In Transatlantic, Anna Winger tells the remarkable true story of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee. Fry, an American journalist, journeyed to Marseille in 1940 in order to rescue as many anti-Nazi artists and intellectuals as he could. When he was forced to leave in 1941, he had managed to save thousands. It was during a visit with her father that Winger first heard Fry's story. She recalls her father pointing out Varian-Fry-Straße in Berlin's Postdamer Platz, and then explaining more about Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee. Winger explains that Fry's story is inspiring as it is about an ordinary person doing something extraordinary and brave. She began to think about Fry's story as ideal for television while working on Unorthodox, and eventually decided to create Transatlantic.
The result is Transatlantic, an enthralling period drama based on a remarkable true story. Although the series is labeled as a "work of fiction inspired by real people and real events," the questions of who was real and who was fictional, what truly took place in Marseille in 1940, and what became of the artists and writers who escaped remain unanswered. Transatlantic and its Characters (T&C) fills in the blanks and answers all your queries regarding Varian Fry, Mary Jayne Gold, the Emergency Rescue Committee, and more.
#1. Is Transatlantic a true story?
Source: Den of Geek
Yes, Transatlantic is based on a true story, and it's adapted from the historical fiction novel The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer. "At a certain point, you have to acknowledge we're creating a fictional space," Winger says. "We're setting real characters free in a fictional space that's against the backdrop of real history. But in the end, we're making up a story, we're spinning a yarn."
She adds, "It's not a history lesson, although there's a lot of real history in it. All the research is an important part of the process, but then liberating myself from the burden of 'it's not a documentary, it's a television series,' and allowing the characters to take on lives of their own in a way in my imagination."
The romance between Varian (Cory Michael Smith) and Thomas (Amit Rahav), one of several love stories in the show, is the biggest fictionalization. "We take great artistic liberty with all the romance. I always say we're trying to play with plausible deniability like it might have happened," Winger says. "We wanted to give them really fun adventures, but at the same time be true to the nugget of everything that really happened."
#2. What does Netflix’s Transatlantic change?
Transatlantic captures the desperation of Fry and those involved in the ERC to save refugees in Southern France but omits going into much detail about how Fry got involved, and how a solid portion of Fry’s work began before he even arrived in France.
After Germany invaded France, Fry visited Berlin as a foreign correspondent and was so horrified by the treatment of people under the Hitler regime that on his return to America he gathered over 200 notable Americans to found the Emergency Rescue Committee.
Transatlantic focuses on how Fry and those involved in the ERC lacked sufficient government support but it fails to mention that the ERC was supported to some extent by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, (who Gillian Jacobs played in Showtime’s The First Lady funnily enough) A few days after the committee was founded the First Lady obtained emergency visas for several intellectuals. This led to the committee realizing they needed someone in France to aid their rescue efforts , for which Fry volunteered. Fry was only supposed to stay in France for over 3 weeks but ended up staying a year, initially meeting with refugees in his room at the Hotel Splendide where the show starts.
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