Segun Akinola on scoring Doctor Who, composing music during lockdown, and more

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Series 11 was all about having its own sound. It’s a completely different sound and a very different approach. It’s moving around musically, but also there is a series sound to it. With Series 12, it was not about changing the overall direction, but making sure that just as the story was developing and the characters were developing, the music was also developing. You could look back on Series 11 and hear something and think “That’s Series 11, not Series 12”, but [the new music] doesn’t sound out of place or like the direction is completely changed.

Here’s my interview with Segun Akinola, Doctor Who‘s current MVP – even as I’ve been frustrated with other aspects of the show, I’m never not impressed by his music. Some of the most memorable moments of Series 12 are down to his score, to my mind: his James Bond-esque motif does a lot of heavy lifting for Spyfall, the score for Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror is brilliant from start to finish, and I did really love that arrangement of the theme tune in The Timeless Children

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Composer Jeff Russo on scoring Star Trek: Picard, Noah Hawley’s Star Trek movie, and more

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From an instrumental point of view, I wanted to connect it to our previous stories. So, the use of the flute at the beginning and in the end is inspired by Jean-Luc Picard playing the Ressikan flute in The Inner Light. That’s really the only true connection to a musical instrument in the show that I can remember in The Next Generation – other than Riker playing a trombone! It was like, “Let’s not use a trombone. We don’t need to use a trombone.” For one thing, it’s not Star Trek: Riker, and it’s not Riker’s story, so it didn’t strike me as something that would be meaningful. The flute seemed really meaningful to how Picard’s life had progressed.

A recent conversation with Jeff Russo, who was both very nice and very enthusiastic about Star Trek. Lots of interesting, thoughtful comments about how you approach the score for something like Picard – and, actually, how that’s subtly but significantly different from how you approach the score for Discovery. (Which, thinking about it, would probably have been a better thing to reference in the title there – my typically suppressed clickbait instincts got the better of me this time.)

Incidentally, this very nice picture of Jeff is one I borrowed from his website, and in turn which he took from Scoring Sessions, a website I’ve only just now come across but is clearly a phenomenal resource. I think the original photo credit, in this case, goes to Dan Goldwasser, the Editor-in-Chief of Scoring Sessions.

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William Shaw on The Rings of Akhaten, the surprising similarities between Neil Cross & Chris Chibnall, and more (Part Two)

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Probably my favourite thing about Chibnall’s Doctor Who [is] that we seem to be moving away from the rigid atheism of a lot of the show’s history. I think some of it is a continuation of trends from the Moffat era. Davies was at times very influenced by New Atheism, and there’s a real softening of that through Moffat and then Chibnall. The Thirteenth Doctor has clearly learned the lessons the Eleventh Doctor doesn’t quite get in The Rings of Akhaten; that religion is more complicated than just this evil parasite that poisons society. I feel very lucky to be releasing the book now, because there’s a really interesting conversation developing about these topics.

Some more thoughtful comments from William Shaw today! Unsurprisingly, they’re still largely about Doctor Who, but we move a little further afield from The Rings of Akhaten today – take a look at Will’s thoughts on Series 12 and its depiction of faith, a ‘what if?’ scenario where Neil Cross took over from Steven Moffat instead of Chris Chibnall, and more.

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Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx on Just Mercy, coping during an emotionally intense filming process, and more

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Having that resource there – a real person that’s actually there, that I can call on and text and be able to ask for help [if I was feeling] lost or confused about anything, somebody that I could really lean on throughout this process to make sure we got it right? I think that was really, really important. [Bryan Stevenson] was involved with the script development, he was along for the entire process – I feel like it was a huge benefit, having Brian around.

This one was very exciting! I spoke to Michael B Jordan and Jamie Foxx about Just Mercy, their legal drama based on a true story. It’s a great film, definitely worth a watch, and it was great to talk to them too. Both very polite, which is always nice.

Busy week for me, actually, this stretch in the middle of January. Three of my most high-profile interviews, all squeezed into a fairly short space of time. Not bad! Not bad at all.

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Michael Chabon, Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman and Kirsten Beyer on Star Trek: Picard, what it means to treat Star Trek as a franchise, and more

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Between the four of them, Michael Chabon, Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman and Kirsten Beyer have written a lot of Star Trek: novels, comic books, films, and, of course, television. The series isn’t just that anymore – over fifty years after the original Star Trek was quietly moved to Friday nights and eventually cancelled, it’s now the jewel in the crown of CBS All Access, and a major international acquisition for Amazon Prime. That little television show has grown into an empire.

Or, put another way, it’s a franchise.

“It’s interesting this word ‘franchise’, right?” muses Kurtzman. “Because it feels like a very – Michael used an excellent word the other day – a very mercantile term, where everything is about ‘okay, we can sell this and we can sell that’. But I actually don’t think that’s what it’s about for any of us. I think that’s someone else’s job. Our job is to create great stories and figure out how to use all these different mediums to tell them in interesting ways.”

I’m really, really pleased with this one, actually – it is, I think, my favourite of the four Star Trek: Picard interviews I’ve done this week. Certainly, I think it’s the most insightful and most worthwhile as a piece of writing on its own terms – I’m particularly proud of what I was able to build out of the roundtable interview here.

Take a look!

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Isa Briones and Jonathan Del Arco on Star Trek: Picard, their characters Dahj and Hugh, and more

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As Isa says, though, it’s not every day you become part of something already so well-established. But with that must come some sort of trepidation – especially so early in her career, knowing this might well become her defining role?

“When you haven’t done much you will take any role that’s given to you,” laughs Isa Briones. “But I also didn’t know what this role was going to be. I was just auditioning and I was told it was Star Trek. I wasn’t really told that she was going to be this involved until the last call back. It really was a lesson, like, you’d never know how life is going to turn out and timing is everything… I always just cite my father. My father has been in the business a while, working his ass off for so long, but he finally started getting known at 50 years old. Now this is happening for me at 20, so anything is possible at any time. You roll with the punches, you take what comes your way.”

“She’s also an incredibly confident actor and performer, a great singer as well,” says Jonathan Del Arco, praising his co-star. “You always seem incredibly competent to me, from the day I met you. I think you were born for the part.”

The third of four Star Trek interviews! Isa Briones and Jonathan Del Arco were both absolutely wonderful – really just genuinely quite fun to be around.

Interviewing Isa in particular was a little bit of an odd experience, because it was the first time I’ve ever been older than the person I was interviewing. Which obviously is not actually that significant, but it threw me for a loop a little bit.

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Michelle Hurd, Harry Treadaway and Evan Evagora on Star Trek: Picard, working with Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes, and more

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“I’m just trying to work out whether I’m allowed to say what I think I’m allowed to say,” paused Harry Treadaway.

We’ve asked the assembled actors if they can tell us a little bit about their characters. So far, the answer has mostly been yes: Michelle Hurd explained that her character, Raffi, “has a very complicated relationship with the Federation. Very strained. She worked with Picard back in the day after Next Generation, and they had a bit of a falling out”. Evan Evagora, meanwhile, described his character Elnor as “a young Romulan boy who’s an expert in hand to hand combat. He’s pretty good with a sword as well, and he was raised in an all-female sect of warrior nuns”. Elnor is an orphan and a refugee; Raffi is haunted by decisions she’s made in the past, both of their lives changed radically by the destruction of Romulus.

But Harry Treadaway is having a slightly harder time telling us anything at all about his character. The three of them confer for a moment, whispering to each other so we can’t hear.

The second of four Star Trek: Picard themed interviews – this time with new cast members Michelle Hurd, Harry Treadaway and Evan Evagora!

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Sir Patrick Stewart and Jeri Ryan on Star Trek: Picard, how the new series addresses the present, and more

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Captain Jean-Luc Picard is here. Not only in a new Star Trek television series, but he’s also sitting just across the table from me.

There’s something a little surreal about that. Technically, yes, it’s actually Patrick Stewart who’s sitting here in front of me – but in all ways except literal, Captain Picard is in the room, and we’re all captivated.

It’s not the sort of thing you ever really think is going to happen, and it’s clear Patrick Stewart didn’t expect to be here either.

“For many years, any suggestion that I might revive Picard,” he explains, “I passed on immediately, straight away, without hesitation. Not because I wasn’t proud of what we did on Next Generation. I was, and I loved all the people that I worked with very, very much. But I thought I had said and done everything that could be said and done about Jean-Luc and the Enterprise and his relationship with the crew and so forth.”

Which, well, makes a lot of sense. There’s a version of Star Trek: Picard out there – a half-written script on someone’s hard drive, a forum comment, the whisper of a dream – where nothing has really changed. Captain Picard, on the Enterprise (the Enterprise-F this time, of course), boldly going where no one has gone before. But we’ve seen that: we’ve seen a hundred and seventy-eight episodes of it, and they were often wonderful, but all good things must come to an end.

Except, of course, here we are.

So! This was very exciting!

The day after going to the London premiere of Star Trek: Picard in Leicester Square, I had perhaps the most personally exciting interview of my career: Sir Patrick Stewart! And Jeri Ryan! Captain Picard! And Seven of Nine!

Eventually, I suspect I’ll write more about the experience itself – I think perhaps there’s something interesting to be said about it – but for the moment, let’s just sit and enjoy quite how cool this is.

Patrick Stewart!

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Gugu Mbatha-Raw on Motherless Brooklyn

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I always think you can’t really play a genre. You have to be grounded and real, and then the world – hopefully – is built around you. One of the things that I loved about Laura is exactly that: she’s not your classic femme fatale, she’s not a 50s housewife. She’s a layered, multifaceted human being, and you know we don’t often see that very often in female characters – and certainly female characters of colour in the 50s – so I just tried to bring as many emotional nuances to her as possible.

This is very exciting! Another in-person interview, and – crucially – my own on-screen debut! (Well, sort of, the Edward Norton interview was actually filmed first.)

I have no idea how the video is – I now suddenly understand why some actors never watch their own films, even the idea of watching this back feels too awkward – but I do remember Gugu being very lovely to talk to. (And myself getting a bit tongue-tied!)

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Aisling Franciosi and Sam Claflin on The Nightingale

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You should never see a scene of – well, any kind of violence, but in this case, sexual violence and not be made to feel uncomfortable. In my opinion, it’s filmed wrong if you don’t feel repulsed by it – there’s something wrong in the way that it’s been depicted.

This is a very exciting one! First-ever video interview. Not that you can actually see me in it, mind – I’m rather more suited to a radio career than television – but I was in the room, and they were filmed, so it counts. And it was a pretty cool experience generally, so that’s good.

I’ve linked directly to the YouTube video above, but there’s also a little bit of a write-up over at Flickering Myth, if you’re interested in that as well. It’s a good interview, I think – we only had a relatively short time together, but still managed to get to the heart of what’s proving to be quite a challenging film. (I’ll have my own review of The Nightingale up in a few days – it’s certainly quite a striking film, if nothing else.)

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