date: May 8
The eight-episode drama takes place in the vibrant multicultural neighbourhoods of modern-day Paris, where a once celebrated New York jazz pianist, Elliot Udo (Holland), is now the co-owner of struggling club The Eddy. From the club, he manages the house band, fronted by lead singer and Elliot’s on-again-off-again girlfriend Maja (Kulig). As Elliot learns that his business partner Farid (Rahim) may be involved in some questionable practices at the club, secrets begin to come to light that have also been concealed from Farid’s wife Amira (Bekhti). And when Elliot’s troubled teenage daughter Julie (Amandla Stenberg) suddenly arrives in Paris to live with him, his personal and professional worlds quickly start to unravel as he confronts his past, fighting to save the club and protect those closest to him.

The Undoing
From: US
Original broadcaster: HBO
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant
Air date: May 10
Grace and Jonathan Fraser (Kidman and Grant) are living the only life they ever wanted for themselves until, overnight, a chasm opens in their existence, with a violent death and a chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child (Noah Jupe) and her family. Created by David E Kelley (Big Little Lies), The Undoing is directed by Susanne Bier (The Night Manager).

I Know This Much is True
From: US
Original broadcaster: HBO
Starring: Mark Ruffalo
Air date: May 10
Why have one Mark Ruffalo when you can have two? This six-part limited series sees the actor play identical twins Dominick and Thomas Birdsey in a family saga that follows their parallel lives in an epic story of betrayal, sacrifice and forgiveness. I Know This Much is True
is based on Wally Lamb’s novel of the same name and comes from writer and director Derek Cianfrance.

White Lines
From: Spain/UK
Original broadcaster: Netflix
Starring: Laura Haddock, Marta Milans, Juan Diego Botto, Nuno Lopes, Daniel Mays, Laurence Fox, Angela Griffin
Air date: May 15
When the body of a legendary Manchester DJ is discovered 20 years after his mysterious disappearance from Ibiza, his sister returns to the beautiful Spanish island to find out what happened. The quest leads her through a thrilling world of dance clubs, lies and cover-ups, forcing her to confront the darker sides of her own character in a place where people live life on the edge. The series is a collaboration between La Casa de Papel (Money Heist) creator Álex Pina and The Crown producer Left Bank Pictures.

From: US
Original broadcaster: TNT
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Daveed Diggs
Air date: May 17
The highly anticipated sci-fi thriller, based on the French graphic novel series and Parasite director Bong Joon Ho’s 2013 film, is set seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland, with the remnants of humanity inhabiting a perpetually moving train that circles the globe. Against a background of simmering class warfare, social injustice and survival politics, former detective Andre Layton (Diggs) is called upon by the train’s head of hospitality, Melanie Cavill (Connelly), to solve a murder. The show has already been renewed for a second season.

From: US
Original broadcaster: Starz
Starring: Monica Raymund, James Badge Dale
Air date: May 17
From executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer and writer Rebecca Cutter, Hightown is a crime drama set in beautiful but bleak Cape Cod that follows one woman’s journey to sobriety, overshadowed by a murder investigation. Jackie Quiñones (Raymund), a hard-partying National Marine Fisheries Service agent, has her free-wheeling life thrown into disarray when she discovers a body on the beach and becomes convinced it’s up to her to solve the murder.

From: US
Original broadcaster: DC Universe, The CW
Starring: Brec Bassinger, Luke Wilson, Amy Smart
Air date: May 19
The latest series inspired by DC comics, Stargirl follows high-school sophomore Courtney Whitmore (Bassinger) as she inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to stop the villains of the past. It reimagines Stargirl and the very first superhero team, the Justice Society of America, and is based on the character created by showrunner and comic book writer Geoff Johns in 1999, inspired by the death of his sister in a 1996 plane crash.

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Berlin calling

With television now well and truly matching the star power of the movie business, DQ runs the rule over the TV series getting red-carpet premieres at the Berlin International Film Festival, which kicks off today.  

As the Berlin International Film Festival, aka the Berlinale, begins today, the red carpet will be rolled out for screen stars from all over the world. But it’s not just the movies that will be celebrated over the next 11 days.

For the past few years, television has played an increasingly important and visible part of the annual event, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2020. This year will be no different, with eight series – from Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the UK and the US – enjoying world or international premieres.

The Berlinale Series strand will introduce shows that feature representations of various communities, sexual identities and new perspectives on the world today, while the selection also plays vividly with ideas of television style, structure and tone.

Dispatches from Elsewhere comes from How I Met Your Mother star Jason Segel

First up will be Dispatches from Elsewhere, the AMC series starring Jason Segel, Eve Lindley, Sally Field, André Benjamin and Richard E Grant. Creator Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) also co-directs the series, in which an enigmatic institute promises a chosen few an escape from everyday life into a world full of beauty and magic. But is this a game, an alternative reality or a conspiracy? And what are those taking part risking?

Dark Austrian drama Freud, meanwhile, transports viewers to 1886 Vienna, where a young Sigmund Freud (Robert Finster) – restless, high on cocaine and striving for recognition – embarks on a nerve-wracking, hypnotic trip into the depths of the human soul with a mysterious medium and a traumatised policeman. Directed by Marvin Kren (4 Blocks) for Austria’s ORF and Netflix, the show’s cast also includes Ella Rumpf, Georg Friedrich, Christoph Krutzler, Brigitte Kren, Anja Kling, Philipp Hochmair and Noah Saavedra.

Canada’s C’est comme ça que je t’aime (Happily Married) is set in 1970s Quebec

From Canada is C’est comme ça que je t’aime (Happily Married), which is set in Quebec in 1974. The drama tells the story of two couples who send their kids off to camp for three weeks. With their children away, things quickly turn uncomfortable for the couples and cracks start to appear in the facades of their relationships. The series was created by François Létourneau, who also stars alongside Patrice Robitaille, Marilyn Castonguay, Karine Gonthier-Hyndman and Sophie Desmarais. Joanne Forgues is the showrunner on the programme, which  was commissioned by Radio-Canada Télé and Tou.Tv Extra.

British entry Trigonometry focuses on a couple who take in a lodger. The trio fall in love together and start up a three-way relationship – but can it possibly work out? The BBC and HBO Max series was created by Duncan Macmillan and Effie Woods, with Thalissa Teixeira, Gary Carr and Ariane Labed playing the central trio. Athina Rachel Tsangari and Stella Corradi are the directors.

Also due to premiere at Berlinale is the second season of Australian drama Mystery Road, which has added The Bridge star Sofia Helin to its cast. The ABC series, created by Ivan Sen, opens when a headless corpse is found floating by the shore of a remote outback town. As if this weren’t mysterious enough, Detective Swan and his colleague Fran have to contend with protests against the excavation of an Indigenous site. And then another body turns up. Aaron Pedersen returns as Detective Swan, alongside actors Jada Alberts and Callan Mulvey. The directors are Warwick Thornton and Wayne Blair.

British drama Trigonometry centres on a three-way relationship

Shortform drama Sex, from Denmark’s TV2, comprises six episodes with a total running time of 77 minutes and will be screened in its entirety at the festival. Created by Clara Mendes and directed by Amalie Næesby Fick, the show follows Catherine, a call-centre worker giving advice on sex and love but at a loss herself. After a kiss, she wants more from her colleague Selma. Her boyfriend Simon feels that what’s little is actually plenty. But what if that’s not enough? The cast includes Asta Kamma August, Jonathan Bergholdt Jørgensen, Nina Terese Rask and Sara Fanta Traore.

Stateless, another drama from ABC Australia, boasts an all-star cast led by Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale), Jai Courtney, Asher Keddie, Fayssal Bazzi, Dominic West and Cate Blanchett, who co-creates and executive produces the six-part series. Directed by Emma Freeman and Jocelyn Moorhouse, it tells the story of four strangers whose lives collide at an immigration detention centre in the middle of the Australian desert. Elise McCredie and Tony Ayres co-created the series alongside Blanchett.

Yvonne Strahovski in Stateless

The final premiere will be Netflix’s upcoming musical drama The Eddy (pictured top), created by Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials) and Damien Chazelle, the Oscar-winning director of La La Land, who is also the lead director on the series. Bandleader Elliot is improvising his way through a complex score of problems: his Parisian jazz club The Eddy isn’t doing too well, while ruthless debt collectors are breathing down his neck – and then his teenage daughter Julie arrives from New York. The cast features André Holland, Joanna Kulig, Amandla Stenberg, Tahar Rahim, Leila Bekhti, Adil Dehbi and Benjamin Biolay.

Themes of macabre humour, female sexuality and an interconnected world will be on display through the eight shows, while the increasing trend for actors to be more deeply involved in series creation and development – notably Blanchett (Stateless) and Segel (Dispatches from Elsewhere) – is also apparent.

At a time when the distinction between movies and television is increasingly blurred, the focus Berlinale places on series marks it out from other film festivals around the world, though other events are now also pushing the small screen into the spotlight.

Meanwhile, numerous other screenings will also take place at the city’s Zoo Palast, with shows including Ukraine’s Hide & Seek,  Czech drama The Sleepers, Brazilian series Where My Heart Is, UK/New Zealand coproduction The Luminaries and Australia’s Total Control among them.

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