Podcast #588: Music Composer FIL EISLER Chats “Empire,” “Revenge,” and “DYNASTY”

Fil Eisler/Photo Credit: Arnold Turner/Invision/AP
Fil Eisler/Photo Credit: Arnold Turner/Invision/AP


Fil Eisler is taking music composition by storm. He is the man behind the magical music scores on the current ABC series, “Revenge,” as well as the Showtime series, “Shameless.” Now, his scores can also be heard on the popular FOX series, “Empire.” The series centers around Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) and his music empire. Lucious, diagnosed with ALS, must come to grips with his prognosis, and decide which one of his sons takes over the company after him. Things don’t go smoothly as his ex, Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson), is released from prison and wants what’s hers!

Executive Producer Lee Daniels was the strong force in bringing in Eisler to compose the show. He spoke with us about what Daniels had in mind, and how he was able to make this show stand above the rest:

“Lee, who I had not met before, had listened to a few different composers, and decided he wanted me to do it. When Lee decides something, he’s pretty on point about getting it done. He invited me over to the edit room during the first time he was piecing the premiere together. He told me what he was after, and said, ‘I don’t want a typical hip-hop score. I want something bold, and juxtaposes what Timbaland is already doing in the show.’ It’s interesting what he has done. There is all this talk about it being the black ‘Dynasty.’ I think he did mention that when we first talked, and said, ‘This is a soap. It is an unabashed soap.” When I was a kid, I hated ‘Dynasty.’ I couldn’t watch it. In the beginning, though, Lee sent me YouTube clips from that show. Watching a scene with Joan Collins and whomever else, the scores were almost like a cartoon. They would address every single eyebrow raise and move. The music just seemed like a Warner Bros. cartoon from the 1940s or 1950s. I didn’t want to go down that road. Lee wanted to make it more of a gangster movie, but in places for it to be fun, bold and operatic. It’s all about coming up with the best themes for the show, actually.”

Eisler continued to talk more about Daniels’ genius and techniques when it came to scoring the show:

“When we go to the final dubs, where we mix all the dialogue, sound effects, and scores together, I sit there with Lee, Danny (Strong) and (showrunner) Ilene Chaiken. We go over the nips and tucks that have to happen with the mix. When Lee is there, you can hear him roaring with laughter, like screaming. He’s all, ‘It’s so good!’ I think his genius in it is this: That cue where Cookie gets out of jail when we first did it, I did a more polite version of it. Lee heard it and said, ‘HELL NO! What is this??!! That is not why I hired you! I want the F**K YOU version of that cue.’ So, that’s what I then wrote. I was so afraid that it was over the top. We then went to the premiere here in LA. When that scene came on and that cue came up, the entire theatre stood up and started screaming. I sat there and said, ‘Ohhhh…..OK. Now, I get it!” The songs and the hip-hop moments are so strong, the scores need to match it in some places. I guess the M.O. of the score is that when it’s time to stay out of the way, you stay out of the way. It has to be much like a movie. Basically, when it’s time to be dramatic, you need to be dramatic.”

What score/cue did Eisler enjoy putting together? Also, what does he have in store for Courtney Love’s character, White Gold, on “Revenge?” Hear that, plus his thoughts on working with Love and all the guest stars that have popped up on “Empire” in our full podcast!

The 2-hour season finale of “Empire” airs tonight, March 18 at 8/7c on FOX.

“Revenge” airs Sundays at 10/9c on ABC.

Follow Fil Eisler on Twitter at: @fileisler.

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