“I had no idea it was going to be so big,” admits “Downton Abbey” composer John Lunn as we chat via webcam (watch above) about the lasting impact of this period drama. He has been with this PBS series since the very beginning, winning Emmys in the second and third season and competing again for the fourth. Created by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park,” 2001), the show centers on a British aristocratic family and their servants in the early 20th century. “We were all just doing things to the best of our ability,” he recalls, “just trying to make something as good as possible. We had no idea it was going to be so massive.”
Lunn was no stranger to period pieces, having worked on TV adaptations of Gustave Flaubert‘s “Madame Bovary” (2000), R.D. Blackmore‘s “Lorna Doone” (2000) and two of Charles Dickens‘ celebrated novels — “Bleak House” (2005) and “Little Dorrit” (2008); the latter earned him an Emmy nomination (as did his work on the 2013 series “The White Queen”). As he explains, “most of the costume dramas I’d done previously had all been based on books. Everybody knew the story, you knew how it was going to start, how it was going to end.” In the case of “Downton Abbey,” “there was a plan, obviously, but by and large a lot of it was made up as we went along.”
Throughout its run, “Downton Abbey” explored the upstairs/downstairs politics of the British class system. But for the composer, “the music doesn’t really differentiate between whether it’s a servant or a lord. They’re human beings. They have the same emotions, and so I haven’t treated anybody differently. The music’s very, very democratic.”
Lunn recorded the score for the finale at the famed Abbey Road studios with some of the cast present. “A lot of the themes that had been established,” he reveals, “just kind of came to an end. It was quite a cathartic experience, actually.”
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