The ability to paint a nuanced tone, both visually and aurally, can be an impossible task for any filmmaker or TV series creator. It’s what keeps them toiling away in the editing suite. However, Brazilian-born composer Marcelo Zarvos has a keen sensibility when it comes to bringing music to the psychological underpinnings of the drama on-screen.
His twenty-plus career includes such credits as early aught film festival Fox Searchlight darling Kissing Jessica Stein, the Robert De Niro-directed CIA movie The Good Shepherd, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Honduran-Mexican crime drama Sin Nombre, and Denzel Washington’s Oscar-winning feature adaptation of August Wilson’s play Fences. Zarvos has also become the go-to composer for a number of Showtime series, starting with The Big C and the most recent seasons of The Affair and Ray Donovan.
“I’ve always equated with overacting in music. Nobody wants to see an actor overact. I feel I’ve always tried to mirror what they do in that sense,” says Zarvos about his style, “The idea of maximum intensity with the least amount of effort.”
“I cut my teeth in dramas, and still to this day I’m basically doing drama, and I’ve always been very wary of melodrama. Music is the difference in a show between great acting and melodrama. We can push it to the point of melodrama with the music. I police myself and I’ve been lucky to working with filmmakers who are also very aware of that. I always try to make the elegant choice,” the composer tells Deadline’s Crew Call.
In addition to Ray Donovan (on which he’s composed music for 71 episodes; in particular episode 611 “Never Gonna Give You Up”, a nocturnal chase by Ray for his daughter throughout the city, a true homage to Michael Mann’s oeuvre) and The Affair (42 episodes), Zarvos has the Mexico City-set “Panorama” episode from Matt Weiner’s Amazon series The Romanoffs in consideration for this year’s Primetime Emmys. Zarvos also composed the score for Antoine Fuqua’s HBO documentary What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali which recently aired on May 14.