The Amazon Studios original series Mozart in the Jungle (the full season of which is available at Amazon Prime on December 23rd) is a half-hour, at times comedic look at what happens behind the curtains in the world of professional classical musicians. Created by Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola and based on the critically acclaimed memoir Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs & Classical Music, the story is told through the eyes of a young oboist named Hailey (Lola Kirke), who tries to navigate through the egos and eccentricities of a world-renowned orchestra and its new conductor Rodrigo (Gael Bernal Garcia). The show also stars Malcolm McDowell, Bernadette Peters, Saffron Burrows, Peter Vack and Hannah Dunne.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actress Lola Kirke talked about why she was compelled to be a part of this show, the Amazon process of shooting a pilot and then waiting for the viewer feedback to hear if you’ll get a full season, finding the merging of high and low culture so fascinating, that she had no clue about the secret debauched world of classical music, and what she’s learned about the challenges of becoming a professional oboe player. She also talked about how lucky she feels to get to play more off-beat characters, and her experience working with meticulous filmmaker David Fincher on Gone Girl. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
LOLA KIRKE: There definitely was that double-take moment, but whatever reservations I might have had about that were very quickly dashed by hearing who was involved in the show. It’s such a compelling team of people to work with. I auditioned for it, and that was a really fun process, as well. And then, we made a pilot.
Is it really exciting to get involved with a platform like this, that is so new and is so open to doing different kinds of material?
KIRKE: Yeah, absolutely! I keep hearing that it’s the wild west of television, and I am really glad to be a part of whatever new frontier that is. It feels appropriate to be in this new era and be a part of it. It’s really great.
How nerve-wracking is it to go through the process of posting the pilot online and waiting for the feedback to see if you’ll get picked up for a full season?
KIRKE: So nerve-wracking! That was really strange. Everybody involved on the team was pretty confident about it. I had so much fun making the pilot that I really hoped we got to continue telling the story. I couldn’t imagine falling in love with the group of people in the story so much, and then not being able to finish it. That’s like starting a book you like, and then it just disappears. But, I think it ultimately pays off because you know that there is a group of people out there who wants to see it. And the people involved with Amazon are so cool. You feel like you have a lot of creative freedom with them, as an actor.
KIRKE: I think the merging of high and low culture is so fascinating. And also, exploring this world of classical musicians is just something that I’ve never thought about. I think that Hailey is a really great character, in a lot of ways, because she has this level of seriousness and commitment to her art. She is an artist, in a lot of ways, but she’s suspicious of what that means, in this world. That’s something that I certainly can relate to, and a lot of people I know, who are young, creative people, can relate to. There’s also this element of athleticism. Hailey has this huge question of why she’s doing this. She’s been playing the oboe since she was four years old, every day, for hours and hours and hours and hours. There was no choice in the matter. Those dilemmas are really fascinating to me. Also, just getting to represent a serious young woman is very cool to me. I don’t meant to sell her short and say that she’s really serious and boring because she’s not. Her being in this comedic world is really cool. You get to see this unpredictable, goofy side of her. And she’s an interesting ingenue, as well. She’s already disillusioned, when she begins, and she’s flip-flopping between loving this thing and hating it, all the time.
Did you have any idea that there was this secret debauched world of classical music?
KIRKE: No fucking idea! Sorry. I had no idea. That was news to me, but I think it makes sense. People who are that committed to something have a lot of steam that they need to blow off. They’re still artists. We have this idea of artists being on the fringe and being debauched and strange. I don’t think that people who commit themselves to classical arts should be exempt from that.
What did you do, research wise, to get yourself into the head of someone like this?
KIRKE: I basically shadowed my oboe teacher for awhile, and went to her recording sessions and symphony rehearsals. That was the most I could do. The oboe is the most maddening thing, of all time. I’m struggling to play something that my oboe teacher was doing when she was much younger than I am. Seeing how frustrated I get with just playing four notes on the oboe is informing how much frustration and tenacity Hailey must have. I definitely haven’t gone to oboe school for four months, or anything like that. I will never be good at the oboe. No matter what happens, I will never be good at it because I just don’t have that much time on my hands. I don’t have the gift of going back to being a child and having my brain develop around this instrument. It’s not easy to play. It has the highest rate of suicide in the Philharmonic. It depends so much on your reed. You can be totally prepared and have a bad reed and not be able to make the sounds you want to make out of your instrument. You can blow your entire career because of two pieces of wood. It’s weird.
KIRKE: It is so much fun! They’re just so nurturing. Jason [Schwartzman] and Paul [Weitz] are really careful that you connect to what you’re saying, at all times, and they’re open to what you have to say. Normally, I don’t have that much to say because I love what they’ve written.
What can you say about who Hailey is, in the world of this show?
KIRKE: She is the vehicle for the viewers to understand this world. I feel like she’s at a similar level that the audience would be, but she’s also a vehicle for pieces that were written 200 years ago. She’s this interesting intersection between the real world and the classical music world. I think that she has a long way to go, and I think that we’ll see that in the season.
Will we learn what led her to the oboe?
KIRKE: I hope so. If you don’t, I’ll email you what I think, after the season comes out. I’m sure that you will.
Hailey is striving for a career while she’s teaching students how to play. What was it like to work with that kid, in the pilot?
KIRKE: Oh, my god, I loved the kid! He’s so wonderful. It was pretty funny to pretend to teach him the oboe. Also, in the original script, the oboe directions that had been written were totally wrong. My oboe teacher was like, “That’s not what you do with your mouth!” We both couldn’t make a sound out of the oboe, so it was funny.
Could you ever have imagined that you’d be working on a show that required an oboe technical advisor?
KIRKE: Yeah, that was really weird. I didn’t even know what an oboe looked like, quite frankly, before I Googled it when I got the script. It’s really beautiful looking. It’s cool to have so much of her nature be around the physicality of the instrument. That’s really helpful to me, as an actor, to know that she carries this thing everywhere, and she’s used to putting her lips in a certain way, and she’s used to using her hands in a certain way.
Your character forms an interesting friendship with Saffron Burrow’s character. Did you enjoy getting to play those moments, especially the back-and-forth conversations?
KIRKE: Yeah. Saffron is so cool, and I’m really glad that we get to have that kind of rapport. I think it’s really cool to see these two characters not being jealous of one another, but she’s guiding my character and I’m looking up to her. And it’s not totally square. There are a lot of really interesting and dynamic things happening there, that they’re talking about. We have really solid representations of strong women. These women are smart. They’re experts at what they do. It’s just very cool to be able to play them.
You’re doing work with really interesting filmmakers. What is it that draws you to a project?
KIRKE: At this point, I really don’t have so much choice. I’m so lucky that these roles choose me, in a way, and that people are choosing me to play more off-beat characters. I have no problems with anyone I’ve played yet.
How was the experience of being a part of Gone Girl and working with a director as meticulous as David Fincher?
KIRKE: I love that, actually. As damning as it might sound to do something a hundred times, there is something really cool, as an actor, about getting to explore it that many times. Granted, you’re not able to change your blocking that much and you’re dealing with a lot of continuity stuff, so you can’t do a whole new scene every time, but it’s really cool. You get to experiment more.
Mozart in the Jungle is available at Amazon Prime on December 23rd.