CS Interview: Composer Henry Jackman talks Falcon and The Winter Soldier
The terrific new series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is currently streaming on Disney+, which means audiences have gotten a healthy dose of composer Henry Jackman’s exciting new score. Lucky for us, Jackman, who previously composed music for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, was able to make time to talk about his scoring process on the show, what it was like working with director Kari Skogland and the many differences between composing for a six-part series and a full-length film.
“The thing to bear in mind,” Jackman explained, “is the amount of music is enormous. The amount of music over the full six episodes probably adds up to the same quantity of music of two Avengers Endgames. On a very basic level, there’s an awful lot of it because the format, there are six 55-minute episodes, so it adds up to two movies worth of music.”
Even so, Jackman isn’t simply scoring a six-hour film since the series is divided episodically, an aspect that affects how he approaches the music.
“For example, I love Winter Soldier and Civil War and most Marvel movies, but, there’s only a certain amount of real estate you’ve got in a two hour and 20-minute movie to explore, patiently, character development,” he said. “When you have six 55-minute episodes, you can spend more time with Bucky being passive-aggressive with his shrink or Sam dealing with problems with the boat with his sister.
“And that, maybe more than anything, also has an impact on music, because the music for Falcon and The Winter Soldier, the heroic highs and the jeopardy still hit the same highs as the movie. The first action scene with Falcon screaming through those canyons, that’s as epic an action sequence as you’d find in a movie. So, the sheer range of the music can go all the way from there to a much more intimate level – you know, Bucky going on slightly unsuccessful dates — it’s a much smaller, quieter type of musical cue. It’s a simple piano and strings … a more patient type of musical cue where you’re not being so narratively invasive.”
Another aspect of the series that Jackman enjoyed was having the opportunity to bring back previous themes, sounds and motifs heard in his previous Marvel scores; albeit in a different way.
“By the time we get to episode three, Zemo is up and running,” Jackman said. “They’ve almost formed the trio by that point. So, I’ve been able to take the Zemo theme from Civil War, I’ve been able to re-reference the Captain America theme from Winter Soldier, but recontextualize it to be less convincing, aggressive and militaristic and less noble for John Walker, I’ve been able to have flashbacks for The Winter Soldier.”
However, the most satisfying bit of music for Jackman to expand was his theme for Falcon, which made a few appearances in Winter Soldier but was never fully developed.
“If you listen to the end credit music, after the sort of bluesy Louisiana vibe, once the brass comes in, I’ve now been able to take that original motif and flesh it out into a full superhero theme,” Jackman said. “So, that’s a really good example of being able to take an idea from 7-8 years ago — I always thought that Falcon’s music had superhero potential, but it needed more room to develop.”
Another facet about the score for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is the manner in which Jackman underscores some of the action sequences. Particularly in episode three where Sharon Carter, Bucky and Sam take out a hoard of bad guys with Zemo’s help. The sequence isn’t sensationalized but, rather, seems to highlight the reckless carnage dished out by our heroes.
“The action in that scene speaks for itself, the violence speaks for itself,” Jackman explained. “So, it’s a more interesting job for the score to speak to the underlying subtext and not literally describe the violence, which would be assigning — for want of a better word — more cartoonish and more obvious, literal musical descriptions, since that’s already on screen.
“So, the music can express the sort of underlying darkness rather than the physicality of it.”
Jackman then discussed what it was like working with series director Kari Skogland, whose lone Marvel credit was an episode of The Punisher back in 2017. But, according to Jackman, that’s precisely why Skogland was such a great choice for the job.
“The trick is to combine the known franchise with some invited directorial voice that can come into the creative process where the left is firmly planted in known Marvel Universe, and the right foot is whatever that director is bringing to the table,” Jackman said. “The great thing about Kari is she knew the classic Marvel moments and tropes that are required, but then was always looking for, where are the elements, what can happen in a scene with the music or the activity that could push it to a sort of slightly different place we haven’t seen before — something more grounded, something comedic, something rye, something sarcastic, something slightly more unexpected.”
Finally, when asked if Jackman would spoil the rest of the series for us, the composer kindly explained that a Marvel sniper would likely take him out before he could finish revealing all the details but did tease that there are plenty more good things to come for fans to look forward to.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier sees Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) struggling to live up to their respective roles following the events of Avengers: Endgame. To make matters worse, a dangerous new organization called the Flag Smashers has suddenly emerged, forcing the duo to team up with Cap. John Walker, aka the new Captain America, for a global mission that will test their abilities — and their patience.
They are joined by MCU veterans Daniel Bruhl, Emily VanCamp and Don Cheadle, who are reprising their roles as Helmut Zemo, Sharon Carter and James Rhodes aka War Machine respectively. Wyatt Russell is also starring in the series as John Walker along with fellow MCU newcomers Danny Ramirez as Joaquin Torres, Erin Kellyman as Karli Morgenthau, Adepero Oduye as Sarah Wilson, Miki Ishikawa, Desmond Chiam, Carl Lumbly and Noah Mills.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is a six-episode series that is directed by Kari Skogland with Malcolm Spellman serving as head writer, with John Wick creator Derek Kolstad also part of the series’ writing/creative team. The first four episodes of the buddy action-comedy series are now available to stream!