Bessemer native Andre Holland talks ‘The Eddy,’ the importance of community and giving back

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Andre Holland, left, is a Bessemer native starring in the Netflix series, “The Eddy,” about a pianist who runs a jazz venue in Paris. (Courtesy of Netflix)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — On this particular day in quarantine, Andre Holland notes how many ambulance sirens he’s heard wail along New York City’s empty streets.

“It’s a little bumpy up here,” the actor and Bessemer native says on the phone.

Like many, the coronavirus pandemic has kept Holland at home, longing again for when he can be part of a community–a central theme in his new show, “The Eddy,” which premiered on Netflix Friday. In the show, Holland portrays a troubled pianist who runs a jazz club in Paris with a close mix of musicians and friends that become like family over time.

Holland is quick to point out that the music in the show does not take center stage, rather serving as a connective thread that ties the characters together.

“This isn’t really a musical,” Holland said. “It’s a drama about family and those we’re close to.”

Starring in Oscar-winning films like “Moonlight” and “Selma,” and working with acclaimed directors like Steven Soderbergh and Ava DuVernay, Holland has a resume many actors would lust after. However, according to Holland, fame was never the goal.

“Growing up in the South, I didn’t have any ambitions for my career,” he said. “I thought that if I could do this and help out my family, I’d be happy with that.”

However, little by little, Holland began brushing shoulders with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, such as Damien Chazelle, the award-winning director of “Whiplash,” “La La Land,” and the first two episodes of “The Eddy.”

“I had met Damian when I was on the press tour for ‘Moonlight’ and he was promoting ‘La La Land,’ and I told him I really liked the movie and wanted the chance to work with him,” he said.

On paper, Holland’s character, Elliot, is someone many have probably seen before: a gifted artist who shields himself from the world due to a tragic past or inner demons. For Holland, what makes Elliot different is that he doesn’t wallow in his despair. Instead, he tries to become a better person, father and friend.

“I have seen a lot of characters where they seem to fall in love with their problems and be sad,” he said. “But I think that at every turn, Elliot is trying to get himself out of his mess.”

Even though Holland shot “The Eddy” long before the pandemic, he said he has a new perspective on what the show is really about.

“Looking at this show and so many other shows, I realize that maybe I take for granted what it means to be in a community with people,” he said. “I just feel like I will have a much deeper appreciation when we are together and take them more seriously.”

The idea of community is one that has also guided Holland’s recent efforts to give back to his hometown. In 2017, Holland bought Bessemer’s now-abandoned Lincoln Theatre, built in 1948 on First Avenue North.

Holland, along with his mother, Mary, have plans to breathe new life into the historic movie theatre. It will be converted into a performing arts center showcasing films, theater, and dance. They are in the process of launching a capital campaign to restore the space to its former glory.

“(‘Moonlight’ director) Barry Jenkins always says ‘When you climb the ladder, you send it back down.’ I feel that deeply,” Holland said. “So much of who I am is shaped by what I am doing in Bessemer. The least I can do is to repay that to the people who are coming up behind me.”


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