The Spool / Podcasts
Dustin O’Halloran and Herdis Stefánsdóttir on the foggy textures of The Essex Serpent
The composer duo opens up about their beguiling score for the Apple TV+ miniseries.
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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.

While Apple TV+ is home to some of the biggest shows on TV — your Teds Lasso, your Severances — some of its best, most beguiling shows and miniseries don’t get talked about nearly as often. Among those hidden gems is The Essex Serpent, the six-part adaptation of the novel by Sarah Perry, starring Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston.

Set in turn-of-the-century England, The Essex Serpent follows Cora Seaborne (Danes), a recently widowed Londoner, who sees her newfound freedom as the perfect excuse to pursue her love of science. That pursuit takes her to the Essex countryside, where a small town has been besieged by what’s been reported to be a massive serpent. Some, including the town pastor (played by Hiddleston), doubt its veracity, but the town itself is convinced, and Cora’s arrival just puts more fuel on the fire.

It’s a scintillating, romantic, deeply textured series about the thin lines between science and mysticism, and the reasons we might believe in one or the other. Aiding the show’s foggy atmosphere is its beguiling score courtesy of Oscar-nominated composer Dustin O’Halloran and Icelandic composer Herdis Stefánsdóttir — a haunting mix of string combos and acoustics, blended with textured sounds that evoke the rush of sea air and the twist of rope. There are shades of O’Halloran’s score for Ammonite, which we’ve spoken to him on the pod about before, mixed with a tinge of the fantastic as airy instrumentals give way to darker, moodier modes.

I sat down with Dustin and Herdis to talk about all these elements and more.

You can find Dustin O’Halloran and Herdis Stefansdottir at their official websites.

The Essex Serpent is streaming in its entirety on Apple TV+. You can also listen to the score on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Apple Music.