Meet the Crew: 'Inhumans' Composer Sean Callery
The dramatic score that you hear in the background as you’re watching Marvel’s Inhumans is truly out of this world. Which makes sense, given that ABC’s new sci-fi fantasy centers around a moon-dwelling royal family—many of whom have superpowers—with designs on making some very uninvited visits to our planet. “I tried to create a different sound for when characters are in the kingdom on the moon versus on Earth,” composer Sean Callery explains. “You feel it in the music rather than consciously notice it.”
In addition to setting the mood and adding gravitas to each episode’s big moments—cue the entrance of Lockjaw, the giant teleporting bulldog—Callery is responsible for the sweeping opening theme. With a long track record of using his skills to up the dramatic ante—his impressive résumé also includes Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Designated Survivor, Elementary, Homeland and 24—he’s one of the most Emmy-nominated TV composers of all time. Still, one sound effect you won’t hear is Callery tooting his own horn. “Composing is like a muscle that has to be constantly worked on,” he says. “There’s no mastering of this at all.”
The Inhumans title song has such a soaring quality. Did you do anything differently because the show premiered in IMAX theaters?
I wrote a special theme for the IMAX release. It’s a more adventurous theme for a 70-piece orchestra that unfortunately only plays on the IMAX format. The broadcast version is a very, very abridged version.
'We’re hoping to have something that’s so big that it can’t be contained to a television screen,' executive producer Jeph Loeb says.
What’s your approach to scoring a series?
I don’t like to know too much about the trajectory of the storyline, if I can help it. Then I go to a spotting session, which is when we look at where the music should be in a scene, and I have reactions like a fan would while watching. I tend to pay attention to those moments, and my composing is guided by those initial reactions. It takes me about four or five days per episode.
Inhumans is sci-fi. How much does genre affect the overall sound?
Different stories have different musical needs. Jessica Jones is also sci-fi, but it’s a more intimate show with a much sparser orchestration. Designated Survivor is more orchestral and has an inspirational quality. Homeland is always a delicious challenge—that scoring is so minimalistic. If you do too much or too little, you can really feel it. But Inhumans is just huge. I mean, the show has panoramic shots of Hawaii and CGI of the moon looking over this huge kingdom. So it was really great to spread a bit wider and hopefully create something fun. I’ve never worked on a show like it.
Inhumans, Fridays, 8/7c, ABCAlertMe
This article also appeared in the Oct. 16-29 issue of TV Guide Magazine.