- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
The Underground Railroad, Barry Jenkins’ epic adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, novel follows Cora Randall, played by Thuso Mbedu, as a slave who flees her Georgia plantation.
The composer previously earned Academy Award nominations for his work on Jenkins’ films Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. His credits also include the HBO series Succession, for which he won an Emmy for its theme music.
Britell says of working with Jenkins, “not only is he is so incredibly brilliant and insightful, and has amazing instincts and loves music… but he and I also share a philosophy of the [creative] process. That might be the thing that connects us the most.”
Of early inspiration for The Underground Railroad, he remembers when Jenkins sent him an audio text with the sound of a construction site. ”He was talking about this construction site and drilling into the ground. He was talking about digging, going downward. I took the sound of the drilling and started to experiment. … That was the starting point to this whole realm of experimenting that we did on elemental forces.”
In this episode of Behind the Screen, Britell discusses and plays cues from series, including ‘Genesis,’ ‘The Journey,’ ‘Bessie’ and ‘Penny Candies,’ as well as ‘Aria,’ a track with vocals from soprano Julia Bullock.
For the ‘South Carolina’ episode “we came to this idea that there was an almost fantastically lush orchestral sound which juxtaposed with Cora’s journey in South Carolina. That juxtaposition felt like a question mark,” Britell explains, adding, “We never really want to push the audience to feel a particular way. We try to evoke, hopefully, the actual feeling of something … That’s what ‘Bessie’ in a way represented to us. It was fantastical lushness but also it raised an important question about the nature of Cora’s journey and the nature of magical realism in The Underground Railroad.”
The composer’s work also includes Disney’s Cruella for director Craig Gillespie. “There were some moments that needed this very orchestral kind of scope, but at the same time the key to the score itself was how do you create a score that can connect with some of the greatest rock tracks of the 20th century and make it cohesive,” he remembers. “My early conversation with Craig was, what if we record with these rock musicians at Abbey Road… and essentially create a rock score that also somehow could incorporate orchestra.”
For more on The Underground Railroad, editor Joi McMillon and supervising sound editor/rerecording mixer Onnalee Blank, discussed their work on the series in this episode of Behind the Screen.
Hosted by THR tech editor Carolyn Giardina, Behind the Screen is a weekly series that features conversations with cinematographers, composers, editors, visual effects supervisors and other artists behind the making of motion pictures and series programming.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day