How Damien Chazelle and Andre Holland Capture the Bustling Paris Jazz Scene in 'The Eddy'

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 9, 2020 | Go to article overview

How Damien Chazelle and Andre Holland Capture the Bustling Paris Jazz Scene in 'The Eddy'


Byline: Sonia Rao The Washington Post

Those familiar with the work of Damien Chazelle won't be surprised to hear that his latest project centers on a jazz musician. "The Eddy," a miniseries now streaming on Netflix, follows the Oscar-winning director's "Whiplash" and "La La Land" in exploring the role music plays in the life of its main character, and how professional ambition affects his relationships, some loving and others fraught.

But unlike those films, which take place in the United States, "The Eddy" follows an American in modern-day Paris: fictional pianist Elliot Udo (Andre Holland), now a struggling jazz club owner who becomes entangled in a crime plot.

The series was a departure for many involved. Chazelle, who directed the first two episodes, had never worked in television. Most of the musicians had never acted. Holland, who only had a bit of piano experience, had to embody someone with a successful career's worth - and believably enough to pay homage to the black American musicians who arrived on the scene decades before his character.

"By the time we got on set, everyone was scared of something," Chazelle says. "Andre was scared of not coming across like a real musician, the musicians were scared of not coming across as real actors. It was going to be a hodgepodge ... The whole cast kind of agreed to jump off the cliff together."

They leaned on each other, as do their characters. While the band members often fall out of sync in their personal lives, they thrive onstage at Elliot's club, from which the show gets its title. Critics have pointed to the performance scenes as the strongest, showcasing songs written by Glen Ballard, known for co-writing and producing Alanis Morissette's 1995 album, "Jagged Little Pill." Netflix describes the series as a collaboration among Ballard, Chazelle, director Alan Poul and screenwriter Jack Thorne, all of whom are executive producers; as others have noted, marketing materials lack a creator credit. (Chazelle and Poul were joined by Houda Benyamina and Lala Marrakchi in making up the directing team.)

Within the show, Elliot is also a strict bandleader who presides over practices with a meticulous ferocity. He struggles to keep his life intact, dealing with the external pressures of a failing business, an on-and-off relationship with singer Maja (Joanna Kulig) and the sudden death of a close friend. When his daughter Julie (Amandla Stenberg) arrives in Paris, Elliot is forced to look inward and grapple with his persistent sense of grief over losing his son, and with his failure to show up for Julie in the aftermath.

"For me, it was just about trying to identify what Elliot is trying to do, and identifying what's in the way of that," Holland says of his acting approach. "The big thing in his way was grief ... The shame and guilt that he feels in not having been able to save his child, and then the shame around not having been there for Julie when she needed him. All of his failings have him boxed in."

The role called for a combination of what audiences have seen Holland accomplish before: an excavation of deep-rooted emotion, as in Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight," set to the frenetic tone of "High Flying Bird," Steven Soderbergh's film about a quick-moving sports agent.Chazelle adds that, with even the subtlest of looks, Holland can relay "that quiet kind of withholding, that coldness, that raw pain; but also (retains) the ability to be tender, to be sweet, that yearning to connect to more than he can. …

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