For decades, film and television has pulled from novels to create and re-tell stories in a new and exciting way. One of the latest novels to get the Hollywood treatment is Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. The show, which stars Elijah Wood and Samuel Barnett, came to BBC America in October, and debuted on Netflix in December. It has since been renewed for a second season.
We spoke with the show’s actress Alison Thornton on the new project, working with the Lord of The Rings alum, and the differences in working on a Netflix co-production.
Thornton plays Lydia in the Max Landis-created show. Lydia, she explained, serves as a partial focal point for the show and the dynamic duo’s investigation.
“My character, Lydia, is the missing daughter of deceased billionaire Patrick Spring and the center of a police investigation. Dirk Gently was hired by Patrick Spring before he died to investigate his own death. That includes saving Lydia. So Dirk and Todd are pretty much running their own unconventional investigation to save Lydia and find out who killed Patrick Spring.”
The novel on which the show is based was written by Douglas Adams, author of the widely beloved Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy. Thornton’s admiration for the latter was a helping hand in letting her get to know the style of Adams’ work, but it wasn’t until landing the role in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency that she really learned of the tale.
“I have always been a fan of Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, although I was unfamiliar with Dirk Gently. When I got the job I did some research and listened to some audiobooks to get a sense of the Dirk Gently universe.”
Upon reading the script for the show, Thonrton was drawn to the “brilliant” writing and the honesty of the characters.
“I guess I’m drawn to the way the story impacts the characters. I love seeing them react to the crazy situations they are put in. The writing is brilliant in that all of the characters are out there and quirky, but they are not random. They are all driven by human emotions and they are all relatable in their own way.”
The project, which will bring its second season to screens in 2017, was brought to life by many talented actors, writers, and crew members. It’s thanks to these brilliant minds that Thornton enjoyed her time on set so much, to the point of the experience with them being the most memorable while working on the show.
“All of the actors and crew are amazingly talented and such great people to work with. I’m very lucky because I got to learn so much from them all. They were always singing Destiny’s Child and being goofy which made the show so much fun to be on. Bentley is pretty cool too. He is the adorable corgi. I spent a lot of time playing with him on set.
The show’s production was a collaboration between BBC America and Netflix. Netflix is known for its liberal, hands-off approach to new programming, but that doesn’t mean working on this show was much different than any other for Thornton. And you can certainly expect to find her hours-deep into one of its exclusive shows.
“I mean it was cool for me because I’m such a fan of Netflix. I binge watch more than I care to admit,” she says.
Thornton spent a good amount of time on set working with actors Wood and Barnett. But it was working with Wood that gave the actress a case of nerves, thanks to his previous work as a hobbit.
“I was incredibly nervous to work with Elijah Wood. The Lord of the Rings trilogy are my all time favorite movies. I literally know all of the dialogue and my ringtone was ‘In Dreams’ for two years. I met him on my first day and I remember a moment when I was supposed to be paying attention to blocking the scene but I was actually screaming on the inside because Frodo Baggins was standing next to me. I eventually calmed down and got to know him more. He is the nicest, most down to earth guy ever. And he is ridiculously talented.”
Thornton’s talents are evident in all her work. And while she aspires to move towards writing and production at some point in her career, acting remains her focus. For now, at least.
“I’m a bit young to be writing and directing now, but I definitely want to pursue both when I’m older. I write scripts for fun, but for now I’ll stick to acting and learning the industry.”
As for any other upcoming projects Thornton would take part in, she has a few ideas of stories she would love to retell.
“I have always wanted to remake Go Ask Alice. That would be an incredible role for an actress. As well, I think Antigone would make an awesome movie. I want to produce that if no one beats me to it,” she admits. “Also, whenever I read Stephen King short stories I always want to see a film or TV version. So many projects, so little time!
See Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency in its entirety on Netflix. Look for season two of the show to release in 2017.