Composer Kris Bowers
Julia Garner as Anna Delvey in episode 102 of Inventing Anna.
Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury, Shelley Conn as Mary Sharma and Charithra Chandran as Edwina Sharma in episode 201 of Bridgerton.
"The story is always the North Star," says Kris Bowers of his composition process. "In the very beginning it's just trying to make sure I understand the story and the complexity of the characters as clearly as possible — that's when it feels like the music is flowing best."
Netflix subscribers will be able to hear Bowers' work in the coming weeks when two of his projects premiere: Inventing Anna, a limited series about real-life con woman Anna Delvey premieres February 11, followed by the second season of Bridgerton, a romantic drama set in Regency-era England, which drops on March 25.
For Inventing Anna, "One of the biggest things was getting a feel for Anna Delvey [Julia Garner], playing this balance of being able to somewhat root for her, but also not really being able to trust her," he says of the alleged German heiress indicted for grand larceny. "It took a long time for us to find the sound of that, a lot of trial and error."
Another challenge: musically capturing the journalist (Anna Chlumsky) who sees writing about Delvey as a means to professional redemption. "When you're representing a character that is doing something that isn't the most physically active or stimulating, you're focusing more on the internal process and making shifts when there is a discovery, or an internal letdown, or a moment of excitement or confusion," he notes. "The music can help us to feel the same way and start to empathize."
Other television credits include Mrs. America, Colin in Black & White and When They See Us, as well as features Green Book, King Richard, Respect and The United States vs. Billie Holiday.
Bowers — a Los Angeles native and Juilliard grad — has earned four Emmy nominations in the past three years: two for Bridgerton and one apiece for Mrs. America and When They See Us. The short film he codirected and starred in, A Concerto Is a Conversation, received a 2021 Oscar nomination, and he won a Daytime Emmy in 2017 for the animated special The Snowy Day. He's also had two orchestral pieces premiere at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. An award-winning jazz pianist, he's performed at the Obama White House.
"I'm a student," Bowers remarks of the eclectic nature of his projects. "I always want to find ways of continually challenging myself."
In fact, Bowers was so busy that when the offer came to do Anna, he suggested that his assistant, Pierre Charles, do most of the music. He worked with Charles to find the sound of the show and develop themes, took part in the first two episodes' spotting sessions to determine where music would be placed, wrote some early cues and provided input to Charles through the rest of the process. He believes in mentoring as a way to help talented up-and-comers, though he himself entered the television big leagues when Justin Simien, creator-executive producer of the 2017–2021 Netflix series Dear White People, chose him to score the show. "He was a new showrunner. He really took a chance on me before I had a network TV show under my belt," Bowers recalls.
Next up, Bowers is working on the apocalyptic limited series DMZ for HBO Max. He plans to continue to seek out a diverse array of projects.
"Being stuck or pigeon-holed or complacent is one of my biggest fears," he says. "I want to have as many different types of opportunities as possible, to continue to help me develop as a musician."
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