"Mozart in the Jungle" caught the attention of entertainment lovers, particularly during the 2016 Golden Globes, as a hit comedy exclusively on Amazon. The original series was nominated again in 2017 and was recently renewed for its fourth season, predicted to release late this year.
Tanya Mardirossian: You were surprisingly easy to get a hold of. I was expecting to hear from a publicist or agent, but I heard from you directly. Do you consider yourself a celebrity?
Blair Tindall: Kind of borderline. Usually the writer of an original work doesn't become a celebrity. After the book is bought and it turns into some sort of property, no one is even aware there was a book in the first place. I've done several speaking engagements in the last few months and all kinds of people show up, and they're really enthusiastic about the show.
TM: What is it like having a memoir, a very personal piece of writing, adapted for the screen? Is there an emotional process?
BT: It's so well done that I'm pretty happy. This isn't a standard Hollywood tale. There's nothing I don't love about the show. It depicts us (classical musicians) pretty accurately. Some musicians complain about the hand positionings or about auditions, but sometimes they really do happen like in the show. This is entertainment, it's not supposed to be entirely accurate.
TM: I've gotten some people hooked to the show, and it's great — so entertaining.
BT: People think it's going to be very boring. But the genius of it is, you don't need to know about classical music. It's entertaining and people go 'Wow, that music turned me on. I want to know what that was.'
TM: It's a very Rock 'n' Roll take on classical music, and it's great when you need to laugh or feel uplifted. You get drawn to the characters so easily, it's well written and makes you keep hitting play. Do you serve as a writer on the show?
BT: No, but I'm a consultant, which means, if they want to know something about the oboe, they'll call me up and ask. If I'm actually on the set, people do come up to me and ask stuff. They have a bunch of researchers and consultants. The series is made by the Coppola family. They have relatives that are classical musicians and get story ideas.
Some questions are asked like if people bow when the musicians come on stage or if they warm up on stage, and it's different for everyone, but not something they know.
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TM: How often are you on set?
BT: Well, it's shot in New York (Tindall resides in Los Angeles). I did go to Mexico City (Season 2). I go for a few weeks every year. I'm on the soundtrack with other oboists, and I have a cameo in an episode (Season 1).
TM: Are the actors actually playing the instruments?
BT: No. The one exception to that is Dermot Mulroney. They can all play the instruments a little bit, but you're not hearing them. Mulroney is really a great cellist, and we do actually hear him. Much of what you hear is recorded in eastern Europe, because it's cheaper to record than in the U.S. which is terrible because that's something I railed against in my book.
One of the things that makes me the happiest is that everyone has a musical coach on the show, and I already knew most of them from my time in New York. Between them, the theme music and the soundtrack, I'm guessing that about 500 musicians have gotten work off the show, including me.
TM: Has having the show changed you in any way?
BT: One really positive thing is now I'm getting called to do solo concerts, which is unusual for oboists. It's great to have a platform to do that. After the book came out, it was really widely misunderstood by my 'tribe.' I was scrambling for any job I could get. People thought I was writing in an insulting way about my colleagues, when I was trying to do the opposite. If they actually picked up the book and read it, they would have seen that. A lot of people are just now getting into it. Once it passes three seasons, people start watching. I've had people say 'Wow this is so good. I'm so sorry I didn't watch it before.' It really changed me because I was able to get work easily. I was in the right place at the right time. It's good for the soul, and it helps with writing and pitching work.
TM: You just got renewed for Season 4. A new season release has been consistent for every December.
BT: They'll probably start filming in June or July, depending on where they're shooting.
TM: What are your thoughts on having the show on Amazon streaming rather than cable?
BT: Jason Schwartzman kept trying to get this made. He finally got an HBO deal, and then they passed on us for 'Girls,' which makes sense. It's a similar show with a young female protagonist in the big city. I don't think the show would have worked so well on HBO. Amazon has free range to do what they want, and given that it's the Coppolas involved, the results are fantastic.
TM: Do you have any advice for young writers and/or musicians?
BT: For musicians, it's important to set your sights high and assume you're going to succeed. For writers, I always get told 'I bet you never thought it was going to end up this way' and I say yes, I aimed for it very specifically. I didn't want it to fall flat or I'd be the object of scorn, and I wanted it to be worth it. Set a plan and aim. Not to sound like a slogan, but if you don't aim for the bullseye, you're never going to hit it.