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There was a brief moment when it looked like The Good Fight composer David Buckley wasn't going to score the CBS All Access legal drama's opening title sequence.
"I heard on the grapevine that there was talk about licensing an Andy Williams song, so I was utterly crestfallen even before I’d made any attempt to do anything," Buckley tells EW, recalling the show's early days.
After spending seven years on The Good Fight's predecessor, The Good Wife, which aired on linear network TV and only had room for eight and a half seconds of opening titles, the British composer was looking forward to moving over to a streaming platform where he'd have more space to play. "I was quite excited because although I’ve never watched Game of Thrones, you can’t help but have heard the piece and seen the thing," he says, "and subsequently I think it’s become quite a big deal for shows to have that 90-second territory to do something cool."
Thankfully, the Williams plan didn't last long, which gave Buckley his opportunity to compose the main title music. A Renaissance-styled piece with many out-of-place instruments, the opening theme starts delicately before crescendoing to operatic heights with cannon blasts and a screeching choir, as stately objects on screen burst into pieces with increasing intensity. Not only does the music capture the show's revolutionary spirit, but it's also responsible for one of The Good Fight's two Emmy nominations, which speaks to how vital Buckley's work is to the show. The Good Fight is wild and chaotic, vacillating between different tones, but Buckley's music is there to help hold it all together.
While on The Good Wife, Buckley started playing with a classical aesthetic that eventually defined the show from season 5 onward. When it came time to transition over to The Good Fight, co-creators Michelle and Robert King told Buckley they wanted to keep working in that same space because it helped move between comedy and drama rather quickly, but also push it even further.
"I think in general, the words that were coming out right at the beginning of [The Good Fight] were that we wanted this to be a little edgier, a little bit more gritty," says Buckley, who also scores the Kings' creepy CBS drama Evil. "Our methodology was to take the classical, baroque world I had been exploring and just adding some kind edge to it [and making it] a little bit more rhythmic."
For example, the main title tune begins with a muffled piano instead of a harpsichord, which is what you'd expect from something in the Renaissance idiom. "When I wrote that piece, I actually supplied three or four different sounds at the beginning of that: One was a small little chamber organ, one was a harpsichord, one was piano, and I think one was a recorder," Buckley says. "I think [Robert King] liked the fact that the muffled piano sound, albeit it had some identity, gave possibilities for us to open everything up and go somewhere." To dirty up the piece even more, Buckley employed Middle Eastern percussion, as well as some guitars and the aforementioned cannon fire. "It's all over the place," he says. "I use that term because I think it's not trying to adhere to anything."
Because the visuals weren't completed yet, Buckley wrote the music without them and only knew that the Kings wanted to include explosions. Luckily, this ended up making his job easier. "Mercifully, the [visual effects team] cut their explosions to my music. If I had to re-tinker it to match the visuals, then it would’ve been a bit of a nightmare. It would’ve kind of disrupted the flow of the music. I enhanced the explosions here and there when I saw more and more happening on screen," says Buckley, who believes his concern about not being able to do the piece in the first place is responsible for this good fortune. "I suppose because I’d heard rumors of Andy Williams already winning the battle and then it was my own [worries] about having never done this sort of thing before, [I had] this sort of [feeling], 'I’m just going to conceptually throw on a blank piece of paper. Get a quick reaction.' And it played out rather nicely at the end."
The Good Fight will eventually return for season 5 on CBS All Access.