On “Mozart in the Jungle,” the characters played by Lola Kirke, Saffron Burrows and Bernadette Peters represent three different generations of women involved in a New York City orchestra. But there's no diva behavior involved, in fact they get along and actually help each other.
During the Amazon Prime show’s second season, their characters — respectively, oboist Hailey, cellist Cynthia and orchestra director Gloria — struggle with their personal lives as well as with a rarified industry always in flux. We briefly spoke about changing times and not quite faking their instruments.
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Like Netflix, Amazon Prime releases every single episode of its new seasons in one fell swoop. Do you binge-watch?
Bernadette Peters: I did that with “Breaking Bad.”
Saffron Burrows: I just binge-watched four episodes of “Transparent” in one evening.
Lola Kirke: There are certain movies I wish were longer. Some movies I’m like, “I wish this was over half an hour ago.” But some I wish I could know those characters more and see their development.
Saffron and Lola, neither of you is a professional musician and you have to fake playing your instruments —
Burrows: We don’t fake.
Kirke: I fake. The only thing I can play is the solo from Beethoven’s Fifth. It’s four notes long. If I say I can play the solo in Beethoven’s Fifth then you’d think I’m really good. But there’s a big difference between playing a piece on the oboe and just sounding notes on it. It’s hard to even sound a note on an oboe because it’s a ridiculous instrument.
Burrows: You look like you’re playing it. I just learn 90 seconds of everything. And when the camera keeps rolling I’m really in trouble.
Bernadette, you don’t have to fake your character’s musical talent. And this season your character finally gets to sing. Was her performing a version of Rosemary Clooney’s “Come On-a My House” your idea?
Peters: It was. They wanted something that was kind of a come on to Pavel [the character she’s romancing this season]. I heard that in a car coming home from the airport, but not the Rosemary Clooney version. It was Julie London’s version [ed. which is slower than the Clooney]. I put it in my act to practice in front of people before I did it for the show.
Gloria, is on the management side. Do any of you tend to get involved with the business angle of your industries? It seems you have to be at least a little savvy on both sides to be successful.
Kirke: It’s hard. To understand the industry and understand why you’re getting rejected all the time or why you’re getting accepted all the time, that can be really interesting. It’s a really difficult industry. It’s beneficial to understand what’s happening — that if something’s not working out it might not be that you’re untalented. Or if it is working out it’s also not necessarily because of you. It’s humbling.
Peters: I try not to focus on it a lot. I try to stay on the creative side. Hopefully you have someone who does that for you. I had a manger for years, then I was kind of my own manager, as far as me saying, “I’m not going to do that.” But you really don’t want to be involved in that stuff. I hate it.
Kirke: I really want to play a P.A. [personal assistant] in a movie.
Burrows: Those are the people we know best. We spend most of our time with them.
Kirke: There’s so much in that character — so much stress. You have to hide it all.
“Mozart in the Jungle” is very interesting in the way it presents most of its female relationships as very supportive. They’re not always at each other’s throats.
Peters: We’re a very supportive cast for each other. It’s a real thing.
Kirke: The writers are right to show supportive roles. But you also see characters like Betty [an older oboist, played by Debra Monk], who’s less supportive. You see the ways in which people can make enemies of each other. In any creative industry it’s important you find your mentors and the people who support you and the people who don’t. That’s reflected in our show.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge