“Transatlantic,” a new show from “Unorthodox” creator Anna Winger that follows the efforts of the Emergency Rescue Committee in World War II France, is coming to Netflix on April 7, and the first trailer for it has just premiered. It’s a scintillating and dramatic teaser for what is bound to be a truly excellent show.
The show will tell a fictionalized version of the story of Varian Fry, an American journalist who was given the title of Righteous Among Nations by Yad Vashem for helping rescue thousands of prominent refugees from wartime France — including a young Hannah Arendt and Marc Chagall. It’s based on the book “The Flight Portfolio.”
In the trailer, we see the excellent Cory Michael Smith, who plays Fry, say, “I’m doing something truly important here, maybe for the first time in my life.”
We also get to meet Fry’s most important collaborators. Mary Jayne Gold, played by Gillian Jacobs, is an American socialite who gets called “spoiled” in the trailer, but who we also see as a savvy covert operative. Then there’s Albert Hirschman, himself a Jewish refugee who later became a celebrated American economist, who helped smuggle fellow Jews out of France. Hirschman is played by Lucas Englander, who too is the grandson of an Austrian refugee who came to the U.S. during WWII and helped house refugees in his home.
In the trailer, Hirschman talks about how he has “lost everyone,” but that he has to keep moving.
For a show full of such heavy topics, it also looks glamorous and sensuous — full of love stories between Fry and his fictional lover Thomas Lovegrove. If you noticed that his face is familiar, that’s because he’s played by Amit Rahav, who was the jilted husband in “Unorthodox.” The role of intrepid activist is perfect for the queer, impossibly talented Israeli star who says in the trailer, “This is a new world, the old rules don’t apply.”
Hirschman and Gold kiss passionately in the trailer, and we see a love affair between Paul Kandjo, a hotel receptionist and resistance fighter played by an awe-inspiring Ralph Amoussou, and Lisa Fittko, played by Deleila Piasko. Fittko, a Hungarian Jew, also worked with Fry and his team. She is best known for helping the famed German philosopher Walter Benjamin get out of France.
There are parties, dancing, drinking, the beauty of the Mediterranean, the gorgeous Marseilles villa out of which the group operated — all contrasted by scenes in which we see Jewish refugees fill the street of the French coastal city.
We also get a glimpse of the forces Fry and his collaborators were working against: not just the Nazis, but also American representatives in the area, the chief of whom is played by Jewish actor Corey Stoll. In a particularly poignant scene, a French official assures a Nazi emissary that his great country is “taking the Jewish problem very seriously,” only to be reminded that “there is only one great country in Europe.”
“They are all criminal aliens,” the same French officer later tells Fry. Fry counters that they’re refugees, only to be asked, “What’s the difference.” It’s unfortunately reminiscent of conversations still being had today.
“Transatlantic” asks questions about humanity — about what it truly means to be a hero. Many criticized Fry for only rescuing the most accomplished of refugees from Europe, leaving so many others to perish.
“We’re all just doing the best we can,” we hear Fry say in the trailer.
“That’s what you tell yourself so you can sleep at night,” Fittko responds to him.
“Who says I sleep at night?” he answers.
We can’t wait for the show to premiere. Check out the trailer here: