We’ve got one final round of interviews from our time on the Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 premiere red carpet for you today, and this time we’re going behind the scenes to talk with series composer Jeff Russo and costume designer Gersha Phillips!
Both contributors return to Discovery for the second year of the show, and we had a chance to find out some new behind-the-scenes details on the music of those “Short Trek” episodes, and the dark costuming of Section 31’s secretive organization.
Note: These interviews have been slightly edited for length and clarity.
TREKCORE: When you’re scoring, do you find more excitement in composing for action-adventure sequences, or are you drawn to the more emotional moments?
JEFF RUSSO: I tend to write from the heart. I’d rather write what I think a character is feeling, rather than what I see they are doing, so I think I’m more connected to the emotional moments.
I was in a rock band for a long time, so a lot of times when I’m writing action pieces that go [imitates rock beat], I’m feeling, “What would I do if I were playing guitar in this song?” I enjoy that too, because it allows me to sort of thread in all my influences.
TREKCORE: Do you find yourself working in references to the larger Star Trek universe in your Discovery scores?
RUSSO: I do. I occasionally thread in a little bit of the Alexander Courage [Original Series] theme, but just a little. I wonder if people will pick up on it if I just play two notes, or if I play it on a different instrument.
“There was this one TOS episode,” I sometimes think, “that had this one theme, so what if I use that one little motif?” Sometimes I do it and then forget about it, so I don’t even remember! [Laughs] So whether or not people pick up on it, who knows.
ANOTHER INTERVIEWER: How did you approach the four “Short Treks,” which all have different musical styles?
RUSSO: I approached each one independently — I needed to look at what the story was, and sort of take it from there, you know?
Except for [“Calypso”] that takes place a thousand years in the future, which [I looked at] and didn’t know what to do. I was like, “How am I going to treat this? Am I still going to keep us in the same kind of [musical] world, or am I going to try to make it a little different?” And then there was the whole dance sequence with the [“Funny Face”] holographic projection — I found it really interesting to try something a little different.
I was just talking about the Mudd episode [“The Escape Artist”], where Alex [Kurtzman] was like, “How do we get disco music involved?” I did a new main title for the “Short Treks,” and I thought I could do a disco theme for that one, and then bring it back in at the end. It was fun. I don’t really get to do that kind of thing on Trek, and as I watched it back, I like to think we ended up in the right place.
TREKCORE: Have you been approached for any of the other new Trek series that have been announced?
I was in Las Vegas this summer [for the convention] and Alex was there, and I saw Patrick Stewart backstage — I said, “Alex, Alex, what’s happening?!” He told me about the Picard show just before they announced it to the audience, and I thought I was going to have a heart attack! I’m extremely excited to see what happens.
TREKCORE: Do you have a favorite piece of costuming that we should look out for in Season 2?
GERSHA PHILLIPS: Yes, it’s kind of a duo thing, starting in Episode 10 and the best part of it, for me, comes later in Episodes 13 and 14.
TREKCORE: Can you tell us who wears it?
PHILLIPS: No! [laughs]
TREKCORE: But I assume we’ll know it when we see it.
PHILLIPS: Yes, you will! It’s really a favorite of mine — I think we really knocked that one out of the part, so I’m super-excited for people to see it… and I’m pretty sure it didn’t fall apart too much on camera while we were filming.
TREKCORE: What’s the most difficult thing you worked on this year?
PHILLIPS: Actually, the [Episode 10] costume I was talking about is definitely the hardest. But also, all of the Klingon wardrobe, because it was really tricky to come up with Klingon outfits that weren’t armor, but still kept the Klingon feel and power.
In the scripts it was to be fabrics, but I was like, “No, I can’t do fabrics for Klingons. I think it still needs to be leather.” So we used a lot of leather, like in Season 1, but reworked it in many cool, different ways.
ANOTHER INTERVIEWER: Does Section 31 have a distinctive costume – and will you involved with the new Section 31 show?
PHILLIPS: We did do a couple costumes for some security guards, and I think we did a medical officer of some sort. Basically, we just extrapolated from our Starfleet look and brought it over into a sort of black [theme], adapting it to our Section 31 characters.
A lot of the characters in Section 31 wear individual [outfits], I guess, Section 31 streetwear as opposed to particular uniforms. It’s really cool; some of the Section 31 pieces are my favorite things in the series. I love them.
We buy some things, we make some things, we augment some things — do a lot to all of those pieces and I think they turned out great. Some of the directors have said they are their favorite clothes as well.
As for the new show, I have said now that Section 31 with Michelle Yeoh is going to be a real thing, I’m very interested in that and both Alex [Kurtzman] and Michelle are aware of my desire to do it, so hopefully that’ll come to fruition.
Keep checking back here at TrekCore in the weeks ahead for all of our ongoing Star Trek: Discovery coverage as news breaks!