Jeff Beal Interview: ‘House of Cards’ composer
Working on the final season of any series can be difficult, but that was especially true with “House of Cards” given the behind-the-scenes drama that led to the firing of star Kevin Spacey. “One of the real challenges we had in this season was telling our story without our former lead actor on screen at all,” reveals composer Jeff Beal, who was with the show from beginning to end. Watch our exclusive video interview with Beal above.
The sixth and final installment of Netflix‘s landmark political drama shifted the emphasis from Frank Underwood (Spacey), a conniving Congressman turned President, to his wife Claire (Robin Wright), who, as his Vice President, assumes the office following his untimely exit.
With his music, Beal tried to “keep the ghost of Frank Underwood alive,” and the show’s writers tried to do the same. “All the stuff that happens in this season in some ways is ramifications of stuff that happened in prior seasons,” he explains. “So that was definitely a factor.”
Turning the spotlight on Claire wasn’t too difficult since the show “was sort of going that way” already, and it gave everyone a chance to delve into her enigmatic character. “She’s been really fascinating to me,” Beal says. “I always felt like we knew who Frank Underwood was” because “he was the one giving the direct address, letting you inside his head. Claire was always a bit of a mystery to me.” The writers used flashbacks to her childhood that showed “the formation of the psyche” and how she’s always “fought back in a very visceral, powerful way” against bullies, which helped clear things up for the composer.
His music for her character this season “was an extension of something I’d already been doing, via the operatic soprano, which crept in around season two. It was always an aspect of her strength.” Claire always “had an operatic scale to her persona,” so it was “fun to go to that well even more in this season.”
Beal has earned five Emmy nominations for his work on “House of Cards,” winning two prizes for Best Series Music Composition (2015 and 2017). He has five Emmys in total, which also include two for Best Movie/Mini Music Composition (“Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King” in 2007 and “The Company” in 2008) and one for Best Main Title Theme Music (“Monk” in 2003). He was also nominated three times for his work on “Rome” and once apiece for “Carnivale,” “The Water Is Wide,” “Loving Leah,” “Georgia O’Keefe,” “The Dovekeepers,” “Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise” and “The Putin Interviews.”