The Amelia Project is a fiction podcast about an agency that fakes its clients’ deaths, then sets them up with a brand new life and identity! Created by Oystein Brager and Philip Thorne, the show combines comedy, mystery, surrealism and drama, and has become a cult favourite with podcast fans around the world.
The show’s fifth season takes the death faking concept and gives it a historical twist – each episode is set in a different historical time period…
In this interview, co-creator Philip Thorne gives us a hint of what to expect from the upcoming Season 5, Part 2.
POD BIBLE: Did you always intend to write a historical season?
PHILIP: We knew from the beginning that The Amelia Project is an ancient organisation that has been faking deaths for many centuries…
Oystein and I often speculated about mysterious deaths and disappearances from history (Elvis, DB Cooper, Flight 19…) and would wonder: were these Amelia clients?
Then we came across some incredible real-life death faking stories, such as the case of Joan of Leeds, a 14th century nun, who got bored with monastic life, feigned mortal illness, constructed a dummy of herself, left it in her death bed, then escaped to pursue a life of “carnal lust”, as the records put it! How could she not be an Amelia client?
We first dipped our toes into historical waters with the Season 2 episode Cleo, which takes us back to Ancient Egypt and reimagines Cleopatra’s famous death by snake-bite.
But now with Season 5, we are taking it much further, each episode taking us deeper into The Amelia Project’s past!
How far back will you go?
P: We can’t reveal that! All we can say is that there is a lot of ground to cover. Which is why we’ve divided the season into three parts.
Part 1 is out already and takes us from 2001 to 1944. Part 2 will will pick up in the lead up to WW2, but you’ll have to listen to find out how far back it goes!
Finally Part 3 takes us all the way back to The Amelia Project’s mysterious origins.
What were the challenges of writing stories in other time periods?
P: A lot of research went into this season… and it’s a challenge to know when to stop too! Occasionally we’d ask ourselves “what was a fashionable beverage at this moment in history?”, then fall deep down a research rabbit hole and only emerge days later!
Are the stories based on real or fictional characters?
P: Some episodes reimagine the deaths of famous historical characters. Without giving too much away, we will radically reinterpret the death of a notorious female monarch, and tell the “real” story behind a celebrated 17th century playwright who died on stage during the final act of his play…
We also meet fictional clients… in two senses of the word! Clients we have invented, but also fictional characters from famous novels, who wander out of their literary homes and into our death-faking agency!
Did you have a favourite historical period to write in?
P: I have always been fascinated by a strange 18th century instrument called The Glass Harmonica. It was invented by Benjamin Franklin and for a brief period it was very fashionable. Even Mozart composed for it. But then it acquired a dark reputation… It was charged with invoking evil spirits, driving listeners mad, and sending its players to an early grave.
When I found out that one of the first pieces composed for this instrument is known as “Amelia’s Aria”, well, I just had to write an episode about that! The episode now bears the same name, ‘Amelia’s Aria’, and I really enjoyed digging deeper into the history surrounding this extraordinary instrument.
How different is this season to previous seasons of The Amelia Project?
P: In one sense it is a very classic season of the show. Each episode introduces us to a new client who wants to disappear. Like the early seasons, it’s almost like an anthology in that way. At the same time, the different historical periods give us a new set of references, textures, sounds, music, and archetypes to play with.
We also uncover some of the lore surrounding The Amelia Project, things that have only been hinted at previously…
And eventually, in the final part of the season, there will be some big reveals about our main characters.
You did your ‘advent’ series over December which was a great point of entry for new listeners. Would you say this historical series is also a great place to start for people just discovering The Amelia Project?
P: The best place to start with any fiction podcast is the beginning. Having said that, if you’re a new listener and a particular historical character or period grabs your attention, you can absolutely start with one of our new episodes and take it from there!
The Amelia Project combines a gradually unfurling mystery with standalone stories about clients. This means most of the episodes can be listened to out of context, and you can still enjoy them, even if you miss some of the details or don’t follow the framing plot.
Maybe avoid the first and last episodes of Season 5 Part 2 (as these are more plot heavy) but other than that, jump in wherever you want and enjoy your time with the world’s oldest (and most ridiculous) death faking agency!
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