[WATCH] ‘Underground’ composer Laura Karpman on working with Raphael Saadiq & John Legend

“It was about being visceral. It was reflecting both the urgency and the drama and the emotion that’s going on,” explains Laura Karpman as we chat via webcam (watch above) about her score for “Underground.” This new hit WGN drama series tells the story of the beginnings of the Underground Railroad. As the composer candidly admits, “We want to acknowledge the period, but we also want to take it in another direction. It was really just saying, this is an urgent story, it’s a theatrical story, it’s a thriller, it’s loaded with heart, it’s loaded with all of the things that contemporary dramas have in them.”

A two-time Emmy Award nominee for her work on “Odyssey 5” (2003) and “Masters of Science Fiction” (2008), Karpman worked on “Underground” with hip hop and R&B legend Raphael Saadiq, a member of the multiplatinum group Tony! Toni! Tone!  She found her new collaborator to be “an incredibly interesting musician. He’s both totally now and he’s kind of got this neo-soul thing going.”

One of the show’s executive producers is Grammy and Oscar champ John Legend who chose songs from beyond the program’s pre-Civil War era to supplement the score. Karpman revealed that she and Saadiq work closely with him when selecting what music would go where in each episode, working to find a smooth transition from song to score. “Raphael and I would very much suggest music edits, or I say, ‘Listen, I can do an introduction there, or we can bridge that over with strings,’ so that the weaving of the soundtrack was something that was very consciously done in spotting sessions, in the room together.”

Karpman also sang the praises of creators Misha Green and Joe Pokaski: “The great thing about the show is that they love music. Every once in a while you work on something where music is an afterthought. Here it was like, this is a character.”

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