Composer Nicholas Britell can keep a secret. The three-time Oscar nominee and Emmy winner for “Succession” has been working on “Andor,” the next “Star Wars” TV series, for the past two years, totally under wraps.
Details about “Andor” were announced yesterday by Lucasfilm at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Calif. Diego Luna will reprise his role as Cassian Andor from the 2016 film “Rogue One” in a 12-part series beginning Aug. 31 on Disney+.
Britell, meanwhile, was back in New York, still toiling away on the series. Although limited in what he could disclose about the show, Britell agreed to give Variety a preview of what “Star Wars” fans can expect three months from now.
The “Star Wars” universe has historically been defined by John Williams’ world-famous symphonic scores. Yet in recent months, “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett” have moved in unusual new directions involving offbeat sounds and colors. How would Britell characterize his “Andor” music?
“It’s definitely orchestral-plus, I would say,” Britell said. “Orchestra features heavily in it. There’s a wide range of sounds, and I’ve created a lot of new sounds. There are strings and brass, but there’s also lots of other stuff too.
“Without giving anything away, I would say that [executive producer] Kathy Kennedy, [creator and showrunner] Tony Gilroy, everyone right from the beginning, felt it was very important that we craft a unique set of sounds for this story, for the characters, for the world we’re creating here.
“So there’s been a lot of conversation, but actually a lot of freedom too, for me to explore things. Everyone’s on the same page about having a specific set of soundscape textures, sound worlds, for this.”
Gilroy contacted Britell months before shooting began, enabling the composer to write “source music” that would be featured on-screen later. “I’m writing all the score and also their source music,” Britell confirms.
This is their first project together. “My wife and I are massive Tony Gilroy fans,” Britell says, adding that “Michael Clayton” – which earned Gilroy 2007 Oscar nominations for writing, directing and best picture – is one of their favorite films.
“Tony and I got together for our first session in August 2020. Because there’s a lot of music in the series, we really jumped in, and that has continued to this day. We get together multiple times a week for hours at a time.” (It turns out that Britell and Gilroy are neighbors in Manhattan.)
Asked how the collaboration began, Britell says, “There were a few moments that Tony wanted to figure out early… a few very specific moments. Experimentation is really crucial to the composing process; you don’t know until you try things out. I remember getting some of the first reels and pinching myself — am I really working on something in the ‘Star Wars’ universe?”
Finding musical solutions to specific scenes led eventually to the creation of themes for the series – not so much for characters but relationships. “I’m always most moved when themes interact with different characters. Something might center around one person, but then it might actually be about a broader story.”
There have already been multiple recording sessions (“almost every month”) in London’s AIR Lyndhurst studios, Britell says, although he declines to specify how many musicians are performing. “It gets as big as you can get,” he says. (AIR comfortably holds 80 to 90 players.)
“The scope of the series is massive. Every episode has new demands, new music, and new ideas. It’s important that as the story evolves, the music should evolve too. We’ve been working nonstop for months, actually years, at this point.”
Britell has been unable to attend the London recordings because of pandemic restrictions, but – having lately recorded “Underground Railroad,” “Don’t Look Up” and “Cruella” there — has a team in place that he trusts.
Britell pays tribute to the legendary John Williams, who appeared in Anaheim yesterday to introduce his theme for “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” which debuts today on Disney+. “I don’t think there’s a composer out there who could say that they weren’t in some way inspired by, or affected by, the music of the ‘Star Wars’ universe.”
Lucasfilm’s announcement yesterday said the series “will explore an era filled with danger, deception and intrigue. Cassian Andor embarks on a path that will turn him into the rebel hero will challenge the evil Galactic Empire.”
Britell declined to specify how those story points would impact his music. But, he says: “I’ve always wanted to do something in a sci-fi world. Certainly nothing that I’ve done is near what this is.”