Nicholas Britell Interview: ‘Succession’
“Where do we go over time?” asks Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated composer Nicholas Britell ponders when asked about how his score for Season 2 of “Succession” differed to the score he wrote for the show’s first season. “You don’t want to overstay your welcome with any one idea, but at the same time I wanted Season 2 to feel connected,” he declares.
“What if we imagine Season 2 as the second movement of a symphony, following this classical metaphor. It’s still the same piece but now it’s a more brooding, more melancholy tone, a different tempo, we’re going deeper and darker.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Britell above.
“Succession” is HBO’s critically acclaimed drama created by Jesse Armstrong, who won the Emmy for writing the show’s first season finale last year. It follows the brutal power struggles that drive dominating and withholding media magnate Logan Roy (Brian Cox), his entitled and damaged adult children Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Connor (Alan Ruck) and the sycophants, allies and adversaries that orbit them. Britell prevailed at the Emmys last September.
It’s an entrancing mix of searing dialogue, career-defining performances and a musical score by Britell that propels the narrative with an evocative mix of orchestral melodies and propulsive electronic beats.
Perhaps some of Britell’s most memorable work in Season 2 has been the hip hop inflections that punctuate the music underplaying scenes featuring Strong as troubled heir apparent Kendall Roy. Asked about why he turns to hip hop sounds among the primarily piano and string melodies, Britell says it is a good way to evoke in Kendall what is bubbling underneath the surface. “Kendall at times is trying to seem more confident than he is,” Britell explains. “The beats are confident, so it puts it in stark relief his lack of confidence at times. That helps us see who Kendall really isn’t, at times.”
“Here is a character that is connected to that sound and is there some way we can integrate that into the show, both in the score but also for example in places like, in Season 2, the ‘L-to-the-O-G’ rap for example, where Kendall literally raps on camera.”
It ultimately works, providing a great example of how integral Britell’s score is to the narrative. “My fear is always, well it’s a little bit like Hippocrates’ medical oath ‘first do no harm,’ I never want to hurt anything,” Britell laughs when describing how he brings something to the table on this show. “I never want to ruin anything, I don’t want to give anything away, I don’t want to step on the toes of something!”