André Holland may have always loved jazz, but he admits he didn’t really know much about the music genre until he was cast in the new Netflix drama series “The Eddy.”
“I had to read a bunch of books about it,” Holland says on Thursday’s episode of the Variety and iHeart podcast “The Big Ticket.” “I watched a lot of films, and spoke to a lot of musicians and scholars and thinkers in that space, which really helped me to kind of understand the history of it. And then on a technical aspect, I had to play the piano.”
He had two piano teachers, one in New York and another in Paris, where the series was shot. “Any moment that I wasn’t on set shooting, I was pretty much glued to that piano,” Holland said. “It’s something that I’ve come to love and I want to keep continuing to explore as my life moves forward.”
Created by Jack Thorne with the first two episodes directed by Damien Chazelle, the series stars Holland as Elliot, an American pianist who owns a jazz club in Paris called The Eddy and manages the house band, also called The Eddy. As Elliot’s business teeters on the brink of collapse, he finds himself entangled with a crime syndicate while also facing his past, when his teenage daughter (Amandla Stenberg) comes to live with him from the States.
“The thing that attracted me to it was the fact that he’s gone through this really traumatic event and is, in my opinion, very deep, deep, deep in the grieving process,” Holland said. “It was interesting to me to try to investigate a character who was going through that.”
He was also very interested in exploring Elliot’s dynamic with his daughter. “I couldn’t remember a time, I still can’t remember a time, when I’ve seen on screen a relationship between a black man and his black daughter, sort of front and center,” he said.
He added, “Her mother is a white woman in the show. We were interested in exploring this idea of her coming into her own identity or trying to figure out who she is at this moment in her life. And her father and his own connection to this music, which is deeply rooted in who he is and his own culture as a black man. It’s something that we came to believe that her character was craving.”
Polish actress Joanna Kulig (“Cold War”) plays Maja, The Eddy’s lead singer and Elliot’s ex-girlfriend. “She’s such a great human being and I’m so glad that we got to do this together,” Holland gushed. “She’s so, so funny, so charming. And she had an enormous task. She had to learn, I think, something like 16 songs in not a lot of time. Some were in English, some were in French — neither of which are her native language obviously. But she really rose to the occasion and did her thing.”
He’s hoping for a second season of “The Eddy” and a return to Paris with the band. “They’re incredible musicians. They didn’t really know each other before, so they had I think maybe a month or six weeks or so to get together and really become a band,” Holland said. “And I got to watch some of that happen. The way they communicate with each other and the way that they trust each other, the way they listen to each other is amazing.”
“And we’d have these moments after set, after shooting days, it’d be like midnight, and all of a sudden someone would get up there and pick up a horn and somebody would start playing a little something,” he continued. “And then here comes [Lada Obradovic] on the drums. It just would sort of turn into these jam sessions that would involve everybody. We had a really good time and a lot of late night dance parties with that band.”
“The Eddy” premieres on Netflix on May 8.
You can hear the full interview with Holland below. You can also listen to “The Big Ticket” on iHeartRadio or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.