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Daniel Pemberton on capturing the Golden Age sweep of Being the Ricardos

Daniel Pemberton Being the Ricardos

Welcome to Right on Cue, the podcast where we interview film, TV, and video game composers about the origins and nuances of their latest works.

When one thinks of most modern film scoring, we’re in an interesting realm of experimentation and innovation — one less defined by the traditional symphonic orchestras of John Williams and James Horner and more by the electronic and textured influences of Hans Zimmer and his coterie. Normally, Oscar-nominated composer Daniel Pemberton (Best Original Song, The Trial of the Chicago 7) operates in the latter realm, thinking outside the box on scores ranging from Ridley Scott’s The Counselor to Into the Spider-Verse and beyond.

But for Being the Ricardos, his fourth collaboration with acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (third with Sorkin as director), Pemberton goes back to basics for a much more classical score than we’re used to hearing from him. Following a particularly tumultuous week in the life and career of Lucille Ball (played by Nicole Kidman), Being the Ricardos sees the I Love Lucy star navigating a series of controversies, from a particularly stubborn comedy bit on her hit sitcom to the tensions between her and husband/co-star Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) to media rumors that she’s a registered member of the Communist Party.

To fit the sweeping nostalgia (and bittersweet flaws) of its 1950s Hollywood setting, Pemberton crafted a score replete with lush strings and traditional orchestral flourishes, including an overarching main theme that encapsulates the sadness and struggles of Ball’s attempts to carve out a place for herself in a male-dominated Hollywood. Coupled with percussion-heavy cues that sell the fast-talking, fast-moving pace of Sorkin’s dialogue, it’s a score that’s refreshing in its old-fashionedness.

Today, Pemberton calls in from London over Zoom to talk to us about creating the score to Being the Ricardos, working with Sorkin, and the restrictions and opportunities that come with traditional scoring.

You can find Daniel Pemberton at his official website here.

Being the Ricardos is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video. You can also listen to the score for Being the Ricardos on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Lakeshore Records.

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Clint Worthington

Clint Worthington is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Spool, as well as one of the founders of the website/podcast Alcohollywood in 2011. He is also a Senior Writer at Consequence of Sound, as well as the co-host/producer of Travolta/Cage. You can also find his freelance work at IndieWire, UPROXX, Syfy Wire, The Takeout, and Crooked Marquee.