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From J.K. Rowling’s smash-hit wizarding stage show Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to acclaimed — and gritty — British TV dramas such as National Treasure and the recent HBO/BBC His Dark Materials adaptation, or (almost) a galaxy far, far away for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (until J.J. Abrams took over), Jack Thorne has swiftly become one of the most in-demand, prolific and adaptable writers in the business.
The British scribe’s next project — Netflix’s The Eddy — seems no less eclectic: an eight-part miniseries about a jazz club on the edge of closure, led by its struggling American owner (Andre Holland) in the heart of multicultural Paris.
Directed by Oscar winner Damien Chazelle and featuring songs from veteran musicians Glen Ballard and Randy Kerber, the show is set to sashay into the Berlinale on Thursday as one of the highest-profile premieres in the festival’s expanding Berlin Series section. Thorne, 41, who started out as a playwright before transitioning to TV as a writer on the U.K. version of Shameless, talked to The Hollywood Reporter about how The Eddy dates back to Chazelle’s breakout Whiplash short, why his fascination with urban planning drew him to the show and his love of working in multiple genres.
The Eddy sounds quite removed from your other projects. How did you originally become involved?
It was a fair whack of time ago. Alan Poul, who’s sort of the person behind it all, got a treatment from Glen Ballard — who’s the amazing Grammy-winning musical mind behind it and has written all the songs — about doing a TV show about this band. And he’d seen a short at Sundance by a young filmmaker called Damien Chazelle, and a TV show I’d made called The Last Panthers. He thought I’d be interesting for it. And he sent me this film — Whiplash — which by then was a feature, but before it was out, and I watched it in my hotel room and was just like, “Oh, my God, I need to work with this filmmaker.” In the meantime, we kept working on the show and trying to find a home for it, while Damien’s career has just become ridiculous.
So this was a project that Chazelle was brought on board to work on, rather than it being his baby?
Yeah, sometimes he writes, sometimes he doesn’t, and on this one they decided to look for a writer, and luckily for me they liked my stuff. But Damien is multilingual; he basically grew up in France.
Is this your first musical?
It’s not actually a musical. It’s a TV show about musicians, but nobody ever breaks out into song.
What’s the music like that Ballard and Randy Kerber have composed for the show?
Randy’s in it as well — I wrote a part for him. He’s the pianist in the band. But Damien describes [the music] as standards. I’m not clever enough, but to me it’s just beautiful music, that’s all I know. And Glen and Randy wrote 60 songs before we even started. And the other thing is that it’s played live. All the people in the band are professional musicians. Our piano player, trumpet player, saxophonist … they’ve never acted before. So they are musicians first and foremost.
Was it shot in an actual club?
Yeah, The Eddy exists. We built a jazz club! Randy and Glen were actually talking about opening it at one point.
There’s been plenty onscreen about the expat lifestyle in Paris, filtered through romance and myth. Is this an update, or something a little more socially realistic?
The thing that really interested Damien was 1960s new wave. That’s what we were thinking about all the time, but it had to be contemporary. My dad was a town planner, and I’ve always been fascinated by urban planning, and the ring road in Paris is very interesting, the way that it excludes on financial and racial grounds a lot of Parisians. There’s sort of an inner circle of wealth. It’s not as hard-line as this, but I’ve noticed it with London and it’s certainly true in New York. There’s something about Paris that is so interesting for that. So it’s about a jazz club on the outside, just outside the ring road. [It’s about] that relationship and how the city functions and the way that crime and music and survival all sort of intercede.
You’re a writer who moves between genres easily. How do you manage to shift your focus?
I like it. I like the palette changes. I did have an amazing writer team on this that I was feeding off all the time. But in terms of switching, I’ve always loved it. When I was writing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I was also writing the TV show National Treasure. So I was literally swapping between a boy wizard and a rapist.
That sounds challenging.
Yeah! But it’s always something that I’ve loved because when there is a clear difference, you’re not going to end up writing the same thing in the same scene and in the same way. You’ve got to switch your entire head, and I can’t sleep if I haven’t written something that I think is OK. So when you’re really floundering on one project, there’s something really beautiful about swapping across.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter‘s Feb. 23 daily issue at the Berlin International Film Festival.
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