"'Penny Dreadful' was a big surprise," says composer Abel Korzeniowski, who just received two Emmy nominations for his work on the show (listen to our complete podcast chat below). "I had never done a horror movie and hadn't done a TV series yet. So the surprise phone call from Showtime was really something intriguing: why would they ask about myself?" Despite his initial doubt, however, "it turned out to be something very different than what I thought. This wouldn't be just a genre piece: this was a really well written story with deep characters, and the creatures from Victorian literature came to life in a very vivid, new light."
"Penny Dreadful" follows the efforts of a British explorer (Timothy Dalton), an American gunslinger (Josh Hartnett) and a medium (Eva Green) to combat supernatural demons in Victorian London. "It took some time to get there," says Korzeniowski of the music's tone, "to find the balance of having something that could speak to the modern ear, and at the same time respect certain genre conventions. Even if we want to tell a very deep and big story reaching to emotional levels of the character, we still have the genre scenes which are simply supposed to be scary, and sometimes you just need pure adrenaline and you need to use certain elements that would trigger this extra shot."
Korzeniowski previously received two Golden Globe nominations for his scores for the films "A Single Man" (2009) and "W.E." (2011), but making the transition from film to television wasn't difficult for the composer. "Personally, I don't see very much difference, especially in our golden era of television: as of right now, the artistic and technical level is really on par with anything you may watch on the big screen."
But there is one big difference in composing for TV as opposed to film: the opportunity to evolve his score over the course of multiple episodes and seasons, instead of being confined to a self-contained narrative. "I'm getting sort of a second and third chance to look at what I wrote," he says, "to try to elevate it to a different stage or level, and this was something very fulfilling."
Korzeniowski has two chances of winning this year, with nominations for Best Music Composition for a Series and Best Main Title Theme Music.
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Photo: Abel Korzeniowski at Golden Globe Awards, January 2012. Credit: Owen Fisher Ltd/REX