"They're All Just Fantastic": An Interview With Jade Eshete of 'Dirk Gently'

Colin McGuire
Farah, and Jade, kick ass in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Dirk Gently's Farah Black talks being a bad-ass and heading to Comic-Con for the first time

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Airtime: Saturdays, 9pm
Cast: Samuel Barnett, Elijah Wood, Hannah Marks, Fiona Dourif, Jade Ashete
Network: BBC America

In BBC America's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Jade Eshete plays Farah Black, who, as of this writing, has only been seen as a woman held captive in a very scary and very dark bedroom. The series, written by Max Landis and based off the Douglas Adams book of the same name, follows a holistic detective, who, as it goes, never searches for clues and essentially allows cases -- along with life – to play themselves out naturally. That detective, of course, is Dirk Gently, who, in this adaptation, is charmingly played by Samuel Barnett. Elijah Wood stars as Todd Brotzman, a dude who doesn’t much care for solving crimes and mysteries.

PopMatters talked with Eshete over the phone recently to discuss her role as a bad-ass problem-solver who eventually takes on a much larger role in the series. We also discussed how she became involved with the series in the first place, the experience of bringing the show to Comic-Con, and, of course, just how different Jade the Actress is from Farah the Bad-Ass.

How did you get involved with the project? Was this something you sought out?

No, not actively. Initially, it was a breakdown that I got from my agent. I saw the pilot, read it, and just became immediately engrossed in everything that was Max Landis and Dirk Gently. I immediately was just drawn to it.

Had you read any of the books?

You know, I was introduced to Douglas Adams through this project. I knew he was the author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but not Dirk Gently, so it's kind of exciting for me to be introduced to it through this project, and bringing it to others who also may had not been familiar with Douglas Adams and his work. This was something I had to learn a lot about as I got more involved.

This was a television series not too long ago. After you received this part, did you go back and watch any of that interpretation?

I watched a little bit of it during the audition process to kind of get a feel for the role. I didn't watch a lot of it, though, because I think I realized early on that it was a different tone from the one Max sent, and it wasn't necessarily going to be a huge help to me in terms of understanding this type of tone and feel and background.

Is it fair to try and compare the two?

Oh, no (laughs). Not at all. Again, I didn't watch the entirety of it, so I can't fully judge, but from what I saw, and knowing what I know about Max and Robert's writing and the tone and the style, it's so vastly different from anything from that particular series. Max has his own fresh take on it as well, in terms of it not being a linear adaptation of the books. It’s still Douglas Adams and the character that he created, but it's got a fresh new take on it through Max’s eyes.

How long ago did you guys stop shooting? I'm assuming it's been a while.

We stopped shooting at the end of August; August 29. It wasn't that long ago we were in Vancouver, and we were shooting for about four months, starting in mid-May. Everything's still pretty fresh. We started doing some press for it at San Diego Comic-Con back in July. We were in the throes of filming, and even then it was still kind of difficult because we were still learning about our characters. We did New York Comic-Con just last week and it was a lot easier -- at least for me -- because we had a better understanding of where our characters went. It’s been kind of crazy.

I know you guys have done a lot of stuff at the Comic-Cons and that’s sort of its own world in and of itself. It's a very particular fan base. Was that something you were familiar with before getting involved with this project? Has it been a new experience for you personally?

It definitely was a new experience for me. I'd heard of Comic-Con, but I'd never been to it myself prior to this project. It was definitely new and exciting. I remember pulling up and seeing all of the costumes -- and these are not thrown-together costumes, these are well thought-out costumes -- the fans are really, really amazing and dedicated. It was exciting to be introduced to that specific world.

That's also a fan base that is really particular about what's right and what's wrong. Was that intimidating at all?

A lot of the fans are Douglas Adams fans, so they're looking to see what the correlation is between this show and other shows, or how closely it sticks to the books. You also have Max Landis fans, and the fans of the comics. That desire to see what they feel about something they're already so close to, and have their own ideas on how closely it should stick to something they'd already fallen in love with, is definitely very present.

We premiered the first episode at New York Comic-Con, and what was really exciting was those same fans absolutely loved it. They were clapping and roaring and laughing. I heard it from outside the hall as I was about the enter -- we heard the last ten minutes of their response -- so even though you have those people there who are really sticklers for what's already been laid out by Douglas Adams, I think even those people were really delighted and excited about what they saw.

I want to talk about your character for a second. Farah's such a bad ass. What do you think is the biggest difference between you as an actor and her as a character? Watching the first three episodes, I'm convinced that you're as much of a bad ass as she is.

Well, that makes me feel awesome, so thank you. I would probably say that in terms of the differences, that definitely is a huge one. I didn't bring gunplay and fight skills to this role; it was something that I definitely had to learn. We did have a great team in terms of helping me with stunts, teaching me how to hold the gun, and how this particular punch should land. It was a very big part of Farah, how skilled she was in these aspects, so that was something I really wanted to make sure that I both conveyed and lived in with Farah.

What was the hardest part about jumping into that character?

The hardest part was just that: jumping in. There are certain things about Farah that I do relate to, which were easier for me to fall into: being frustrated with herself, being a perfectionist, and how she cares for people in her life; all those were easy for me. The fighting and the confidence level that she has in her skills was something else; I remember reading the breakdown for the initial audition and just feeling like, "Oh my God, there's just no way. There's no way." I'd never held a gun prior to this, so learning how to do that and building my own confidence with it, as well as the fight choreography. Getting into her headspace, that very brooding, specific, "I will eliminate you because I have to" headspace, was something that I had to definitely learn and figure out.

You mentioned stunts. How much of that was you in terms of the stunt work and choreography?

I did mostly everything. I think there was one particular fall that I didn't do -- I had an amazing stunt double who took care of business -- but especially in the first two episodes, my first day on set was one full day of fighting. All you see, stunt-wise, in the first two episodes is me; every single punch, all of the falls, that's all me. That made me feel good; I was able to do all the stunts and make them look realistic. That, I think, helped a lot in terms of building my confidence in the fight choreography as well.

The first episode is a lot of nothing for you; you're just kind of in a bed. Was that tough to play?

I remember reading that at first and thinking, "What is it that they want me to do? Farah is chained to this bed the whole time." Then I saw what Max had written for other episodes, and that just made me fall in love with the role even more. In terms of being chained to the bed … yeah, there were moments that were pretty tough. Those were real handcuffs. It was kind of exhausting. They wanted to capture that sense of frustration: I'm sweaty, I'm bloody, I'm screaming at the top of my lungs for someone to find me. There were aspects of it that were tough, but all in all, it was awesome. We called it the red room because there was blood everywhere. It was really, really intense.

Perhaps the biggest name attached to this project is Elijah Wood as Todd. I wanted to get your quick thoughts on what it was like working with him. Also, how was the dynamic of the cast -- did you guys have a lot of fun?

The cast is great. From the very beginning, we got a sense of what our camaraderie would be when we did an escape room in Vancouver; all of us, including Max. It was so much fun but at the same time, it was so frustrating. Thankfully, we made it out, even though they gave us two time extensions that we desperately needed. It was a great gauge for how we'd work together and from that moment, I knew it would be great. Elijah's fantastic, so talented and so sweet; just a nice, nice guy. It was a pleasure working with him, working with Sam; they're all just fantastic. That was probably the best part for me, working with everyone and learning from everyone.

What's next for you as an actress? Do you have any more plans coming up soon?

We just finished about a month ago, so I’ve pretty much been swept up with doing press for the show. I'm already auditioning for other projects, so we’ll see what's on the horizon, but I'm still pretty wrapped up in Dirk. Maybe as the winter progresses, I'll try to take a vacation. I think I need to find a beach for a couple days and recuperate from Farah's bad-ass-ery. Hopefully, we'll get a second season and I'll be back to Farah very soon.





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